My very first post on Vivid & Brave!! How cool! Thank you for getting yourself here and embarking on this journey with me. I certainly hope you’ll appreciate some of the advice, tips and stories that I’ll be sharing over the coming months. The most salient writing tip I was ever given was “write what you know.” So today I want to talk about what to do when moving your business to a new state. The above image was what I shared with the interwebs when I announced that I would be moving for a new family adventure.
If you have read the handy dandy bio next to my name, you can see that I am a self-employed wedding and portrait photographer. Therefore, I am in a service industry, so this post is going to be very geared toward those of you also in service fields and not brick and mortar companies that might not have the flexibility to move around. To give you some background, I spent the last six years building a successful business in Maine, the place I had called home for thirty three years. 2014 was shaping up to the best year ever for my business (I will attribute a lot of that to the new search engine optimization practices I employed). I was just about to launch into the busy summer wedding season and all this crazy stuff started happening (some planned, some not). In March, my daughter turned three and my husband celebrated (we’ll use that term loosely) his three year anniversary at his job. A few weeks later he quit. He’d had enough. A new venture took him half way across the country, flying in an out every week and we only saw him on weekends. In June he accepted a full time position with this company and right after the fourth of July he had to move to Houston, TX. Yup. Texas. Did it quite easyly, found a good company (go to website to see the price). I was still in the throes of the wedding season and couldn’t leave Maine. I stayed behind with my daughter, we moved out of our house, put it up for rent and moved in with my parents. In early July, I found out I was pregnant (totally planned) and after two and half months of living with my folks, my daughter and I made the journey to Texas. That was the middle of October. So…I have been here for three months. I’m in a new place, no family, hardly any friends, I’m crazy pregnant and I am also at home all day with a small child for the first time ever. How the heck am I going to do this?!
Let’s just get over our first hurdle. It is frickin’ scary!! There. Done. Moving on.
Having been involved in local search engine optimization in a rural location, I don’t think I’m too far off-base in saying that it’s hardly a major concern for most businesses in my area, and few actually take steps to improve their ranking. Even less do it on a regular basis. Because of that, it’s relatively easy for a business to dominate search engines for some very desirable keywords expressions, with the understanding that part of the expression is the locality. For example, I’m in Ottawa, Illinois. A typical keyword or phrase might be “insurance,” or “insurance agent.” Adding the locality makes it “Ottawa insurance agent,” or “insurance agent Ottawa.” But, for our particular town, that usually brings in results from Ottawa, Ontario, which is a much larger city. So we have to further specify “Ottawa IL insurance agent,” or the various combinations, including the full state spelling. Many businesses can still rank on the first page of Google, simply because there isn’t that much competition. For instance, if there are only two or three funeral parlors in town, how hard is it to get on the first page? Unfortunately for those businesses, local businesses have now been targeted by marketers as prime clients for SEO. For the local business who are looking to get back in business, they can contact with ClickMatix – Local SEO company.
Many, I’d say the large majority, of local niches in our area are sitting ducks for a takeover by one or two aggressive businesses in each niche. I remember watching a John Wayne movie, the name of which I can’t recall. But he was standing on the porch of his ranch house, looking out at the New Mexican landscape, when he said “There’s land out there just for the taking.” And there’s prime search engine real estate, oceanfront property even, laying there, just for the taking. And some businesses are starting to gobble it up, under the radar of almost everyone. In fairness to their owners and managers, these businesses that are seemingly unmindful of these goings-on have successfully run their business with little, if any, internet marketing. The question is, will that continue?
The continuing explosion of mobile communication is resulting in anywhere, anytime access to the web and to the community. Logically, it would then be highly desirable to be easily found in the search engines.
Living in a state of fear is a very negative place for business owners to be. So, get out of that head space, because it will do you no good, and I can promise you that your business will fail. I knew right away that the things I needed to do here were the same things I did back home to build my business there. Now I just had to get moving, and fast.
