From the specific to the general, here are 13 things you can do to make 2016 a plumb great year for your business!
1. Set revenue goals: How much will your sales be? Will you be up 5%? 10%? More? What is the total revenue in dollars? This is your projected sales. Write it down.
2. Determine how many calls you need: Count up the number of calls you ran last year. Divide this into your total sales for last year. This is your per call average or average ticket. Now divide your projected sales by your per call average. The result is the total number of calls you will need next year. Divide it by 12 to get the required calls per month. Divide it by 52 to get the required calls per week. Write all of these numbers down.
3. Calculate how many additional calls marketing must generate: The difference between the number of calls performed last year and this year must be generated by additional marketing, over and above what you did last year. Divide it by 12 and 52 to get the number of additional calls your marketing must generate per month and week. This becomes part of your marketing objectives. It is what you must do over and above last year’s efforts.
4. Determine your truck requirements: Your ability to generate revenue is constrained by the number of vehicles you operate and, by extension, the number of plumbers you employ. Can you hit your sales target with your current fleet or do you need additional trucks? What is the likelihood that you will lose a plumber during the year? Will you try to poach a plumber from another company, entice someone to move into your area, or grow your own? In the first two cases, you will want to follow an “onboarding” process where the new guy rides with a seasoned plumber to learn your procedures and methods, while also giving your senior plumber the chance to thoroughly evaluate the aptitude and attitude of the new hire. In the third situation, you will want a defined approach to training and developing the new guy, possibly using a third party school.
Recruiting is a year-round proposition. Hopefully, you have a file of prospects ready to jump. If not, you will need to step up your recruiting efforts. You also need to plan for delivery of the truck, installation of the shelving, wrapping the truck, and stocking it. Pick the date on the calendar when you need the truck to be ready to roll, back up three or four months and drive a stake in the date as the time to get started.
5. Check your pricing: Few plumbers price well. Too often they price based on other plumbers who may be even more clueless. Your prices should be set based on your volumes, overhead, and targeted net profit. Use a pricing calculator like those offered by the Service Roundtable to determine the price you need. Recalculate your prices every quarter or whenever you experience a change is field service pay or overhead. Use a flat rate price presentation system to simplify things for you, your plumbers and your customers. Pricing too low is the number one barrier between most plumbers and prosperity.
6. Manage your cash: Plumbing companies do not go out of business when there’s money in the bank, though the lack of it will certainly cause a business to close, including yours. Cash should be managed and hoarded. Build a line item for business investment into your income statement that ranges from 2% to 5%. Either daily or weekly, deposit these funds into a separate bank account to build up a cash reserve.
How is your company different from nine other plumbing companies in your market? Is the difference obvious? Can it be proven? Can everyone else make the same claim?
7. Describe your customer: You can drastically improve your marketing if you simply describe the person you are marketing to. Give her a name. How old is she? How much household income does she have? Are kids at home? Does she work? What’s important to her? What does she want when she calls a plumber? Every marketing piece your company prepares should either be written to her or written with her in mind.
8. Get your brand on: How is your company different from nine other plumbing companies in your market? Is the difference obvious? Can it be proven? Can everyone else make the same claim? Come up with a unique position for your company and make it part of your branding. Look over your branding from top to bottom, from signage to letterhead. Make it reflect the brand positioning. Make it consistent.
9. Wrap up: If you are driving boring white service vehicles, pick a bold color and wrap them. Use the principles of truck design offered free from the Service Roundtable to give your branding a boost. Given the visibility and exposure of your trucks, a good truck wrap is the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal. Don’t squander it with a white truck.
10. Focus on retention: Too often, plumbers spend all of their marketing budgets on attracting new customers and neglect customer retention. It costs five times more to get a customer than to keep an existing one. At minimum, make sure you have a service agreement program, great leave behinds (and it’s more than just a business card and a magnet), and a print and email consumer newsletter.
11. Get engaged: Engage your customers through social media. Have fun. Make goofy videos and post them. Share recipes. Talk about things of interest to your customer base. Ask questions. Share the occasional coupon or special, insider offer. Just make sure your social media efforts fit into your branding program.
12. Eat out: Get off the truck and out of the shop to interact with community centers of influence. Join a service club like Rotary, Civitan, Kiwanis, Lion’s, or the Optimists. Get involved with your chamber of commerce. Join a leads club. Plumbing is fundamentally a local business. The more you can build up relationships with the people others turn to for recommendations, the faster you will grow. Most of these meetings are held in evenings or over lunch or breakfast. If you won’t go, hire someone to serve as your company ambassador who will attend every networking function around.
13. Wear your track suit: Track everything you do and chart it. Making it visible directly leads to performance improvement. Knowing your numbers, ranging from your financials to your key business metrics will not only result in greater profitability for you, it will allow you to head off problems before they become critical. Designate one day a week to be your financial day. On this day, wear your track suit because you are going to go over every number in the company.
Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, contracting’s largest business alliance. For a free copy of “Truckvolution” and “15 Ways to Improve Your Mobile Marketing,” call the Service Roundtable Success Team at 877/262-3341.