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Old 21st July 2008, 07:25 PM   #1
gcpc
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Default Tips For A Small Computer Services Business?

I recently started up an at-home computer services and repair business with a friend of mine in order to hopefully not have to work a part-time job while I go to school. This is the first time I've ever started a business, and I'm new to what's involved.

We do on-site service as well as take computers in to our work area if we have to. We have everything we need to work on multiple computers at once: switches, testers, spare hardware, etc. I've set up a desk in the garage which we work off of. We set up a website. We've gotten a few hits on the site and a couple of calls here and there, but we're trying to do what we can to increase our exposure. Our goal is to have a steady rotating queue of customers/work orders. I would like to know if anyone has any tips for what I can do to acquire more customers.

To give you an idea of our progress, so far we have:

* Registered a DBA with the chamber of commerce. I also set up a business checking account with my bank so that we can accept checks in the business name. My business is a sole proprietorship, however I plan to split the income with my friend since we collaborate on this project together about 50/50.

* Cannibalized a PHPBB to handle our work orders. It's the most awesome thing I've ever seen. We can input all of the information about a customer, what hardware they have, what services we're performing and the cost, etc. It will total the amount for us, place the information on the board, and then print out a personalized invoice with the information that we inputed for the post.

* Written up a terms and conditions of service that we have people sign to cover our asses if we ever have to go to small claims court for one reason or another. Basically things such as: detailing our scope of work, a privacy policy (blah blah, if we have to perform a data migration, we do not retain the data after the work order is complete), a clause stating data loss of any kind is not our fault, and the expectation of payment. I have not had a lawyer look this form over for us yet, but I believe we have addressed all of the bases necessary to cover our *** if need be.


As far as advertising, we have:


* Found as many local business listing sites as possible and listed my business with them (roughly about 15).

* Post ads on craigslist and 3 other sites just like it once a week.

* Printed off a few hundred business cards and hand them out to everyone we meet.

* Printed off a few hundred small fliers, attached business cards to them with paper clips, and went door to door placing them in door handles in neighborhoods that I think may contain the target demographic we are trying to appeal to. So far we have covered half of a square mile of neighborhood, but there is about 4 square miles of area I would like to cover for now, and possibly more later. However, being that it is just 2 of us, this is a slow process.

When calculating the price of the fliers, cards, and paper clips, it totals about $25 for 500 of each, which comes out to about a nickel per house. I feel that this is a reasonable expense. One work order out of those 500 would completely cover my advertising costs, and I hope to get more orders out of 500 than just one.


I've considered placing road signs at areas of high congestion, but am dissuaded by the fact that it doesn't seem very professional. I've also seen city workers pulling up these kinds of signs around town, and with all of my information on them, it wouldn't be very hard for them to fine me if there are laws against it. I honestly don't know too much about this.

I'm trying to find out about prepaid postages, and finding lists of addresses so that I can mail out fliers. All I know about so far is postcards, which cost roughly 30 cents per. This is much more expensive than I would like. I also feel that more of these would be thrown away by people than the ones we place door to door. Since we attach those to business cards, I assume that some people will at least keep the business cards. I think fliers in the mail would mostly be thrown away.

I get a couple hits on the site per day, usually referrals from craigslist, a few search engine hits, and a couple of direct traffic hits which I believe are due to the fliers. However, the hits per day so far doesn't ever exceeded 10 or so.

If anyone has any advice for anything else I can do to get this business off the ground, I would really appreciate it.


Last edited by gcpc; 21st July 2008 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 23rd July 2008, 11:12 AM   #2
torka
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I think a good source of recurring revenue for you might be to become the "go to tech guys" for some small businesses in town. Sort of a local Geek Squad, only better (more personal service, higher quality work, better prices, on-site versus carry-in service -- whatever you can come up with to differentiate yourself from them).

