Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Samuel Wilson and I am the owner of The Locksmith Agency. The Locksmith Agency provides digital marketing services such as Website Development, SEO, and Google Listing optimization services specifically for the locksmith industry.
By being a licensed locksmith with over 10 years of digital marketing experience, uniquely positions me to understand the needs of customers and our locksmith partners.
I now work with dozens of rock shops across the country and we’re making roughly $30k+ per month by helping them with their digital marketing needs such as local SEO and social media management.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I grew up in the locksmith industry. My father, Barry, owns a lock shop in Richmond, Virginia called American Lock & Key. It was there where I would tag along with my father on jobs or shadow locksmiths at the shop to learn and familiarize myself with the trade. As I got older, I moved away and went to College. The plan was to become a lawyer, but my love for marketing and helping the family business drew me back to Richmond.
I saw firsthand that locksmiths can get very wrapped up in the skilled work they perform and not have the time to dedicate to their online presence or marketing.
As I worked on American Lock & Key’s online presence and saw results, I thought of the other family-owned & operated locksmith shops across the country that could also benefit from this service.
At that point, I sort of had the aha moment. I could combine my background knowledge of locksmith, my love of marketing, and help prevent customers from hiring a locksmith that could be less than honest. To me, it was especially important to help promote the real locksmiths because of how many fake listings and spammy lead-generating websites existed in this space. By hiring a shady company, customers can end up overpaying by hundreds of dollars.
Once I knew I could help locksmiths with their online marketing, I began to build out the directory of locksmiths on 1800unlocks.com, which was no easy task.
I literally searched thousands of locksmiths by hand and compiled a list that seemed to pass the ‘smell' test. Even for someone with my background knowledge of locksmiths, it can be hard to identify which companies deserve to be included in the directory. Looking at reviews, insurance documents, and licensing certifications was simply not enough for me to feel convinced.
1-800-Unlocks takes it a step further by manually vetting and talking with each company, then ensures all verified locksmiths agree to our ‘Professional Guarantee’ standards. By doing this, we can verify that the locksmith can in fact perform the service requested and is honest about their pricing. The pricing trap is what typically causes customers to get scammed because the agent on the phone will usually quote a low price to get the customer to agree.
Once the technician arrives on-site, the price will inevitably skyrocket. Ultimately, if a negative situation arises, we can remove them from our platform so that customers remain reassured that we have a safe ecosystem of locksmiths to choose from.
American Lock & Key was sort of the guinea pig. I got to see firsthand what worked and what didn’t. I have since translated that success to other locksmith websites over the past decade or so.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
After the ideation of translating what I did for my dad to other locksmiths, I had to get a crash course in web design/development. I familiarized myself and was mostly self-taught on creating sites with WordPress and using the best plugins and design tools to simplify and diversify the websites I could create for locksmiths.
Life is always about learning from mistakes.
I wanted to ease the turnaround time for clients by having templated designs. However, I wanted those templates to have high levels of customization to not do a disservice to clients by having all the sites look the same as you might see from other designers.
I work closely with locksmiths so that websites can really show off their brand. From the content to the imagery, to the color schemes. I want each site to be reflective of the individual locksmiths and their business.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Chronologically speaking, my company was first known as 1-800-Unlocks. 1-800-Unlocks is designed to be a professional niche directory for locksmiths.
Over the years, 1800unlocks.com has gone through several iterations. At first, it was a basic website with a few pages for search engine optimization. Then it became a directory. Now, it’s a directory and a platform where customers can book a locksmith online, and soon customers will be able to purchase both the product and service needed.
While the directory was great for end-users to find a local locksmith, I wasn’t getting found by locksmiths that needed marketing services.
It took me about 3 years of learning the world of website building and SEO to feel comfortable selling my services as a digital marketing company.
So, I brainstormed and created The Locksmith Agency, which is specifically a B2B digital marketing company. The launch of The Locksmith Agency was born out of necessity.
Once I set up the new branch, locksmiths began to reach out to consult with me on their websites, keywords, and strategies for their SEO, and help run their social media.
The strategy was to focus on who my customers are and what I was doing for them. My goal was always to be that go-to marketing agency for locksmiths. I created the name and logo to reflect that mission and crafted our services list by listening to what areas the locksmiths were telling us they needed guidance.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launching the company, we’ve been very fortunate to have a very low attrition rate. My customers love the product, customer service, and they know I understand their needs. They know that not only are we working to help them locally, but also nationally through our efforts with 1800unlocks.com. The Locksmith Agency is the only agency I’m aware of that also has a niche locksmith directory. On top of that, I have skin in the game as a fellow locksmith business owner. Everything I do is to help promote their business as well as mine.
Lastly, we’re working on building relationships with lock manufacturers and lock distributors to drive more jobs to truly skilled companies.
Fortunately, I am wearing the same shoes as my customers. By being more than just a website building company, we’re able to offer more value to our clients by driving quality jobs to them through various channels.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our company has seen about 30% year-over-year growth since 2018. We spend hardly any money on advertising. All our business is organic or word of mouth referrals.
Right now, we use in-house staff to do everything for our clients.
The plan is to push 1800unlocks.com as the go-to source for people to find a legitimate local professional locksmith. This will help save customers money, and help our locksmiths get more work.
In fact, we’re making lead calls and form submissions free for our locksmith partners. This way they feel no pressure to charge the consumer any more money. This is in stark contrast to other online platforms that charge per call or charge a percentage of the completed job.
Our primary revenue driver and goal is to continue to help promote locksmiths on a local level. On top of that, we will generate revenue through product sales and partnerships with product manufacturers and distributors.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Life is always about learning from mistakes. Fortunately, I learn quickly. The biggest hurdle I’ve overcome is dealing with bad business partners and a few clients that failed to fully pay. Since then, I’ve learned to pick my partners and clients very carefully. It’s a two-way street and I needed to learn my value the hard way.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use QBO to keep track of all my revenue and expenses. I use Zapier to connect my accounts to save me time and avoid doing manual actions. I use Zoho to keep track of all my customers. I use GA and GSC to track my clients’ progress and measure the health of their websites. On top of that, we use Google My Business and Facebook daily.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
During college, one of the more influential things I did was to become the President of the Entrepreneurial Club at George Mason University. I was also a member of the Honor Committee. Aside from my upbringing, childhood, and background as a locksmith, these activities helped lay the foundation for me to not only become a business owner but an owner with a strong moral compass.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
When starting a business, my advice for other entrepreneurs is: be able to accept criticism, understand that it’s ok to get a ‘no’, and keep following your dreams.
On top of that, make sure you communicate well with your team and surround yourself with qualified professionals.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We certainly are always looking for creative people. The biggest area of need being that we do make websites is certainly website designer. There is flexibility regarding either a full-time individual, part-timers, contractors for when we have a high workload, or just an intern trying to learn the ropes.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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