Another way to solidify an online reputation is to blog, or take part in discussion forums on established sites. Erik Gitli of Park Slope’s family-owned Aladdin Plumbing was plunged into this brand of Web marketing almost inadvertently, after several customers mentioned they’d heard about Aladdin through Brownstoner, a Brooklyn real estate blog with a busy forum section where homeowners discuss repairs and renovations.
Gitli had never heard of the site, but before long he was a regular visitor, posting replies to readers’ plumbing dilemmas under the moniker BrooklynPlumber. Only when contacted by grateful homeowners would he reveal his identity — and get the job. Now, Gitli checks the Brownstoner forums a few times a week after putting his kids to bed, and considers the time spent a worthy investment.
“I could only imagine where I’d be, given the state of the economy, if I didn’t use the Internet as a source of business,” he says. [more]
Brownstoner founder Jonathan Butler points out potential benefits.
Brownstoner founder Jonathan Butler says having posters like Cataneo and Gitli “definitely adds utility to the forum section.” Of course the open forums there and elsewhere open the door to less helpful self-promoters — shills who leave a trail of phony plugs. They’re the bane of many a board moderator, but Butler is confident they’re not hard to spot, especially since they “tend not to be particularly nuanced writers.”
Among legitimate posters, he adds, the smartest entrepreneurs don’t plug their business — if they mention it at all — but instead simply provide pro bono guidance, along with a link for anyone who wants to find out more.
With other Web promotional tools, the quid pro quo is less casual. Aladdin Plumbing’s online campaign has grown to include profiles on Angieslist.com, FindAPlumber.com and Servicemagic.com, all of which charge a fee.
For those without the extra money in the budget, there’s always Google. In a market as large as New York, Google ads can be expensive, but there’s another way to use the search engine to promote your business — “optimization” techniques that can boost the odds of appearing high in the results when someone types in, say, “Queens” and “exterminator.”
Those who aren’t putting such strategies into action risk getting left in the dust, says digital marketing consultant Larry Weber, author of “Sticks and Stones: How Digital Reputations are Created Over Time . . . and Lost in a Click.”
As advertising’s influence declines, “Businesses should save their marketing money and start thinking in terms of spending marketing time.”
After all, he notes, “When was the last time you looked in the Yellow Pages?” [more]
Aladdin Plumbing Corp. owner Erik Gitli explains the potential drawbacks and misuse that can face the unlucky small business owner.
Of course, all of this open access can hurt a small business as well as help. Disgruntled clients bent on revenge — not to mention competitors posting fake complaints — present the occasional challenge, says Gitli, who cites a customer who recently surfaced with a complaint about a transaction that took place several years ago. [more]