Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Marketing a Small/Local Business: Thrifty-Plow

Being located in a snow-belt area, I'm a prime customer for driveway plow services. These tend to be owner-operated and hyper-local.

Because this has been one of the snowiest winters on record in my area, plow services have been overloaded with work. To get and keep customers, any plow service must emphasize personalized marketing and reliable service delivery. This is the story of one local business that gets it right.

Earlier this month, I received the newsletter (top) from Bruce, the owner of Thrifty-Plow, who has been clearing my driveway for the past 3 years. Because the current bill (below) was so much higher than usual, Bruce wrote a lengthy explanation of why and how he changed his services to cope with the unprecedented wintery mess.

Now why is this smart marketing? First, Bruce prepared his customers for the big shock of the biggest bills he's ever sent us. He reminded us of the conditions he (and we) faced in clearing driveways, explained in detail how he did a good job despite the major obstacles. He described the scope of his services and what he must do to be sure the job is complete--and closed with a reminder that his rates are as low as he can make them.

The bill, handwritten, detailed every service Bruce provided so customers could figure out what he did and what he charged for each service. Then, because my driveway is among the last to be plowed, Bruce applied a 20% discount "for waiting."

Smart marketing: Even the bill reinforced the value that Bruce provided for the money I pay. Although Bruce had to spend extra time plowing the extraordinary snowfall, he included my discount to show that I received extra value because I'm his customer.

Bruce didn't need colorful materials or flashy logos to get or keep my business. Bruce has no Facebook page, no Twitter feed. I don't care whether his bill is hand-written or computer-generated. In fact, I wrote him a thank-you note along with my check. He keeps the "brand promise" of Thrifty-Plow: He always gets the job done at a reasonable price.

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