You can be forgiven for thinking that, in order to win over new customers, you simply need to shout louder than the competition... or use a flailing inflatable to get their attention.
However, as competitive as it is for field service businesses, it’s also true that it's not always the loudest companies who will find success...
More often than not, it’s subtle advertising techniques that will help you to sell more. That's because, when done well, they help you to get consistent attention that has a long-term impact, rather than stop-start successes.
Yes: being loud and spending a ton of money on advertising can work well for you, but for many field service businesses, loudly advertising yourself isn’t going to be a sustainable or cost-effective model to follow.
That’s why it’s important to focus on more subtle advertising techniques—or “indirect marketing”, as they can be formally known—when you're not necessarily trying to sell a specific product or service. You're selling yourself & your brand.
The points below may not all sound like typical advertising techniques, but they can help your business to generate a surprising amount of attention, make your service memorable, and set you up for success to sell and win more work in the long run!
Let’s take a look:
- Be real: talk a like a human
- Give advice: become a conversational consultant
- Be proud: show off what you do
Why subtle advertising techniques are effective
Typically, the aim of most advertising is to lead customers towards making a purchase.
Subtle advertising techniques, though, are more about promotional activities.
Sure, they can eventually lead someone to a sale, but they’re far better at helping to establish your brand by engaging customers in other ways. They’re strategies designed to increase awareness of your brand and get attention.
You can think of subtle advertising techniques like bait that helps to attract customers, and gets them curious before they decide to bite.
For instance, it might be that your business makes a statement about your approach to being more eco-friendly, maybe it’s a charity fun-run at a local event, or perhaps you’re sharing helpful advice about ways to save money on heating bills. All of these are promotional activities—like news and press—that name your brand, but without directly plugging or promoting your services.
The ideas above are just a few simple ways you can build awareness and do something different that goes beyond saying “Hey, we can do [X service] for you”.
Instead, you lead customers to start thinking “Hey, I like this about that company” and, as a result, you’re more likely to stick in their mind when they do need you for an actual job.
Fortunately, establishing subtle advertising techniques is easier than you might think, and can be very effective at helping you to win new customers. What’s especially important, though, is that these subtle advertising techniques are genuine, which is why we’re kicking off with our first point:
1. Be real: talk a like a human
There’s nothing worse than coming across as fake or phoney, and prospects aren’t going to respond well to a company that seems disingenuous or is only after their money.
No matter how you’re dealing with customers, whether in person, in an email, over the phone, or on social media, it’s important that you:
“‘Be authentic and let your personality shine’ [these] are words of wisdom that brands will often hear” and for good reason! - HubSpot
Your customers aren’t fools, either. Whether it’s a visit to someone’s home or taking care of an entire office building, it’s always important to keep in mind that your customers are people and they should be treated as such. So, talk like a human!
“Think about the brands you remember. They are human and real. They get stuck in our minds because they touch on a part of ourselves that we didn’t think anyone else could see.” - Forbes
For instance, that means if a customer asks you a direct question, answer it. Whether it’s on price, a project’s time-scale, or something else, your honesty will save you both time in the long run and help you and the customer decide if a project is worth pursuing.
Sure, you might be aiming to win their business by sounding more professional, but that doesn’t mean you need to pretend to be something you’re not, either. Or worse, come across as robotic.
The more honest you are, the more confident customers should feel that they’re getting the solution to their problem and that the service they require is being provided.
Most customers, after all, aren’t likely to know the ins and outs of all the technical and manual work that your engineers are doing, so when it comes to troubleshooting a problem and walking them through what you can do, keep it clear.
Customers will often be looking for reassurance and if you can make them feel confident that you can help them and do a great job that leaves them happy, they’ll remember it.
So, how is this a subtle advertising technique?
Well, a great experience is far more likely to get people talking about you.
At the very least, your customers will appreciate a fantastic service and so when it comes time for you to request feedback or for them to leave a review, they’re likely to mention how great your service was. It all helps keep your business at the forefront of their minds.
This sort of detail is also what other customers will be on the lookout for as they shop around and come looking for help of their own.
Ultimately, if your business comes across as friendly, helpful, and engaging, thanks to what other people have said about you, then continued success is far more likely with each and every job you complete.
2. Give advice: become a conversational consultant
Building on the initial bit of rapport you have with customers is also incredibly important.
And when it comes to selling, upselling your customers may be a goal that’s on your mind. After all, if you can do one job for them, why not try to find out if there’s more you can do, too?
Of course, it's important to avoid seeming pushy.
