Locksmith entrepreneur and marketing evangelista Stephen Sharpe brought to our industry two power-packed marketing manuals specifically designed for the locksmith. They were titled “Sometimes Your the Shark, Sometimes Your the Fish!” and “Shark Bites”. These two marketing manuals provided a step by step methodology and business guide to catapult any business into profits. Although designed for the locksmith, its methods could be deployed for any business.
Everything the locksmith needs is provided in the form of advertising layouts, flyers, brochures, cards, proposals, catalog formats, stickers and much more. It was so comprehensive that anyone could do it, but the problem is that not every locksmith would do it! For many locksmiths the idea of being “competitive” must be accomplished byrules rather than hard work.
But what rules? There are sales and marketing concepts which are referred to as rules or laws and many of them make sense and work, but there are some locksmiths who believe the idea of rules is more about making them on how everyone must play in the marketplace so that everyone is equal.
In other words, “Everyone Wins a Fish” rule!
Years ago locksmiths would spend their time complaining about the jack legs, butchers, tinkers, tow truck drivers, hardware stores, big box stores and newbies. Today many of them complain about scammers. It almost appears that if these locksmiths didn’t have someone to complain about then they would not be happy.
So the call for rules of what should be done, and how terrible it is to have competition becomes the flavor of the day. The subjects of the complaints today are the scammers. By definition the scammers are considered to be undocumented foreign nationals "posing" as locksmiths so they can gouge the consumer. But that is also changing as more home grown Americans are being hired to be sub-contractors and call center managers/dispatchers.
Many of these scammers are not skilled so it feeds the fuel of the complaints similar to the old jack legs and butchers. So how hard would it be to compete against such sub standard work? Not very! But it isn't so much the lack of skills that is the disturbing the locksmith community as it is their aggressive and successful marketing.
Jim Mullins, a locksmith from Silver Springs Maryland drives this point home in a recent Washington Post news article where he states - "We don't have a fair chance to fight these guys who are marketing gurus and have big international money."
The irony of this, is that the locksmiths have had every possible opportunity to educate themselves in marketing tactics and the last I checked, the American dollar had more spending power then many others international currency. Jim’s assessment of the situation is not incorrect, but the idea that the locksmiths feel things must be fair based on someone being a guru and others not being is disappointing.
Most locksmiths spend a large amount of time honing technical skills but are terrible at marketing these skills. The scammers on the other hand are investing their time and money into marketing and are terrible in the skill sets need as a professional. This could be because they are not interested in a job well done and more interested in getting as much money as they can.
Most locksmiths would love to walk away with money these scammers are receiving. After all it has been the very same locksmith complaining today, which have for years felt they should be paid like doctors and lawyers based on all the technical skills and information they have. So, is the problem more about the idea that others are getting it and they are not? Not so much! When you consider that the level of service by these scammers is substandard, but what if the service was reasonable? Would they still be disturbed?
Based on the history of the need to find a scapegoat for the locksmiths own failures to recognize the importance of their marketing as strongly as their technical skills, the answer would probably be, yes!
How it Works
Scammers are essentially sub-contractors. They are dispatched from central phone banks or call centers which receive service requests from consumers. The calls are generated from an over abundance of ads and the exploitation of today’s cyber technology. Years ago the Yellow pages was the place where large ads would be found trying to dominate the fingers that walked through them. Today the Internet search engines are now the consumers shopping guide and it is powerful, but not impossible to harness.
The sub-contractors respond to the jobs passed off to them by the dispatch centers and their goal is to obtain as much money for a job as possible because they are working on a percentage commission. Typically, there is a 40/60 split with 40% going to the sub-contractor. In some cases a 35 - 50% payout depending upon the relationship and the performance of the contractor. The more you produce and the more calls you cover, the more work you will receive. Nothing wrong with that and not much different them most locksmiths who seek to "farm out" work to others.
Since these sub-contractors are legally independent of the actual company or those posing as a company, they tend to operate under and falsely create a host of names and this gives the appearance of thousands of companies in the search engines. There are some sub-contractors and sub-contract companies who are not ripping off the consumers. There have been for years many good locksmiths who worked for similar companies and successfully earned an honorable living. The difference is whether or not they were real locksmiths taking on work to build their business or just those posing as one for the purpose of gouging an unsuspecting consumer. Locksmiths have nothing to fear by working for companies that are not taking advantage of anyone, but they need to understand just who is who!
