Magnetic marketing: make your magnet stand out

It is one of the most fundamental marketing tools for plumbing contractors and nearly all plumbers use them, yet few plumbers use them well. It is the refrigerator magnet.

It is one of the most fundamental marketing tools for plumbing contractors and nearly all plumbers use them, yet few plumbers use them well. It is the refrigerator magnet.

Magnets are an important part of any plumber's marketing arsenal, or should be. When placed on the refrigerator, the magnet is one of the most visible testaments of the plumber's brand in the home. A readily available magnet can keep customers from looking for a plumbing company through big yellow (or today, bigyellow.com). Moreover, magnets are an easy sell. Consumers like them.

No doubt about it. Magnets are important.

Eeny, meeny, miney magnet
A few years ago, contractors in the Service Roundtable sent me their magnets. We received dozens and dozens of magnets; dozens of white truck magnets. We put them all on the door of the company refrigerator and the only thing that stood out was the overuse of white truck magnets.

Think about it. Air conditioning, appliance repair, auto glass, carpet cleaning, duct cleaning, electrical, electric utility, gas utility, heating, landscaping, mobile auto repair, painting, pest control, remodeling, sewer and drain, and siding companies are just a few of the service trades using truck magnets.

What does this mean? Aside from the fact that too many service companies use white trucks, too many use truck magnets.

Next in popularity is the rectangular business card type magnet. In our survey of contractor magnets, we also received dozens of business card magnets. Most of them were white too.

Twenty years ago, the mere usage of a magnet was enough. Today, it's not. Today, your magnet needs to stand out from the crowd. Today, your magnet needs to earn refrigerator real estate. Here's how.

Provide useful information: Make your magnet a reference tool and more people will keep it around. Add the national poison control hotline number to your magnet. Create a magnet with babysitter instructions and room for the homeowners to write their mobile phone numbers. Add burn treatment information, with a footnote about installing anti-scald mixing valves to reduce the risk for burns.

Coupons: Add a financial incentive to keeping a coupon around by making it a coupon magnet. Instruct your plumbers to tell the homeowner to keep the magnet and give them the discount anyway when it's presented at the time of service. If it works once, it should work again.

Make it a photo frame: Create a magnet frame, sized to fit around school pictures. Again, this is all about earning refrigerator real estate. Add power to the photo frame magnet by making the removable center a coupon magnet.

Maintenance reminder: Use magnets as a place to write the next date for scheduled maintenance service. Of course, this necessitates the use of a service/maintenance agreement.

Cross market: Contact large service companies in non-competing trades in your market and create a joint magnet with service types, company names, phone numbers, and websites for each participant. Then, each company distributes the magnets on service calls, mutually spreading the word about each other's companies.

Commercial refrigerators: Don't forget to leave magnets on the break room refrigerators of commercial customers. Coupon magnets are especially appropriate.

Commercial kitchens: For restaurants, create magnets with tips for minimizing grease build up, followed by your phone number.

Grocery list: Create a grocery item checklist on a tear off pad and add a magnet to the back. These are so popular consumers will call and ask how they can get more when the pad empties. For this reason, limit the size of the pad to 25 sheets for less.

Move to the laundry room: Lately, a disturbing development by refrigerator manufacturers has been allowed to proceed unchecked by trade association lobbyists. This is the glass door and stainless steel door refrigerators. Magnets don't stick! Until we can enact legislative action, our only choice is to move to the laundry room where washers and dryers are rarely stainless steel. To make the magnet relevant, add laundry or stain removal tips.

Toss test: Few things are worse than a wimpy magnet that fails to hold a sheet of paper. Unfortunately, many plumbers are seduced by the cheap prices of low quality magnet vendors and learn too late about the pathetic magnetic adhesion of their wares. Test potential magnets by backing up half a dozen feet and tossing it to a metal surface, such as a file cabinet. If it sticks when you toss it, the magnet is a winner.

Back of the truck: Cover the back of your trucks with magnets. You might be surprised to learn that people will steal these magnets when your plumbers park in retail locations. Don't worry, that's the point.

Door hanger distribution: Add magnets to the back of your door hangers. Use glue sticks or the tacky glue that easily rubs off. People may toss the door hanger and keep the magnet. People can never get enough refrigerator magnets (until they buy a refrigerator with a stainless steel door, that is).

Home show door jams: At home and garden shows, distribute your magnets on metal door jams at the entrances to the home show. Like magnets placed on the back of your trucks, people will steal these magnets. So make a regular circuit to replenish the magnets. And don't ask permission before placing the magnets. It's easier to get forgiveness than permission.

What are your ideas? Share them by sending me an e-mail at: [email protected].

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, a business alliance of plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and service contractors. Learn more about the Service Roundtable at www.ServiceRoundtable.com, or e-mail Matt at: [email protected].