Just because you want to let the customer know all their options, it’s not going to do anyone any good if your engineers or customer service staff just try to reel off every option under the sun. That’s overwhelming and is going to put off more customers than it helps to create.
In the vast majority of cases, people don’t want to be sold to, at least not obviously, and that’s where developing a consultative approach comes in. It’s a particularly effective but subtle advertising technique.
Similar to our first point, it’s all about building rapport with your customers. And you’ll find customers respond positively with this approach, so long as it’s handled properly.
By asking open questions, your team can discover more about what a customer really wants, needs, or may benefit from. After all, you’re the expert at what you do and if a customer has hired you to do a job, there’s already reason to believe they’ll appreciate the advice you have to offer.
This is especially true if it seems like a customer might be spending too much (or even too little) on a product or service. Ask questions like:
- What sort of results are you hoping for from this service? Because there are other options you could consider...
- Based on everything we talked about, do you have any hesitation that our solution isn’t right for you?
- Looking at the proposal/quote/estimate, is there anything that you don’t feel confident about?
A consultative approach may not result in an immediate sale, it might even result in losing a sale—but it’s all about building trust with your customers. It’s more important to build and strengthen a relationship than it is to push hard for the sake of a quick sale.
Don’t burn bridges if you can help it!
After all, you’re far more likely to stay in touch and, later, win new opportunities if you’re communicating properly with customers. In this way, you’re more subtly informing customers and advertising what you’re capable of.
Not to mention, you’re finding out useful information that will help you to deliver a more effective and informed service that you can be confident is right for them.
3. Be proud: show off what you do
Perhaps the simplest way to advertise yourself is to show what you’re capable of to your prospects. Seeing is believing, as they say! And these days, it’s easier than ever to create, share, and demonstrate effectively what your business is capable of because of how easy it is to create a video or snap a photo.
You’ll see a lot of this online, browsing through Facebook or searching through Google Reviews, but customers and businesses alike are sharing real-world examples of work that’s been done for them and it’s often free advertising for the companies doing the work.
You can also engage in it yourself, for example, a contractor might praise their engineer on social media: “Jack, our trainee plumber, did a bang-up job installing this new heat pump! Just look at that beauty!”
It’s a simple but effective way to show:
- Products you're capable of installing
- That you're proud of your work
- That you respect and value your employees!
Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that?
At the same time, you’re not directly selling your services, but more subtly showing an example of a job well done, and that’s bound to get noticed.
It might sound simplistic, but that’s precisely the point!
If you’re not taking simple steps to visually share your work, prospects won’t see it, and it doesn’t take much to show a bit of appreciation that will end up having a positive impact.
How about an example?
I recently witnessed a fantastic sales process, where every single one of the subtle advertising techniques above was used to perfection. My parents were hiring a carpet fitter to sort out their stairs and first-floor landing.
- The guy they ended up hiring was a proper, salt-of-the-earth gent: he was prompt, presentable, and friendly.
- He asked all the right questions: he gave a mix of honest opinions, but also respected and answered the practical and personal questions my parents asked. (After all, it’s their home so he was putting in the effort to make sure their style, personality, and the impression they wanted to make all came into the final result). Asking something like: “How do you want it to make you feel, and not just to the touch”, was a great question.
- The pitch he gave was wrapped up very neatly as he showed off numerous quality samples of his products, as well as photos of work he’d completed for other customers in their homes.
It was made very clear that his work was as good as his word and from start to finish, the experience they had was excellent. On top of that, they went on to recommend his services to their own friends: so that’s his advertising done for him, job done!
There’s no reason the same strategies can’t work for you, too.
For the most part, it’s all about taking the time to build trust and engage your customers by creating rapport. New and old customers alike will see for themselves that you’re not only able to assist them by fixing an asset, completing an installation, or doing a cracking clean-up job, but that they can feel good about choosing your services, too.
As we said, it might not always seem like you’re advertising yourself, but that’s why subtle advertising techniques are impactful: when done right, they'll make an impression that not only helps you to take customers on amazing journeys, but helps you win more work, too.
Some of the best ways to do this are by enhancing your staff and being open and honest with your customers. And unlike promoting your business on social media or buying a giant advertising board, these methods won’t cost you the earth, either!
Subtle behaviours and indirect strategies that will yield impactful and consistent results.
For a great way to get started doing this at scale, be sure to take a look at The Customer Communication Toolkit.
By structuring the basic ways you interact with your customers and improving messaging with them, you’ll create stronger relationships that benefit everyone involved.
Download your 10+ free email & SMS templates, today!