So what's the point of mentioning this in an article about marketing?
The point is that there needs to be a clear understanding of the issues and those involved so the complaining can stop and action takes over! There are numerous ways for the locksmiths to benefit from a marketing campaign if they would just stop complaining and actually make the efforts.
Good Actors – Bad Actors
There are Good Actors (the locksmiths) and there are Bad Actors (those posing as locksmiths) and then there is the marketing arm of the bad actors. When we sit back and analyze the marketing driving these scammers, we are left with little response then to say - "These guys are really good!"
I am sure after saying that these guys are really good, some locksmiths will throw a fit and the complaining will start, but in reality they know it is true. The Internet search engines have become saturated with ads and fictitious companies as well as hijacked company information from legitimate locksmiths. Although not entirely ethical, it is still pretty slick how they do what they do.
All this designed to mislead the consumer. But at the end of the day, their ads are causing the phones to ring and the call centers to dispatch out to the waiting (bad actor) sub-contractor posing as the locksmith.
Sometimes Your the Shark, Sometimes Your the Fish
Which are you, the Shark or the Fish? Accepting the fact that these scammers now dominate the Internet search engines and have thousands of websites redirecting consumers the locksmith must admit that they are the fish and fish get eaten by the sharks.
This does not mean all locksmiths are destined to become extinct, but there will be many who will if they continue to complain instead of becoming a shark themselves. There is no need to become unethical or to conduct themselves in a manner which violates the consumers trust.
Every locksmith has the ability to benefit from their marketing efforts but before they do they must first bring themselves to accept the idea that the things they think they know, they really don't and the things they have been doing doesn't work and must end.
The illusion many locksmiths have is that simply because they call themselves a locksmith and plug a telephone in the wall, that is will suddenly ring with requests for service. This is not reality. The same is true for the Internet. Just because you’re there, doesn't mean much. You will be just a small fish in a big pond of other fish and SHARKS!
Which do you want to be?
Blame the Pay Phone!
The new battle ground today is the Internet, but we could reflect back to the good ole’ days and blame the phone booth for all of this. These Meccas were the gathering place for many, like chum to a shark! Everyone from the local bum panhandling, local teenagers hanging out or the ultimate fish – a person locked out of the vehicle in need of a phone to call for help. The pay phone was the marketing battle ground.
Covered from top to bottom, these urban warriors weathered the storms and took beatings from every angry person jilt by the 3 minute coin deposit recording. The fact is, that many lessons were learned from these pay phones that are no different then what we are seeing today.
The locksmiths insist on playing “peel and plaster” or the “over the top” strategy of trying to jockey themselves into position over others when they see others marketing efforts – good or bad. The peel and plaster was basically trying to remove another locksmith’s sticker on the payphone and replacing it with yours. Or you could be lazy and just stick yours over the top of it and be done.
It became such a dilemma that the one-upmanship grew into tear resistant labels being used with hot sauce rubbed on them, while some locksmiths actually were found to be using spray paint with a stencil to retaliate! Oh, the good old days. It kind of makes you wonder how the Egyptian locksmiths behaved!
The payphones were the extension of the telecoms. The same telecoms who also had and still have some reach into the Yellow Pages, even though they may deny it. Each payphone use to have a Yellow Page book attached to them, or it was expected to have one. In those Yellow Pages were the large ads that acted just like the misleading and deceptive websites and directories we see today on the Internet, and guess who has their hand in this?
The telecom companies of course. So the Internet to me is nothing more than a big pay phone with the same nonsense going on but on a grander scale. The only difference is your saving gas money by not having to drive all around town searching for the Holy Grail – the phone booth!
Win a Fish!
Everyone wins! Everyone loves to play the carnival game of trying to toss the ping pong ball into the little fish bowls of goldfish. It is as American as apple pie, or so we think. Kids beam when they see the fish and they are giddy with excitement as they are throwing the balls in the air with anticipation of being a winner.
