Plumbing’s six honest serving-men of marketing

If you’ve got great SEO and you find yourself at the top of the Google ten-box listing of local plumbers, life is good Market dollars off coupons and instruct people to keep them available for a plumbing emergency While necessary, service discounts should comprise little of your marketing Consumers have a hard time telling one plumber from another Market year round, even when you don’t think it’s necessary When your trucks drive 20 miles between calls, they pass more work than your company could perform in a lifetime Don’t forget to market to existing customers

Rudyard Kipling’s six honest-serving men can help you attain greater success in marketing. Kipling wrote,

“I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.”

What you should market

Plumbing service is reactionary. People call when there’s a problem. They want help now. This is why the Yellow Pages used to be so effective. Gotta problem? Open big yellow and “let your fingers do the walking.” This was great for the plumber with a big budget and first position. For the rest the challenge was to get to them before they got to big yellow.

Today, people are more likely to open a web browser than the yellow pages, but the challenge is similar. If you’ve got great SEO and you find yourself at the top of the Google ten-box listing of local plumbers, life is good. If not, you need to reach people before they reach for their phones. Unfortunately, service needs aren’t predictable.

For service, market dollars off coupons and instruct people to keep them available for a plumbing emergency. Send coupon magnets to make it easy or tell people to tape the coupon to their water heater or disposal, so it will be handy when needed.

While necessary, service discounts should comprise little of your marketing. Instead, focus on discretionary purchases that people might want even if they do not need them. Promote upgraded faucets and fixtures that can transform a kitchen or bath without making any other changes. Promote water purification, instant hot water, water alarms, and kitchen pot fillers. Focus on the aging population and recommend walk-in tubs, grab bars and handicap toilets. 

Why people should buy from you

Consumers have a hard time telling one plumber from another. This is because most plumbers say the same things about themselves. Few make a concerted effort to be different. What can make you different from every other plumber in town? Is it meaningful to the customer?

Give people a reason to call your company. Are you the biggest, oldest or most specialized in a geographic location or technical specialty? What claim can you make?

When you should market

Marketing is not a sometimes thing. Market year round, even when you don’t think it’s necessary. Think of marketing like pushing a stopped car. It takes considerably more effort to get it rolling than to keep it rolling. Stop pushing and the car will continue to roll for a while from its own momentum, but eventually it’s going to stop and you will have to start all over again.

When you are marketing around an event, plan it at least six weeks early. If a home show is approaching and you want to market your presence at the show to your in-house mailing list, allow time for the creative, the printing, and mailing. If you aren’t using a house list, allow time for list acquisition.

How you should market

Marketing in the post Yellow Pages world is more complex, confusing and rewarding. Certain tried and true marketing like direct mail still works, but requires constant testing and tweaking.  Test the offer. Test the message. Test the list (your in-house list should get the best results).

Other marketing, like newspapers, city magazines, and the Yellow Pages, are less effective than in the past, but may generate good results for you if other plumbers and dropped out and the cost of the media has fallen. 

Depending on your market and budget, broadcast may be an effective option. This includes radio, television and cable television. Cable is especially attractive since you can target by geography and by viewing audience. Remember, even with broadcast you should always include a call to action.

Consumer newsletters still work and represent one of the best customer retention tools available.  Today, you have more options than simple print and mail. You can also send newsletters by email. Start building your email list.

Of course you should have a website, optimized for search engines. You should also take full advantage of Google Places and all search listings. Depending on your market, search engine marketing can be very lucrative, though you must continually experiment with the keywords and landing pages when a consumer clicks through.

The greatest promise may lie in the exploitation of social media, which feeds and reinforces all other marketing. Create a company Facebook page, Pinterest page, Twitter account, and so on. All of them should like back to your blog or website. Use social media to engage people and build relationships, which means you must speak with a human and not a corporate voice. Be real.

New approaches using mobile technology show promise. Advertising on Pandora can be highly targeted and is underdeveloped. The use of mobile phone apps as marketing tools is only beginning to be explored by plumbing contractors.

In the midst of the new technology, do not forget the oldest and most fundamental approach to marketing, which is personal networking. Join a local civic club. Get involved with the Chamber of Commerce, a leads club and other local groups.

Where you should market

When your trucks drive 20 miles between calls, they pass more work than your company could perform in a lifetime. Granted, few plumbing contractors will reject a call, no matter how distant.  Your marketing, however, should be focused and localized. You should have a demand service territory where you market and a larger response territory where you will take calls and may eventually market. 

Within your demand service territory, identify key neighborhoods where affluence and building age create ripe opportunities for repair work and discretional upgrades. As much as possible, concentrate your marketing in these areas.

In the quest for new customers, don’t forget to market to existing customers. Your existing customers have already proven they will buy from you. Don’t let them forget about you.

Who you should market to

Who calls and requests service? Is the person male or female? Chances are, women call more than men because women make more of the home service and repair decisions than men.  Describe your customer. What does she want from a plumbing company? What worries her? How can you address her fears and reassure her? Where does she get her information? What television shows does she watch? What will get her attention?

Give your customer a name. Make sure your marketing speaks directly to her. Hold a one-sided conversation with your target customer.

Pay attention to these six serving men and your marketing will pay dividends for you.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, contracting’s largest business alliance. For practical ideas on plumbing marketing, download the Service Roundtable’s FREE Plumbers Marketing Toolkit from iTunes or the Android Marketplace. Visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com or call 877/262-3341 and ask for a free tour of the site.

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