Ask yourself, “what is my strategy for getting new customers?”
Here is what I did and what I will continue to do as things progress.
- Blogging your butt off – What’s that you say? Blogging? Yes. Are you doing it? If you aren’t, you might want to start right away. I was doing this before I moved, but now we’re kicking it into high gear. My website is one of the key tools that I have to garner business and for six years it was optimized for Maine. Now that has to change and the little SEO robots need to start doing their thing. You can bet your butt that I’m referencing Houston, Austin, Katy, weddings, birth, families….anything that is applicable to what I do. Keywording needs to change now that I am in a new area. So, if you are not writing and getting fresh content on your site (Google LOVES fresh content) then start…now!!
- Dig out that rolodex – Remember all those business cards you’ve collected over the years and conferences you’ve attended? You’ve probably got some contacts buried in a box that you don’t even know about. Get them out. Contact those people in your new city and let them know that you have moved and you are looking to network with new people to get your feet off the ground. Human contact, one person at a time. You can do it! And those saved contacts of amazing women I met at conferences…yup! They got me this blogging gig. Local Client Takeover can teach you tried, tested, and trusted methods for improving your search rankings and your local client base. From the first GMB SEO training that spawned Maps Liftoff and therefore the Definitive 3-Pack Training, the local marketing coaches have developed a reputation of delivering cutting-edge Google My Business training.
- Join a group – Most industries have a professional organization affiliate in their state. Find it. Google it. Facebook. Whatever. There are groups out there to join. The second I got here, I was put in touch with a networking group of women photographers. Introducing myself to those women led many of them to send me messages welcoming me to the community. Reply to those emails!! They are potential gold mines. One contact will lead to another. Are your customers other women, or others moms, to be even more specific? Find those mom’s groups in your town on Facebook and introduce yourself! Set up play dates. Oh, and here’s a good one. Bring business cards to the playground. Always have them in your purse. You think I’m kidding? Other mothers with kids are your best referrals and word of mouth marketing. Get them loving what you do.
- Go have coffee with someone new – This is a follow up to #3. The people that I met from my networking group, those people got put on a list and I started setting up dates with them. This is the time to court new people, sell yourself, and talk about what you do. Take an interest in what they are doing, too. Last week, I had coffee with a new “friendor” and now I am second shooting weddings with her this spring and fall. She also gave me the name of a magazine editor who runs a food magazine. I have a passion for photographing food. A simple conversation led to me sending an email to the Creative Director of that publication. This was just one person and one cup of coffee! Imagine what you can do with five trips your local Starbucks?
- Contact the places that you want to work at – Again, you’re getting out and networking. See a pattern here? My industry is all about meeting with wedding venues and vendors to build rapport, but even if you’re not in the wedding biz you can still do this. Find the places where your product or service is utilized (you know where they are) and start calling them. Set up a time to come by and drop off business cards. Email them. And email them again. A little polite prodding never hurt anyone. I knew that I wanted to photograph more births and families and I was very lucky to already be a client at a birth center in town. Did we talk about what I do for a living? You bet we did! And now I’ve got my materials up in their office (and my chiropractor’s office) and they are slowly referring their clients to me.
This is just a start and I could probably list more, but I wanted to keep it simple for now. I will also add that none of these things are going to yield results overnight (but you knew that). After reading and absorbing the MYOB Essentials, I am under no impression that my business is going to be wildly successful in such a short amount of time. But we never would have done this if we knew it would be a very bad decision for our family. I knew that my business could withstand a little bit of financial down turn before things got better. You need to ask yourself those questions. Can I afford to move? Will my business thrive in a new location? Do I need to do other things for work while I am getting acclimated to a new place? In some cases, the answer might be no. But if you have made the decision to move to a new place and have this amazing adventure then you’re already primed and ready to make it happen. You know what you need to do! Now get out there and get those customers!
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