But those days seem to be over. Now everyone wins a fish! Pay the new inflated price to play and you are given a ticket for your fish when you’re done. No more trying, no more losers, a completely level playing field now.
At a recent event I too was excited when I came to the Fish Toss or Ping Pong Ball booth. This is because I have a pond filled with fish and always look forward to winning lonely "carnie fish" to take home and set free.
When the hawker handed me a ticket after paying, I had to ask, "What's this for?". "A fish, you get a fish", she replied. "Everybody wins", she said with a half hearted smirk. Really I thought? This can’t be true!
As I stood there I felt this sinking feeling that all the fun was lost, the thrill of the kill was gone. No softball lobs, no creative soft air wrist turning arches, no thrilling sound of the clicky clanking of the ball hitting the rims of the fish bowls, wishing, watching and waiting for it to drop in. You get a fish no matter what as long as you pay.
In spite of the raping of my childhood memories while being at the carnival, I was lucky enough to land hole in one and I shouted, WINNER, we have a WINNER HERE! Before I knew it, the carnies converge on me as if I had tried to steal a corn dog! It was explained to me that they also can no longer yell “WINNER” because it wouldn't be fair to others, and it would be considered a form of gambling!
Okay, so as I stood their numb I felt as if there must be something wrong, or something I must not understand about the competitive world we do live in. Was it me? Or is this really destroying the spirit behind the purpose of being there. Could a kid really learn a lesson from this? Could the locksmiths?
I took a moment and stepped aside and watched how others would approach the booth and when they paid and discovered what I had, they too looked dumbfounded and defeated. So in the spirit of not becoming a fish I became my own carnival barker and began to shout out - "WINNER, we have a WINNER HERE!
It immediately got the attention of the carnie and she looked me and at out the corner of her muted expression I saw a crack of her smile. She knew what the message was; she knew and internally agreed that you cannot kill the natural laws or rules of being competitive. As I barked, a large crowd migrated over and began to play. Fathers with their little girls laughed, smiled and gave me thumbs up.
Sometimes Your the Shark, Sometimes Your the Fish!
Control and Restraint of Trade
Individuals in our industry are behaving like the fish toss booth, by trying to force all kinds of rules or licensing upon the hardworking locksmiths rather than do the things they need to do to compete and for what?
Here is the answer - To control and restrain trade.
Locksmith Jarlon Reames of Memphis TN, states that licensing is more about others trying to impose "rules" to protect themselves because of their unwillingness to adapt to change, evolve or do what is needed to compete in the marketplace.
As Jarlon points out licensing as being a rule, it explains the mentality of many who are saying that they want a level playing field when it comes to the scammers. But what exactly does this mean?
We have already defined who the players are, we have already identified that the scammers are good at marketing tactics – ethical or not and that the locksmith is good at skills, so what needs to be leveled and why?
It stands to reason that if my skills are better than others that is a good thing. If my marketing skills are worse than others it would be wise to do something about it and whining is not going to fix it. Too many locksmiths are robotic in the sense that they march down the road of being similar or not unique in how the conduct business or their marketing. If the guy down the road is doing something, I will do the same thing mentality. Just like the sticker fights at the pay phones!
There is a fear that if they do not take out a Yellow Page advertisement they will suffer, if they do not do what everyone else is doing they will not get the calls. The issue of fairness comes about when we examine how the scammers are using deceptive advertising, false names, false addresses etc.
Many locksmiths are guided by a principle of ethics which they value and wish not to violate so they do not mimic this one portion of their robotic actions. So if we set aside this one aspect, what is left? Not much, that can’t be rivaled.
So they call for rules to be established to accommodate their failure to be aggressive in a marketing campaign. It is true that it is hard to compete with deceptive advertising practices that dominate the Internet, "if" you are trying to do the same things as others. If you are unique and put in the time to do some creative marketing you will get positive results.
Many Locksmiths are Lazy
At the time of this article I had asked a locksmith who was complaining and seeking such rules, to explain to me why, and here is what he said.
- We need rules because these guys are too good at marketing. My phones are not ringing and things are slow!
When asked what exactly he had done to market his business today, his reply was - "What do you mean?"
