Contractormag 9569 Picketfence

6 pickets of your relationship fence

Sept. 11, 2017
The online referral sites want your customers. The big box retailers want your customers. Don’t let them have them. Build a relationship fence around your customers, one picket at a time.

The online referral sites want your customers. The big box retailers want your customers.  Don’t let them have them. Build a relationship fence around your customers, one picket at a time.  Here are six pickets to start with.

1. Start a Service Agreement Program

Traditionally, plumbing contractors struggle to build and maintain successful service agreement programs. Too often they treat the maintenance call as an opportunity to get inside the home, find something wrong, and charge the homeowner to fix it. Instead, make sure the maintenance call delivers real value

For example, dye test toilets. Replace flappers whether absolutely necessarily or not.  Remove and clean faucet aerators. Add valve tags. Flush water heaters; capture the sediment as it drains and put it in a baggie to present to the homeowner, commenting that this was removed from the home’s hot water system. There’s more, of course. Build the service agreement by getting your field service team together and asking them what should be done.

The service agreement program ties the customer to you. It is a bond between you and the customer. You perform maintenance at a reduced price, but at a more convenient time for you, and you offer discounts. In return, you receive loyalty and future business. Think of every service agreement as a deferred water heater replacement and future demand service calls.

2. Mail a Consumer Newsletter

A consumer newsletter is one of the most effective marketing tools in a plumber’s toolbox. To make sure your newsletter gets read, write it for homeowners, not for yourself. Focus on the home and the homeowner. Offer home improvement tips. Show pictures of designers plumbing products. Include a recipe. And, of course, you will include a coupon.

Send a newsletter every quarter. It can be 11” X 17” folded. It can be an email. It can even be an oversized post card. Just make sure the copy and imagery are targeted to and interesting to homeowners.

3. Get Digital

Digital marketing is a fast moving target. The best practices seem to change daily. While you may or may not want to take advantage of tracking pixels, social media advertising, chatbots, and more, you can practice basic business fundamentals digitally.

Take advantage of opportunities to establish free pages for your business on every social media site you can. At the very least, make sure you have a Google Local page, a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, and a Pinterest page.

Use social media (and your website) to convey more than the essential information about your business. Use it in a way that gives color to your company. Speak with a human voice, not a corporate one. Speak with a local voice, not a national one. Big corporations cannot match your human voice and your understanding of your local market. At best, they can try to fake it, which people see through.

Use multiple forms of digital media. Some people will read copy on a page over video. Others prefer video. Offer both.

4. Practice Affinity Marketing

Find ways to give back to your community through the business. Get together with local groups and charities, offering to make a donation to the group for every service call or service agreement sold to a patron of the group. Tracking can be as simple as requiring customers to request a donation to a local school, the high school band, an animal shelter, a church group, etc. The more local the program and the fiercer the support, the better.

How does one know to request the donation? The group needs to communicate the message to its supporters and patrons. In essence, the group needs to market your company. Think of it this way, the money could be paid in advertising or paid in donations to worthy causes. The latter is pay as you go, less expensive overall, and builds loyalty to your company.

5. Market Consistently

Marketing cannot be stop and start. It’s better to market less, but market continually. Marketing is like pushing a car. It’s easier to keep it rolling than to make it roll from a dead stop. Use a marketing calendar to plan your efforts.

6. Answer the Phone

This seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many plumbers allow their company’s first point of customer contact to be a recorded message. If a woman has water around her ankles, she is not going to leave a message in the hope that you check it soon and get back to her. Incoming customer calls are precious. If you lack the resources internally to answer them, use an answering service.

For a free guide to Affinity Marketing, call the Service Roundtable at 877-262-3341. Or, visit the website at and browse the “Free Stuff” (click the tab along the top of the site).

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable. For help making your plumbing company more professional, visit

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