What's a Good Marketing Company for a Small Business?
March 18, 2014 2:41 PM   Subscribe

My dad runs a small business in the Bay Area, California, repairing laser printers and copiers and selling toner cartridge. The repairs take place on-site, and usually are for other small businesses; home printers are generally too cheap to be worth repairing, and you can't get parts. The company consists of him, a printer repair technician, the occasional contract technician, and an answering service for backup. My dad is not technologically saavy, but he can use email (Outlook, arrgh), ACT (sort of), and our user-friendly scanner. He recently got interested in DemandForce as a possible marketing company to attract new business, but the reviews I have read have made me deeply skeptical. So, does anyone know of a great marketing company for a small business providing services and supplies? What should my dad look for and look out for? Advice is welcome, but specific recommendations of marketing companies (especially that you still use) are what I'm most looking for.
posted by Alex Haist to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your best bet is to contact a recruitment consultant who specialises in printer and copier engineering jobs. This is an in-demand market and your dad could probably get local service level agreements with local large and small businesses. It might take some sleuthing to find a specialist firm in your state, but don't be afraid to reach out to a recruiter with the opportunity, as they earn their living from taking a cut from the placement.
posted by parmanparman at 3:38 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your father's business is too small for a subscription-based service like Demand Force. He needs to find a local marketing company that can provide him with relevant, suitable, actionable help and not break the bank.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:44 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

You definitely don't need anything like DemandForce. They're not really a "marketing company," they're a type of software that connects to your website, online advertising, customer management software, etc.. They don't list pricing on their website so I'm guessing the cost is in the tens of thousands.

What you want is either a marketing manager in-house, a small agency, or even just a consultant to work on contract. Does the company have a website? Even someone to set up some basic pay-per-click online advertising would probably be a good return on investment. If there is no website, it might be worth hiring someone to put together and maintain a basic website - a lot of people nowadays don't want to hire a company that doesn't have a website.

Unfortunately I can't make any specific recommendations on people or companies.
posted by radioamy at 7:41 PM on March 18, 2014

Sorry I just re-read my answer and I didn't mean to come off as harsh. It is great that your dad wants to expand his company by doing marketing. I just wanted to make sure you are looking for the right thing. He'll probably have great success with someone in-house or a freelance contractor!
posted by radioamy at 8:02 PM on March 18, 2014

Response by poster: No worries, Amy. I am also supportive of my dad but rather dubious about DemandForce in particular and hopeful for more sensible alternatives. DemandForce is asking about $2000 for a year for one of their packages.

My dad has a website, maintained by my brother and searchable. Sorry I didn't mention that! (Some things seem so basic!) He is also registered with Yelp and occasionally encourages customers to leave reviews.
posted by Alex Haist at 8:20 PM on March 18, 2014

Ok if he has a website, it would be worth it to start to have someone look at your SEO (basically how well the site does on a search engine search) and set up some SEM (search engine marketing, also called pay per click or PPC).

That's great that he uses Yelp, he should be encouraging every customer to leave a review. Maybe put something on the footer of the invoice? Also, have you looked at how well does he do on Yelp search? Yelp is a bit of a "pay for play" game. I am not sure what their exact advertising packages are, but basically you get higher rankings in their search if you pay them something.

Also I just remembered that my company used this guy (local to SF, although you could hire remotely for something like this) Karl Newlin for our PPC. I think he was a freelancer but it looks like he works for an agency now. I don't manage our advertising so I don't know exactly why we stopped working with him, although I believe it's because we didn't have time to manage a contractor and my boss knows enough about PPC to do it herself. That agency looks like it might be the right size for you - enough experience to do the job but small enough to be affordable.
posted by radioamy at 9:51 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

PM Sent.
posted by PlutoniumX at 8:02 AM on March 19, 2014

You say the website is maintained by your brother. To me, that suggests it's probably dinky looking (unless he's a professional designer). One place to start is to invest in a professional website and brand. You could find a freelancer or small design shop for this.

But really before you do that and invest in search marketing, you should figure out how clients are finding the business. Maybe some are doing web searches, but in the B2B space, many people depend on referrals (and then they might check out the website directly to see if the business is credible). If that's the case, he might be better putting his resources into network and developing his referrals through existing clients. Maybe a series of direct mail pieces would actually be effective?

You could do a little research into these questions by talking to a handful of current customers. Or yes, find a local marketing specialist to help you (designer, writer, consultant, etc.).
posted by Leontine at 11:50 AM on March 19, 2014

What's his goal? More small-time printer repair? It's my impression that big companies get big networked printers on lease with maintenance contracts. Printers are likely maintained by technicians employed by the leasing company. There's probably some business for tiny and small businesses who need repairs. MeFi is full of talent, try posting on jobs.metafilter.com, for someone to write up marketing goals, design flyers to go to neighborhood businesses, design/ write craigslist and small local paper ads, and maybe do up some business card magnets or some other form of communication to keep his name in front of people so they call him when the printer's mucked up again.
posted by theora55 at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. Against my recommendation, he's going to try DemandForce. I'll follow up later to let you know how this turns out.
posted by Alex Haist at 8:19 PM on March 21, 2014

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