What I mean is, what have you done to get the word out about your business? Have you walked your demographic area and knocked on doors, handed out proposals, flyers, create deals, shaked hands or kissed any babies? Did you offer service contracts; did you do any cold calling, direct mailing or even consider using the strategies of the Shark Marketing program? Have you done anything at all?!!
He replied - "I don't have time for that!"
As I stood there with my mouth open in disbelief since he admitted his phone was not ringing and things were slow. So what prevents him from marketing his business? Nothing, that’s the point and the scammers can do what they wish and dominate search engines all they wish. The locksmith like any other service business has ways to reach their buyers and do so using creative and cost effective methods if they try.
The suggestions mentioned are just an example to stimulate the idea that something has to be done in his immediate area to arouse his potential clients. The Internet is broad, but a locksmith’s service territory is his domain to cultivate and it is real.
Sitting on your butt and complaining does not magically make the cash draw fill up, so it is time to act like a Shark. The only “rule” a shark lives by is survival which is eat or be eaten.
Swim Outside the Fish Bowl
The very first thing for the locksmith to do is to stop thinking like a locksmith and start thinking carzy and when I say crazy I am not suggesting they go out and shoot up a movie theater or jump off a bridge!
How many times have we all heard the catch phrase - "Think outside the box!"
Great idea, but isn't this what everyone is telling you to do? Isn't it the same canned expression over and over again. Sounds just like all the things I have been saying in this article. It is boring, typical and expected.
Be different. Be creative. Think of how you would have your attention captured or what would stimulate you. Try something new like - "Swim Outside the Fishbowl! Think Outside the Bowl!
The Falafel Guy
If the Falafel Guy can be creative so can the locksmith! Utilizing the social media rage of Facebook, Twitter and others, there is so much that can be done to spice up things.
Using a flat screen monitor mounted to the wall of any shop and having your businesses social media in plain site attracts the social network junkies like a moth to a flame. It is a fresh and innovative way to have your customers participate in your businesses "credentials or citations."
Everyone like to see there name in lights right, so give them the chance to do it. Just like the Falafel Guy who had just about every person who enjoyed his food posting from their smart phones as they enjoyed their meals. He took a risk by knowing that he was placing his reputation on the line and doing so publicly.
Every person who walked into his establishment was reading the Facebook entries and they would spot others in their neighborhood who they knew and they trusted their rating of the service. But here is the best part! Mr. Falafel Guy was allowing advertising "bubbles" that , floated,dripped and danced all around the screen. He was making money from others who benefits from his popularity. Genius!
How many locksmiths cover their entire retail shops and mobile vans with a manufacturer promotion or product branding? All of them do and they do so thinking how helpful these marketing materals are and how thankful they are to be allowed to have them provided to them. Thankful? Really?
Your storefront is a billboard for these manufacturers who want their brand seen. Your service vans are rolling advertisements which are getting "clicks or impressions" everyday on the road just like a website would get hits. Everyone is willing to put banners on their websites and try to make money on the hits, clicks or impression so why not look at your shops and vans in the same way? Charge the manufactures or seek co-op credits to advertise their brands in your shop and vans.
Your marketing efforts are no different then the manufacturers you are selling for, and they are making money off you as well. The Falafel Guy figured it out and has turned things around and the stream of customers keep coming.
Some Fish Can Breathe Out of Water
Many locksmiths think they can't succeed unless they follow the "rules". The same rules others are telling them or making them feel they must comply with in order to part of the crowd "in the box". It becomes kinda like a cult!
Sometimes your a Shark, Sometimes Your a Fish!,and some fish can breathe out of water! What this means is that you are not restricted or incapable of creative independent thought. There are many who want you to "get in line" and act like sheep, there are also many who will pull you down of a ladder if they perceive you are climbing it to success. Ignore them and stay focused on the prize.
I am sure at this point many locksmiths reading this have decided they do not want to be the type of fish that is eaten so it is time to be the Shark and leave behind or eat those fish who are just blowing bubbles in the weeds. Break away from the schools and dive into the deep water!
Try working with other businesses in your area to create promotions that drive traffic in both directions. Will this stop the scammers? Nope, but it cost less and can deliver more qualified clients that you will have for the lifetime of your business.
