Every business owner faces challenges, no matter the industry. Cash flow availability, operating during a pandemic, maintaining and acquiring new clients and customers -- these are only naming a few significant challenges you may be facing this year.
Life and business require us to cope with change. However, consistency, at least in the way we respond to our customers, is one of the most important things to remember. You can't control all of the factors that impact your business, but you can remain dedicated to quality work and service, competitive market prices, and brand-building efforts.
During slow periods, marketing and customer outreach are vital to helping you maintain regular clients, reach new customers, and generate additional revenue.
Here are seven ways plumbers can improve their marketing strategy to help increase sales and maintain regular clients
1. Create an impactful website for your plumbing business
Viewers have short attention spans. When creating a website, make sure to structure your site in an easy-to-navigate format so that people can easily find information that helps them understand if you're the right choice for them. Answer these who, what, where, when, why, and how questions with your website.
- Who? The types of customers you help (residential customers, commercial customers, both?)
- What? The problems you solve (water heater repair, plumbing remodels, drain cleaning, sewer line repairs, burst pipe repair, etc.)
- Where? The geographic locations you serve
- When? Your business hours -- especially important to people who are having a plumbing emergency
- Why? The reasons to work with you -- "about us" page, testimonials page, frequently asked questions (FAQs), photos of your work (remodels, for example), and any additional content that builds trust and credibility, such as your social media profiles or review site profiles
- How? Instructions on how to get started with your business -- phone number, a page where the person can submit a form to request an estimate or service call, etc.
You should also ensure you've:
- prominently displayed your business logo on your website; it is your "signature" icon to help people recognize your company
- included social media buttons (follow and share) to promote engagement
- developed a site that is responsive -- in other words, it is just as easy to use on a smartphone or tablet as it is a computer
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2. Connect your business to social media
Social media is about being helpful and demonstrating expertise (through useful information) more than it is about being self-promotional. With that said, you can use these platforms to offer exclusive deals to your followers or to promote a new service you provide. Just balance your content appropriately between helpful and promotional. You don't want to come off as the guys or gals at the party who only talk about themselves.
Maybe you're wondering which platforms you should use. After all, there are many choices: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn, to name some of the most popular options.
Make it easy on yourself and only focus on those social media channels:
- that are most popular with your customers (ask them with a quick survey), and
- those that you think you will be able to maintain routinely.
A profile that you haven't updated in weeks (or years) provides no value.
Here are just a few ideas for how you can use different platforms.
Facebook and Twitter
You could use a business Facebook page and Twitter account to connect with your customers and keep them informed. Share tips with your followers to help them reduce their water bill or prevent frozen pipes. Explain how to weigh the pros and cons of tankless versus solar water heaters. Tell them about any community or charitable organizations your team is supporting.
When you're helpful, people will come to you for help when they need you for a remodel, emergency, or another project. You can also share information about your extended warranty program, provide promotional offers to reinforce loyalty or coupons to pique the interest of new customers.
Instagram and Pinterest
If you do a lot of remodeling work or if you have some proud techs who like to photograph their work, think about using Instagram or Pinterest. Feature those photos as part of your "social proof" of the excellent job you do.
Another great use for Instagram is to share the lighter side of the biz with your followers. Many contractors use Instagram to share the funnier side of plumbing. Proceed with caution, though, if you opt for the humorous approach. Keep the comedy relatable and family-friendly. After all, you don't want to offend someone whom you want to do business with.
LinkedIn may be an excellent social media platform for your plumbing business, too, especially if you serve commercial customers. If you primarily serve residential customers, then a business page on LinkedIn may not be as important. However, you may still want to create your individual LinkedIn profile as a business owner to demonstrate your experience and expertise.
Since social media is king, and people also enjoy videos, you could step up your game with a dedicated YouTube channel for your business. YouTube is terrific for both sharing video content and engaging with your audience.