To reach small business owners, you might consider contacting the local chamber of commerce, downtown development association and/or other business networking groups in your area. See if they would be interested in a presentation on, say "disaster preparedness and recovery for small businesses." You could talk about the kinds of things that can go wrong with computers (fire, flood, power surge, hard drive crash), the importance of regular hard drive backups and what methods you recommend for easy, economical and reliable backup (maybe a Carbonite account online?).

In today's economic climate, people are trying to stretch their dollars, so you might also want to mention if there's any kind of maintenance they can do (or better yet, have y'all do!) that could prolong the lives of their computers or help avoid repair issues, the kinds of repairs that can be done, how to tell when it's worth it to repair and when it's simply time to get a new computer, that sort of thing.

Make sure it's informative (not a sales pitch for your services, but real information they can use). Keep it to maybe 20-25 minutes or so, so it could be an after-dinner presentation and still allow plenty of time for questions and answers afterwards. Doesn't have to be a fancy PowerPoint presentation, just you talking and some "take away" handouts reinforcing the main points of your talk (with your logo and contact information on them, of course) and you'll be fine. Of course, if you can swing a fancy presentation, there's nothing wrong with that, either.

Bring a supply of business cards and brochures or fliers with you for folks to "take with" if they're interested. Try to get as many cards as you can, and make a follow up call (in person or over the phone) to them all within a few days after the event.

When you do get a customer, assuming they're happy with the service you provide, be sure to ask them for referrals. Maybe also get a couple of them to offer video testimonials you can post on your website. A recent MarketingExperiments.com study showed that video testimonials are usually even more powerful and credible than audio or text testimonials. But if you can't get video, any real, honest testimonials are better than none.

If there are any local business-rating sites such as Yelp.com, make sure your business is listed, and be sure to explicitly ask satisfied customers to review you. It might be good to include on your printed invoice the link(s) to the review site(s) along with the request ("Are you happy with our service? We'd appreciate a review at:...").

Hope this helps!

--Torka

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Old 25th July 2008, 03:14 PM   #3
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Sounds like you're on the right track! Remember, unless you devote huge gobs of money for an all-out advertising campaign blitz, it's going to take time to get started.

But, having come from a small town market myself, I may have some additional ideas for you:

TV - Many small towns have a community channel where businesses can advertise inexpensively. Your local cable company may also offer inexpensive options, like a scrolling ticker on the Weather channel.

Movie Theatre - If you have a local theatre, they may be offering ad opportunities that you should definitely check out.

Coupon Magazines - Your local Money Saver or whatever its called is a *great* way to get your name out. You may not see any calls the first month since your service is entirely based on timing (they have to actually have a computer issue to need you), but those mags sit in people's kitchen drawers for months and months.

Create Partnerships - Find some other businesses in the area to create partnerships with. For instance, a copier company. If you have a client that needs a coper for their business, you can refer your new partner, and they can send you PC repair gigs.

Networking - Chambers of Commerce are great, but what's even better are Business Networking groups. You'll have to do some research to find what's available in your area, but if you find one that's close and needs a PC guy, join! If you've never heard of what I'm talking about, these are groups of business people where only one business niche can be represented, and the idea is to give each other referrals whenever possible. I was the IT guy for such a group in Ohio years ago and it was very beneficial.

Direct Mail - Postcards introducing your business are a great idea. Try going to your local Board of Elections and purchase lists of registered voters. As a Chamber member, you should also be able to get a list of all other Chamber members.

Remember, good advertising is all about "top of mind". When someone does have a computer issue, you want them to recall you first. That means having placed in your name and services in front of them at least 10 - 12 times, in various ways.

Also, make sure you're taking full advantage of Craigslist. I'm sure you're posting ads in the Services -> Computer section, but are you also posting under Resumes? And make sure you check your Gigs -> Computer section daily for anyone posting that they need assistance.

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Old 12th September 2016, 02:08 AM   #4
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1) Create or maintain website to advertise your business.
2) Make a business card.
3) Post advertisement on social sites.
4) Offer free pickup and delivery.

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Old 28th November 2016, 01:48 AM   #5
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Helpful information to start a small business with best ideas which keeps the business profit for a long time.

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