A down economy isn't an excuse for Professional Grounds.
Bill Trimmer says, “We don’t make excuses here.” He’s talking about the economy in the greater Washington, D.C., area, where his business Professional Grounds is based. “We feel that people have to spend money regardless of the economy, especially in this area, we just have to educate them,” he says.
Trimmer admits that the D.C. region is less volatile than the rest of the country. With federal jobs aplenty, the “recession” looked different in his area. In fact, business continued to thrive and people were still buying. “This economy in this area has been good to us,” he says.
That’s not to say Professional Grounds has continued on automatic pilot. The company is constantly tweaking its marketing efforts, tapping into technology, embracing social media and implementing systems like charging a $50 design consultation fee.
“Two years ago when we did take a hit in design/build work, Melissa [our marketing director] had the idea that we should start charging a $50 design consultation fee,” Trimmer says. “Initially, we thought, ‘In this economy, you think you can charge people for an estimate?’ But its’ the best thing we ever did.”
Professional Grounds doesn’t get as many leads this way. But design/build sales closing ratios shot up. “And we are a lot better off because of it,” Trimmer says.
That’s because those wiling to pay the $50 fee are serious about doing business with Professional Grounds and moving forward on a project. The company waives the fee for referrals and customers that find Professional Grounds through Angie’s List, which is another beneficial marketing tool for the company that has brought business to the door.
“Everyone has a voice today, and that can be good and bad,” Trimmer says of online reviews. Quality companies usually shine, though. And a slew of good reviews will bury a single bad one. “I think people look at the big picture,” he says, adding that, “People are finding us now.”
Professional Grounds sees some activity from its Facebook and LinkedIn pages – “It’s a trickle,” Trimmer says. But the website is a key driver for business. So Professional Grounds targets its marketing spend on activity that works. “If you’re still relying on the Yellow Pages, you’re way behind the eight ball,” he says.