Pay with a Tweet
The locksmith industry is filled with givers and takers and the same can be said about consumers. There seems to be a lot more takers then givers today so use that knowledge to your advantage and give something away for FREE! Social media utilizes the same conventional word of mouth found in the real world by calling it "likes" in the virtual world, so ramp them up and get as many as you can if you are relying on the Internet to be found.
Social Pay is simply a matter of giving something away in exchange for a tweet! So share the love and get some lovin' back!
Burst Media’s study on social media use revealed that women, especially those with children, engage in specific ways with brands.
o Keep up with latest content 43.5%
o Share content with family and friends 41.9%
o Share opinions or comments 33.3%
o Interact with site authors/contributors 29.3%
Everyone loves something for free and just as many people like coupons. Consumers also like discount codes, BOGO's, information reports, helpful resources, tips, advise, how to's, and whatever you think they would be willing to exchange for a Tweet or a Facebook Like.
FREE House Key - FREE Rekey - 10% Off - FREE Roadside Club
In the U.S., 18% of consumers between the ages of 18 to 64 say they would buy a brand if a friend ‘likes’ the brand. Women, 18%, are slightly more likely to be influenced to do so than men, 17%.
Their opinions will sway the actions of larger groups of purchasers over time.
FREE Roadside Assistance
There seems to be a lot of freebies being given away so how could this be a profitable marketing article! Your goal in marketing your services is to get your customers to experience it. Your goal is also to obtain another purchase and continued loyalty.
Take the case of the scammers and the "rules' we have spoken about. Think about the first thought that came to your mind when you read the bold print titled FREE Roadside Assistance. you probably thought to yourself - This guy is crazy!
Not so much me, but locksmiths named Mark and Gary Baldino who own Bladino's Lock & Key servicing Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia may be. They have hit a home run in my opinion with a program that offers FREE Car Unlocking Service.
So what's the catch and what's the benefit? There is no underlining catch other then gaining the registration data of a potential client. By exchanging a service that the consumers view as stressful for their contact information, the Baldinos are building a "list" which they can use to send promotions, discounts and other cost saving opportunities if they wish to do so.
But there is more to what they are doing and they may not even know it or do they?
Scammers, scammers, scammers....they are everywhere right! They target emergency lockouts just like keys locked in a car. By having a free roadside assistance program or car unlocking service the Baldinos are effectively marketing their business to a consumer who wants to save money so there is value in the proposition. They also are cutting off the life line or target audience which the scammers depend upon because the consumers are not going to call them if they have a free service coming their way. If you add the fact that many smaller soloprenuers also look for these types of jobs to survive, then we could say that Baldinos is not just being a Shark, but a Great White one who is getting two fish in one bite!
Just like paying for something with a tweet or like, the Baldinos are receiving the benefit of their brand being seen by having their sticker advertisement placed on the vehicles being registered. They even extend the offer to friends, family and virtually anyone that learns of it. Isn't this similar to the Falafel Guy?
It is viral thinking outside the fish bowl. It is allowing your customers to do your marketing for you. Yes, I said you are allowing them. Just like you are providing them the opportunity to purchase from you.
Bill Neff owner of Neff's Safe Lock & Security in Lancaster PA. constantly reminds his staff that sales may sell the first but service sells the next ten!
With a FREE Car Unlocking service I am certain that Baldinos Lock & Key will receive 10 times more sales in the future from each customer. That is Shark-enomics!
Shark Marketing webinars and seminars are provided exclusively by the Society of Professional Locksmiths. It provides alternative solutions to the Yellow Pages and shows the locksmith how to leverage the Internet in ways not considered before. Locksmiths can slash their advertising budgets in half and double their marketing reach in less time and with greater results by being proactive.
The last thing the locksmith industry needs is more complaining about scammers and loss of business. When a Shark sinks their teeth into you, complaining isn't going to get it to let go. You have to fight back aggressively.
Just like the old pay phones, it will require daily attention and some work each day. If the locksmith is not willing to do this then those scammers believed to be marketing gurus, will eat them like Fish.
So what do you do to market your business?
BITE BACK- BITE HARD!
Tom Lynch, CRL