Tech vs. Tech – Thoughts on Handling Direct Competition

After a multi-month hiatus, I’m ready to slowly get back into posting on this blog.  Look for new posts to start coming in slowly until I get my mojo back!  To see what I’ve been up to over my hiatus, go here.

The Story

It’s high noon as a tumbleweed blows across a quiet dirt roadway.  You’re the local tech sheriff, patrolling your town of customers to make sure all is safe and secure.  Suddenly, through a sun-soaked dust cloud you see a shadowy figure approach.  It’s Blue Screen Bart, looking to take over as sheriff.

“The nerve!”, you think.  Everyone in this town was getting along fine, who was Bart to think he could ride in and stake claim to resolving their technology woes?  There’s only room in this town for one of us!

That’s how I felt a few months ago after learning of the arrival of a competitor to my neighborhood.  Late last year I posted on this blog about how I used a hyper-local marketing campaign to target members of my immediate community as customers.  That campaign combined with word of mouth have been my ONLY means of acquiring new customers for over a year, and so far it’s worked out very well.

With the arrival of a new tech in town, however, the exclusive relationship I had with my community felt violated.  The new tech had one of his friends, a previous resident of the community, post a bulletin on the same board that I used to introduce myself, with a recommendation for the new guy’s services.

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The Importance of Process (and an example of mine)

Before I get started I just wanted to let you know that posts on this website are going to continue to be few and far between.  The project that has put this website on hiatus has been plagued with delays and other things that I was not anticipating.  That being said, I still plan on posting when I have a spare moment here and there.  If you’re still subscribed to my RSS and email list, thanks for sticking here with me! I promise this website is going to continue forging ahead, I have some great plans for it’s future!  Meanwhile, I hope the archives of past articles and links have helped you in your journey!

On a positive note, this part-time business of mine is slowly, but steadily, growing.   This is due in large part to a successful hyper-local marketing campaign that I implemented in my immediate community.  There have actually been times when I’ve had to stop advertising so that I don’t get overwhelmed with too many service calls!

One of the key ingredients in growing my business in my spare time, without affecting the quality of my work, has been to develop processes around what I do. This allows me to consistently provide the same level of service to all my customers without having to reinvent the wheel every time I do it.

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New Kid on the Block: How I Used Hyper-Local Marketing to Gain Quality Customers

One of the many reasons  I’ve been missing in action from blogging is that I recently purchased and moved into a new home.  It’s an exciting milestone in my life, as I’ve never owned a home before.  It also proved to be a hidden gem for finding new, loyal customers for my business.

It’s important to always be looking for new opportunities to spread the word about your business. After receiving a notice from my new homeowners association that they had a community message board, I fired up the computer to check it out and sign up.    It didn’t take long before I realized this would be a perfect opportunity to plug my services.

This is what’s known as hyper-local marketing: a very ambiguous buzz-word that I take to mean targeting advertising to the area immediately surrounding your business. In this case, my target is my new neighborhood.  Methods used for hyper-local marketing can be anything from fliers in the doorway to web-ads targeting local community websites.  An HOA forum is a less-intrusive way to find a couple extra customers, but considerations must be taken to ensure you maximize your potential.

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Website Wilderness: Should I display my rates on my website?

In the Website Wilderness Series I share my experiences and insights as I try to build a successful web site for my computer consulting company.

I’ve reached the stage in the development of my computer business where I think it’s time to start constructing a website. Over the last few weeks I’ve been tinkering around with different layouts for the site.  In doing so I realized that before I bother with the design I really need to pin down the content that I intend to include. The content will then dictate the layout and design of the website.

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The Friendly Neighborhood Business Card

No advertising or networking method is more powerful and cost effective for the burdgeoning small business owner than  the business card.  

It’s a great ice breaker and conduit for face-to-face conversations about your business to potential customers. It’s an extremely portable advertisement for your business that people can take with them and keep in their wallets/purses.  Nothing is more basic than the business card, providing the most important information about your business and nothing more.  Finally, there’s no denying that it’s much cheaper than an ad in your local paper or phone book, saving you money in those critically cash-strapped first years of business.

So it goes without saying that the first thing any new small business owner should do is get some business cards made.  And that’s exactly what I’ve done.

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Military Service And Starting A Business

Last week I had to make a choice: to extend my contract of service with the US National Guard, or to let my contract expire and leave the military for good.  This was a big decision for me and my business, one that I didn’t take lightly.  Although the National Guard is a part-time job in the military, it still requires  a big time commitment and many sacrifices on my part.

I’ve been in the military in one form or another for almost ten years now.  I joined the Army in 2000, traveled the world, learned a lot, and had a wonderful time.  My contract ended in 2003 and I decided to stay in the military part time, serving in the National Guard.  I’ve been serving in the National Guard ever since.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the military.  Although I don’t always agree with how our country uses it’s military, I believe it is an honorable organization full of amazing people.  That’s why I’ve stuck with it up to now.

This time around, when I was asked to reenlist, it was a harder decision than it has ever been before.  My computer business is one of the main catalysts in my struggle to make a decision this time around. As always, I had to factor in the positive and negative outcomes of my decision.  I was left making some uncomfortable choices, but choices that I feel will be beneficial in the long run not only for me, but for my business.

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My First Customer: The Aftermath

So how did hings turn out with my first official customer as a business owner?

If you’ll recall in my initial post on the subject, a customer was referred to me a bit before I was fully prepared to start taking on customers.  I decided to take the client, mostly for experience, but also to get a bit more money into my business account.  The lady wasn’t too specific about the problem (are they ever?), but I thought it sounded like a corrupt HD.  Turns out that it was.

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My First Customer…More or Less

Although I don’t think I’m really ready for it yet, I decided to take on my first customer as owner and operator of Jiffy-PC, my computer consulting company.  I say I don’t feel I’m ready for it because there are still a few things I wanted to get settled before taking on customers, like getting a separate phone line established and printing up some business cards.  But my girlfriend approached me with a referral and I couldn’t resist.

I have had numerous customers before this, but they have all been off-the-record jobs, or jobs for other companies. The person I meet tomorrow will be the first official customer that I take on as a business.  How does that differ from my customers before?  Not much.  The only difference, really, is that I will provide her with an invoice after my work is done.  That invoice will contain my company logo and if she pays by check, it will be made out to Jiffy-PC. Other than that, nothing much is different from before.

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