Last month, I reviewed 10 marketing myths that plumbers often fall victim to. Since you know what these myths are now, hopefully you will stay clear of them. My column this month reviews 10 more false beliefs that can cost your business. Realize that these are nothing more than myths. Once you understand this, you can save money and run a successful business.
1. Plumbers won't sell. Plumbers are mechanics. Mechanics like to fix things. They won't sell. Even if they are convinced to try, they won't sell well, right? No! If your plumbers don't or won't sell, you probably haven't given them the proper incentives. Put them on a performance pay system and tie their compensation to the company's success. They can earn more money and the company prospers accordingly.
2. Flat rate pricing is flat rape pricing. Flat rate pricing is a pricing presentation method. It's only larcenous if used by a larcenous plumber. For the vast majority of the trade, it is fundamentally more honest for homeowners than time and materials pricing. This may be why the marketing research firm, Decision Analyst, found that more than 90% of consumers prefer plumbing contractors who charge a flat rate.
Under time and materials pricing, when you send your slowest plumber, who is probably your least paid, he's going to take longer on a job while costing you less. The homeowner pays more and you profit more. By contrast, your best mechanic costs you more and takes less time. The homeowner pays less and you profit less. Something's not right about this. Flat rate solves the problem. Everyone pays the same price and if you tie it in with performance pay, you profit the same for every call.
3. People always want the cheapest solution available. If people always wanted the cheapest solution, Mercedes Benz, Nordstrom, Tiffany, Ruth's Chris and millions of other high-end businesses would be out of business. However, even in a bad economy, they're doing just fine. The truth is some people want the cheapest solution while others want something else. The only way to discover what your customer wants is to present her with choices and let her decide.
4. Service agreements won't work for plumbing. Plumbing contractors prove this wrong every day. Service agreements are a valuable customer retention tool provided the maintenance performed is of real value. If you're only using the service agreement as a way to send a plumber to your customer's home to find something wrong you can charge the customer to fix, it won't work. The purpose of the service agreement is to prevent future repairs, save the customer money, and ensure the safety of the house. Build value in your service agreement.
5. Newsletters are a waste of money. Consumer newsletters are terrific customer retention tools. They keep your name top of mind with finicky consumers who might forget who you are as soon as your truck pulls away from the house. Designed properly, the newsletter will generate referrals and repeat business.
6. Home shows cost too much and take too much time. If you think home shows and related events are poor returns, you are doing something wrong. Home shows should be terrific lead generation sources for remodeling, toilet replacements, water heater replacements and faucet upgrades. Call 877.262.3341 and ask for "87 Ways to Get More Out of Your Next Home Show." We'll send it to you for free.
7. Solar thermal and tankless water heaters are too expensive. In terms of pure economics, solar thermal and tankless water heaters may or may not be a great value. People will still buy them. They're buying them to get back at the utilities, to save the planet, to free up space taken up by a tank, to prevent water heater leaks, and simply because they're cool. Manufacturers have turnkey kits for both, making these lucrative products easy to install. Learn more and start offering them.
8. I'm tired of my marketing and need to change it. Long before the consumer even notices you marketing, you’re going to get sick and tired of it. Resist the temptation to constantly change your message, to tweak your logo, to alter your tagline. The impact of marketing is cumulative. It becomes more powerful and effective with repetition and time. Align all of your marketing for consistency. Then, stick with it.
9. I need to market everywhere. Some plumbing contractors market in a 100 mile radius of their location. Why? You may or may not take calls 30 miles apart, but you certainly shouldn't market over a wide area. Minimize windshield time by marketing in a tight service territory. Your marketing will be more dominant and more effective. Ultimately, your travel time will be less and your profitability will be more.
10. Seminars and conferences are an excuse to goof off. A lot of plumbing contractors make sure everyone in the company gets technical training, but fails to understand the necessity to get business training. For the owner especially, attending conferences and seminars like the PHCC National Meeting, Sept. 21-24, and the Las Vegas Roundtable, Oct. 23-25, are ways to learn about new approaches, to talk with other contractors about what works for them, and to recharge personal batteries. These meetings are inherently motivational because the most successful plumbers attend them. The speakers, attendees and organizers are all solutions focused and positive in attitude and approach. Like showering, you need motivation on a regular basis!
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].