Your channel could help customers with quick DIY plumbing fixes so they can save a dollar or two.
3. Stay on top of your online reviews
Reviews give people a voice and a chance to share their opinion about a product, company, or industry. Whether you ask them to or not, someone at some point is going to post an online review about your business. You need to be aware of what they are saying.
Claim your business profiles on Google, Facebook, Yelp -- and anywhere else that people may leave ratings and feedback. When someone posts a review, respond to it. Thank people who gave you praise, and respond to those who shared negative feedback.
When responding to negative comments, be diplomatic. Acknowledge the person publicly (and professionally) and let them know that you will follow up personally to discuss the issue one-on-one. Don't be defensive, and don't lash out. A simple, "I'm sorry to hear you weren't satisfied with your experience. I'll contact you personally to discuss the issue," or "[Name], I'm the owner of [business]. I will contact you offline to discuss the issue."
4. Write some blog posts
I can hear some of you groaning already. Maybe you're thinking, "I'm not a writer." That's perfectly fine. You don't have to be a writer. You need to be an information giver.
If you can write clear instructions, outline a problem, or describe situations a customer needs to be aware of, then you can probably put together a blog post. Of course, maybe you don't have time to write and post to a blog. Understandable. Try these suggestions:
- Provide a list of bullet points or a recording of your thoughts to someone on staff who writes well. Let that person transform your ideas into posts.
- Hire a freelance writer. You don't have to bring someone on full time. Work with a freelance writer to create your blog copy.
- Outsource blogging along with other online marketing to an agency. A marketing agency will be able to help you leverage your blog content in social media, via email, and search.
Not sure what you have enough time or topics to write on a routine basis for your blog? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Home plumbing maintenance checklist
- When to DIY versus when to call a plumber
- Everything you need to know about solar water heaters
- Common problems with dishwashers
- Repairing vs. replacing a water heater
- Trends in smart home technology for plumbing
- Benefits of an extended warranty
Need more ideas? Try one of these free services to generate topics:
5. Send out newsletters
When you stay in touch year-round, your customers remember you when they need your plumbing services. An email newsletter program can help you stay top of mind. Share tips, links to your latest blog posts, details about your coupons and extended warranty programs, and any news about your business.
Before you can send out your monthly newsletter, you'll first need your customers to subscribe. You can sweeten the deal by giving them something as a "thank you" for their subscription.
Once people subscribe to your newsletter, don't overdo it. People already get a ton of emails. Set a frequency of once a month and just stick to the highlights. There's no reason to make it hard on yourself.
6. Use traditional marketing communications, too
These days, it's better to use both digital and traditional marketing for your plumbing business when possible. The use of these two approaches can help you extend your reach.
Traditional marketing or advertising includes physical paper advertisements such as flyers, printed adverts in the newspaper, billboards, wrapped vehicles, and signage, to name a few.
7. Measure your efforts
Use analytics tools to measure your marketing efforts. After all, you want to improve on what's working and ditch what isn't generating awareness and sales.
- For your website, you can use Google Analytics (free) or a marketing automation solution to see what pages of your site people visit and what sources drive traffic to your site.
- Look at your email marketing platform's reports to understand whether or not people are opening and clicking through on your emails.
- Check your social media platforms' reporting features to understand how well your social media page is performing. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others provide free reporting tools to business page owners.
Monitor this information regularly to ensure you're getting the most out of your time and money spent on marketing investments.
Don’t Neglect Your Marketing
Marketing your plumbing business will go a long way in creating future sales with current customers. It will also help you acquire new customers.
When things are uncertain, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic we're all dealing with, you may feel like marketing is a secondary concern. Before you pull the plug on your online efforts, remember that the people still have plumbing emergencies, and they need to find you. And for those who have remodeling projects in mind, they may use this "shelter at home" time to research contractors. Keep up your brand presence!
How often do you actively market your plumbing business?
Vice President of Sales at JB Warranties