A friend of mine inherited a small gas station from his father.
The mechanic’s blood (oil?) ran through the family genes I suppose as he and two of his younger brothers all worked for either car dealerships (in the service department) or garages in the area.
At the passing of his dad, Trent decided to quit his job, take over the ownership and management of the family business his father ran for many years, and see if he could make a “go” of being his own boss.
I knew the gas station wasn’t in a prime location and it hadn’t produced much of a living for his father, so I asked Trent why he would leave his current employer to take over a marginal business.
Trent told me his dad had always wanted his sons to take over the family business, but it had never done well enough to support anyone but the father. Trent decided he would see what he could do to grow the business for a year or two.
If things didn’t work out, he would try to sell it and go back to working as a mechanic for someone else.
He had confidence in his own mechanic’s ability and his “hire-ability” – he just wasn’t sure about operating a business as the owner and proprietor.
I didn’t think much about this situation for a year or two until I saw Trent’s name in the local newspaper as the author of a column on car repair and maintenance tips.
Every week he would author a new article in the local paper giving readers some advice on maintaining their vehicles and/or doing simple repairs that could be done without professional help.
I decided to call Trent after reading one of his articles just to see how he was doing. I was curious how he found time to become a writer as well as a mechanic and business owner.
I learned that Trent had struggled in his father’s business for more than a year even though he had tried everything he could think of to build the company and attract new customers.
He was getting close to shutting things down forever when his wife (who worked as a secretary) encouraged him to run some newspaper ads to spread the word locally about his great skill as a mechanic and his reputable car care business.
To make a long story short, Trent ended up volunteering to write a weekly column in the town newspaper in exchange for a small amount of display advertising. He didn’t have much of a budget for such things and this was his way of “swapping” his skill and expertise for his business ads.
He told me that his business suddenly began to increase substantially because apparently his readers were stopping in at the gas station to ask questions, have him do the major repairs they couldn’t do, and ask for advice on things like buying used cars, trailers, RV’s, etc.
Trent was becoming a celebrity of sorts simply because his skills and knowledge were in great demand, and people seemed to trust him, not necessarily because of his ads, but because he wrote a helpful column in the local paper where he didn’t blatantly promote his business.
Soon Trent had one of his younger brothers working as a mechanic at the station too and his other brother was thinking about hiring on as well.
You may think of this story as a lesson in the power of advertising, and that would certainly be an important part of Trent’s success.
But I think there is another story here as well: the credibility and trust Trent was able to garner when he became an expert willing to share his knowledge and skill with his customers (readers.) Trent became the local authority, mostly because he was approachable and didn’t really try to “hard sell” his prospects.
Let’s face it: garages and car dealers often are seen as being less than honest and fair with their customers. Trent was a trusted authority among a crowd of “rip-off” artists.
His readers felt he would treat them objectively because he gave them tips and secrets in his column that helped them avoid being ripped off and taken advantage of by other mechanics.
Could you write a column (or a blog?) and become a trusted authority figure in your niche?
Trent was not a polished writer. His secretary/wife proofread his weekly contributions to make them readable and proper.
Trent never did promote his business in the newspaper column, but he was allowed to give his business name and contact information at the conclusion of each article (in his author or signature box) and he made sure his readers knew that he was willing to answer any of their specific personal questions without charge if they would call him or stop by his station.
It didn’t take long for Trent to build his business once the word began to spread that he offered his customers: great advice and value, personal one-on-one attention, and the benefit of his knowledge and experience in the field (niche)!
Now, go and do likewise …
To your online business success!