Back in the old days, which maybe don’t seem like all that long ago, when it was relatively rare for people to have mobile phones and just as rare for people to have computers or laptops that cost £2000 pounds a piece, let’s call this era the ‘giddy early years of the millennium’, if you didn’t have many friends and were subjected to useless family members, it’s very likely that you’d have looked for a tradesmen, a builder, electrician, plumber or plasterer, in the Yellow pages, you may have even been inclined to delve into a Thompson Local, and you’d swiftly peruse the lists of ‘AAAAAAA J Electrical’, ‘AAAAAA JP Fast Emergency plumber’ and other such spammy business names looking for someone to visit your home and, hopefully, give you a free quote.
Let’s face it, to be honest, you probably hoped a lot of different things also, after all, how much could anybody deduce from two lines of text in a big yellow book, crammed with thousands of ads, that weighed as much as a small child.
You also used to get free newspapers, back in the days when they were actually worth the paper they were printed on. If you lived in Birmingham you’d be familiar with the Chronicle operated by the Express and Star. A reasonably popular free weekly newspaper that had an experts section in the back where tradesmen would advertise. I say HAD but technically it’s still alive and kicking, although it would seem the circulation has drastically reduced as more and more people head online to consume their local and national news. Similar to the yellow pages, the ads were usually quite tiny and you couldn’t get much of a feel for anything other than this is a boiler fitter and that’s his number there, in black and white.
Leafleting became more and more popular. Flyers got bigger and more colorful, they looked less like scraps of dirty paper full of dull, uninspiring blocks of text and horrid looking imagery. Instead we were treated to long articles carefully crated by copywriters designed to make you just want to race to your land line and dial them up sharpish, so you may also have found a plethora of local service providers thanks to junk mail crammed through the letter box.
Then, around 2010, when tech became more accessible (cheaper) thanks to increased competition, and the internet got better, it became quicker and more convenient to type stuff into google. Why? Well, you didn’t have to look for books or papers, and you didn’t have to talk to anyone. Simply type bathroom fitter in Birmingham and away you went. No page turning, just a few slides and a tap. Land on a website with, usually, more than two lines of text on it. Read about the company, what they do, where they are based and much more useful information that helps you get a much clearer idea about who you are contacting and what they can do for you.
Additionally, you can seek references online for validity, using a bunch of different methods, which wasn’t possible with previous methods of searching for local services. With a few slides and taps You can get an understanding about the age of the company or if it’s even a real one. Are they listed on other site sites online? for example, Touch, Scoot, The Sun Newspaper, The Independent, Hotfrog, do they have a listing on Google? Third party listings on other wbsites help add corroboration to what the website says about itself. The more details you can find out about a company online the more you can determine about its stature, longevity, where it’s based, experience and ultimately whether or not you are approaching experts in their field or fly by night highway robbery men.
Newspapers, even the free weekly ones, are on their death bed, along with phone books like Thompson Local, which is now only available online after being rescued from administration in 2013, some would even argue the YP is hanging on by the skin of its teeth.
So, how do you find local tradesmen today? I dare say if you aren’t one of the rare one in the million people who get their details from a sign written van you saw while sitting in congestion, and you’re reading this, you find them online 😉