How to Do Marketing for Service Businesses

By Adam Austin - 20th June 2016

No matter who you are or what your business does, marketing is an essential tool to help you grow. For tradespeople and those in the service industry, traditionally the best method of finding work has been through word of mouth. This is a very effective marketing tool (yes, that’s right, you may already be marketing without realising it) but it doesn’t mean that you can’t explore other avenues for getting more work.

Developing a comprehensive marketing strategy

Marketing is a billion pound industry in the UK. TV and magazine campaigns might be an expense that’s out of your reach but there are effective ways of marketing without spending a fortune. Before you start, you need to think about your strategy carefully in order to develop a more coherent plan.

You need to think about:

  • Who is your main client base? Where do they live? What do they do and what is the best way of reaching them?
  • How much time and money can you commit to your marketing campaign?
  • Can you promote and market your own business or would it be easier to outsource to specialists?
  • What are the most effective forms of communication for your particular field.

Once you have answers to the above questions, you will be able to develop a more effective marketing campaign.

The most suitable advertising methods

Depending on your strategy, you will now have to consider the best way to promote or advertise your business. Loosely speaking, advertising can be divided into two groups: traditional and modern. Let’s look at them both individually and the specific methods that they use.

Traditional advertising

With the advent of online marketing there is a debate about the validity of traditional methods. But as you’ll see below, some things never change and sometimes the old ways are still very effective.

Business cards
The simplest forms of advertising are the most effective. This is certainly true of business cards. These are a very effective tool for keeping your business in the minds of the customers, displaying all the essential contact information in one convenient and affordable place. When working on a job, be sure to give your client a few cards for themselves and to pass on to others. Keep a stack handy so that if you do receive any enquiries, you can easily hand over your information.

There are plenty of places where you can get simple, affordable cards printed, with even some online options delivering right to your door.

Big or blanket leaflet jobs can be expensive and time consuming and often rely on luck. You could print out a hundred leaflets and get ten jobs as a result. Or you could spend days trudging round the houses delivering thousands of costly leaflets for nothing.

Leaflets work best when they’re targeted. When working on a job, hit the street where you’re working. Create a leaflet saying that you’re in the area and are available. That way potential clients have an instant connection to you and can ask about your work more easily. People tend not to like ringing up cold from leaflets.

Putting a sign up outside any job you’re doing (with permission from the client, of course) is surprisingly effective. Effort and outlay is minimal but it’s a good way of getting your name out there locally.

The same goes for vans, t-shirts and merchandise. It all helps to build your brand (more of which later on).

Print advertising
Sticking an ad in the local paper or yellow pages is having diminishing returns but could still be worth the money. Try to target specific publications or look out for local street press, which will often be cheaper than national titles.

It’s a word that sends shudders down the spine. But networking doesn’t have to be about ‘doing lunch’ and laughing politely at other people’s bad jokes. Buddy up with other local businesses, make friends and offer incentives that mutually benefit. If you’re a plumber, team up with a decorator and offer to share work. These kinds of two-way relationships can be very effective.

Phone numbers
Believe it or not, people do still use the phone to get in touch. So you do have to think carefully about which number you use. The reality is that these days most people only really use their mobiles but having a landline contact always gives off a more professional air. Try to list both and make sure you have an answering service or voicemail so that you don’t miss calls.

Modern advertising


We live in brave new world, where the internet and social media wield incredible power. But it’s power that you can easily use to your advantage.

There’s no excuse for not having a website. These days you don’t need a computing degree to make one, with plenty of online platforms such as WordPress and Wix that offer easy to use website building. Use templates to create a basic site in minutes – they’ll even take care of the hosting for you – all with one payment. Your site doesn’t have to look like the Apple homepage – you just need to have a simple, clear and easy to use web presence with contact details up front. Load your site with images too, as these are more effective than words. A website is also a handy branding tool.

Keep it fresh, with regular new content. Start a blog, upload pictures and don’t just leave it sitting there. Clients are always put off by sites that look like they’ve been neglected.

Social media
Again, like websites, you don’t need to be running viral marketing campaigns but you do need to have a social media presence. Set up a Facebook account, Twitter and Instagram – post pictures of jobs (with permission), follow people, like posts and generally get your name out there. It only takes a few minutes a day and you can even do it on the move.

Once you get the hang of it or if you’re feeling creative, a funny video or clever idea can get big traction. If it does go viral, it’s marketing gold and costs virtually nothing.

You can also use social media and your website to publicise positive feedback. Letting other potential customers see positive comments about your work has huge marketing potential.

Online tradesmen sites
The online equivalent of word of mouth. Sites like Checkatrade are increasingly used by customers looking to learn more about your reputation. Ignore them at your peril. One bad review can undo the good work of years of happy customers. These sites are not always fair – and some clients will just never be satisfied. But you can always engage with bad reviews and use the platform to your benefit. Publically ask them to explain why they aren’t happy, and offer to resolve the matter. This kind of PR can turn a negative into a positive very quickly.

Any or all of the above marketing tools can be very effective, if used correctly. It may be too time consuming to utilise them all, so you may have to pick and choose your best strategic options.

The power of branding


You might think that branding is only for the big boys. But company logos, colour schemes and merchandise are very powerful tools.

Design (or have designed) a logo that tells people what you do and communicates the personality of your business. It should ideally have your name and a tagline – so you’ll need to work on your copywriting skills. Remember, ‘every little helps’ so ‘just do it’ because a tagline ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ – you get the point.

Your logo should also represent quality. This is where a bit of design skill comes in. A tacky, poorly designed logo can seem to indicate a similar lack of quality in your work – even if that is not the case.

Colour scheme
Think Eddie Stobart’s lurid green and red trucks or Dyno-Rod’s bright orange vans. Colours can be very powerful. Try and choose colours suitable for your line of work. Bright orange works well for a drain cleaning company. Pastel blue not so much. Look around at products you use for clues as to a suitable palette.

T-shirts, mugs, calendars, pens – you know the sort of thing. But it does work, and it’s not that expensive. It’s all part of an overall branding strategy. Keep it within the colour scheme, use your logo and get your contact details on it.

As you can see, marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. You already know most of it because you experience it every day. How often do you use a pen picked up from reception desk or look online for a review?

As a business owner, you just need to think about your wider strategy for presenting your best side to the public – and how you can do this in the most effective way for your marketing budget. Get it right and you’ll soon start seeing the rewards.

About the author

Adam Austin is the CEO & Co-founder of (The easy way for tradespeople to save hours on their paperwork). Read more of his posts or Follow YourTradeBase on Twitter

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