Marketing Matters: The Different Ways Plumbers Reach Potential Customers

Marketing is an important aspect of any business, whether a one-man shop or large company, and understanding the basics will help grow your business

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You could be the best plumber in the world, but if you don’t put serious thought into the business side, your company isn’t going far.

That’s why each month Plumber brings you stories of successful and innovative companies, as well as business advice in a variety of columns. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best marketing knowledge from past Plumber stories.

Developing a Plan

Marketing can be difficult to approach, but if you develop an actionable plan for your marketing strategy, the whole thing becomes more manageable.

Successful companies recognize the power and importance of marketing, and act accordingly.

Tammy Ferris
Tammy Ferris

“We invest a great deal in marketing,” says Tammy Ferris, owner of Love Plumbing Air & Electrical in Columbia, South Carolina. “The game has changed so much over the past 10 years. It’s not like it used to be when you just put a bigger ad in the Yellow Pages and the phone rang. We are always exploring the latest marketing strategies.” 

Successful marketing requires commitment. For many business owners who can’t spare the time, hiring someone to take on that burden is the best choice.

“We employ a marketing director who I work closely with to create effective long-range and short-term strategies and tactics to reach our existing and potential customers,” Ferris says.

Marketing plans can include many facets, but typically involve a few basic points: paid advertising, branding, social media and community outreach.

Paid Advertising

With the rise of social media, some view paid advertising as a thing of the past. That view, however, dismisses a broad spectrum of potential clients.

There was a time when paid advertising was simple: a phonebook listing, newspaper ad, maybe a TV spot or billboard for the ambitious. Today’s landscape has a lot more terrain. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. Different companies have found success in different ways, some with more traditional approaches, some by embracing cutting-edge technology and marketing strategies.

Josh Shelton and father John Shelton
Josh Shelton and father John Shelton

Shelton Plumbing in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, faced this dilemma head-on when Josh Shelton joined the family business: “We wanted to grow,” says Shelton, who is now CEO and president. “Times had changed, and advertising was very different.”

The company used to rely on word-of-mouth with some supplemental newspaper advertising, but Shelton noticed it was getting harder to stay busy.

“I wanted to grow this business and just keep up with the times,” he says. “We looked for ways to stay in contact with customers, and to provide more options and better service, and it started to grow.”

For Shelton, that didn’t only mean diversifying their ad dollar investments, it also meant getting the most out of those paid advertisements. They made sure to promote their most innovative services and presented a strong company image.

Internet advertising — whether Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or just spending time and money on your website — has been the big push in recent years, but that doesn’t mean traditional paid advertising methods are no longer relevant.

Many companies, such as Zeitler Plumbing of Cecil, Wisconsin, still find success with those avenues. They have had great success with radio advertisements, mainly by building on an existing ad campaign.

The third-generation company has been running ads based on the same theme since the 1970s. In addition to a catchy slogan, current owner Ed Zeitler has updated the radio spots, even including his children in the recordings through the years.

Ed Zeitler
Ed Zeitler

“We know the ads have been effective because customers mention them a lot,” Zeitler says. “They tell me, ‘I hear your children on the radio all the time.’ And when the kids were younger, people would come up to us in, say, a grocery store, and kiddingly ask if I was paying them to do the commercials.”

Even though the radio ads have been airing for years, Zeitler keeps on running them. The way he sees it, people are always moving in and out of the area, and newcomers will probably need a plumber at some point.

“We want to be the one they call,” he says. “I believe a business has to advertise constantly.”

Branding

Regardless of what type of advertising works best for your company, it needs to convey a strong and consistent message about your brand. Like the Zeitler Plumbing ad, any and all advertising should feed into the image you want customers to see. Branding is possibly the most important part of any advertising strategy.

Building a strong brand is also the best way to promote your company’s cheapest form of advertising: word-of-mouth.

“We don’t spend a lot of money on marketing. We prefer traditional word-of-mouth to get our name out there and build relationships with our customers that way,” says Kevin Walker, manager with O’Connor Plumbing & Heating in Germantown, Maryland. “Building a strong brand that customers can rely on is what it’s all about with us. And this has worked really well as more people hear about us and use our services.

Kevin Walker
Kevin Walker

“A reputation can make or break a company, so we focus on building a strong brand. Then, we get it out there and let it work for us, instead of using flyers to try to convince people we’re good at what we do.”

Social Media

“Right now the industry is driven by social media. That is where people find the information,” says Bill Rozga, owner of Rozga Plumbing & Heating Corp. in West Allis, Wisconsin. “When we get to a job, the customer will already know as much about us as they want to know because they’ve done their homework ahead of time.”

Asking customers for testimonials and reviews is good practice, and get the most out of customer comments by posting across all digital platforms.

“Customers will have done their due diligence long before we get to the house,” Rozga says. “People want to know who they are dealing with. It is important to inform a customer about who you are and what you do.”

Customers will check out the company’s website, look at reviews, and even talk with other customers in forums and comment sections.

Kristen Stegle
Kristen Stegle

“Social media has really grown into a way to interact with people, and I find we get a lot of customers — and new customers — who contact us through social media,” says Kristen Stegle, business manager with Stegle Plumbing in Anna, Illinois. “This has been a great way for us to interact with the community.”

Community

To a certain extent, branding and advertising are limited by a budget. However, there are also creative solutions companies can find to make the most of their often limited ad dollars.

One way is to invest in the community: You can improve your brand while also putting your ad dollars to use in a way that benefits the community, building goodwill while getting your name in front of people and cultivating an image of a community-driven business.

When the Everett Aquasox, a minor league baseball team in Everett, Washington, contacted Banghart Plumbing owner Dave Banghart about advertising, he jumped at the chance.

“We met with them, and they told us what they could do for us,” Banghart says. “I had been looking for a way to do a little bit of branding in the community and help the community at the same time, so that is how we got together.”

Dave Banghart
Dave Banghart

The Everett Aquasox, an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, provide signage at the stadium for Banghart. His company’s name is also broadcast on the radio during game coverage, and fans receive packets that include coupons for Banghart Plumbing.

“We’re really proud of this sponsorship,” Banghart says.

There are unlimited ways to do this kind of marketing, and it doesn’t always require sponsoring a big local name like a minor league baseball team. It can be as simple as sponsoring a local Little League team, billiards team, softball league, community concert — the opportunities are endless.

Parsons Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling in Ball, Louisiana, is another example.

“We chose to be a sponsor for the renovation of a local colosseum where there will be a lot of sporting events, which allows our name to be seen on scoreboards, screens, murals, etc., by hundreds of people at any one time,” says owner Doyle Parsons.



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