Marketing Your Plumbing Business in Times of Uncertainty

The pandemic may have you considering whether it’s wise to maintain your current marketing investment. While it’s certainly something worth evaluating, be leery about completely eliminating your marketing budget.

Marketing Your Plumbing Business in Times of Uncertainty

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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No matter what your plans were for your business at the start of 2020, none of us could have guessed what this year would actually bring. It will likely go down in the books as a year of uncertainty and disruption.

Thankfully, as providers of essential services, plumbers have been protected against the shuttering of business, which adds some certainty where others have none. Still, that hardly eliminates all the uncertainty around doing business at this time. 

How do you keep your employees safe? Should you be stockpiling cash or reinvesting in your business right now? Will people eventually start closing their wallets if this economic disruption goes on long enough? And of course: Should you be marketing your business during a time like this?

It’s only natural to be concerned about marketing during times of extreme uncertainty. And if you think of marketing as something that you either turn on or off, of course you’re going to wonder if it’s time to pull the plug. You’re going to wonder if it’s smart to invest in marketing when the going is so rough. 

While we can’t answer all the questions pinballing around in your head right now, as the owners of a marketing company that’s worked with over 150 home services businesses over the years — beginning around the time of the last recession — we do have an opinion about marketing during times of uncertainty.

Here it is: Yes, you should be marketing right now. But the key to success is to lose the “all or nothing” mentality and match your marketing efforts to the current market and your current abilities. 

Under-marketing can lead to a complete stall in booked jobs. It can lead to a loss of position in the competitive landscape and lost opportunities to build brand awareness and keep your business top of mind for customers and potential customers. 

But over-marketing also has its downfalls. If you over-market, you could end up being too busy to get to everyone in a reasonable timeframe and find yourself unable to provide the high level of service you’re used to providing. 

Both under-marketing and over-marketing can hurt your business in the short and long term, so it’s important that you get things just right. There is no secret marketing plan or strategy that works for every business, and no marketing plan or strategy in the world works for any business all the time. 

Smart marketing involves looking at your size, your workload, your capacity for taking on new clients and new jobs, and your current market. Then tweaking your marketing to fit. It’s not as simple as doing what you’ve always done. 

Your marketing is not one big switch that must be either turned on or off. Your marketing strategy should include different marketing components that can be individually ramped up or slowed down as it makes sense for your business and your market. You need to be regularly evaluating your marketing and advertising, as well as your schedule and workflow, and adjusting things accordingly.

Unfortunately, many business owners don’t look at their marketing strategies periodically. They don’t alter their efforts according to their market or their capacity. But if you want to get your marketing right, even during times of uncertainty, you need to know exactly what each marketing component costs you and what it can do for your business. When deciding what to turn on or off during times of uncertainty, you should consider those costs and capabilities. 

One of the other important things to keep in mind when making marketing decisions is how turning each component on or off will impact your business in the short and long run. For example, pulling back on search engine optimization can have greater harm than benefit. Think about it: Do you really want your website dropping out of search results? 

Even if essential businesses shut down momentarily, people may still be searching for your services during that downtime. And if your website is live and built to convert, it would continue to sell your company. If it’s not, your competitors’ sites will sell them. 

As natural as it is in times of crisis or uncertainty, don’t only think about the now. Make strategic marketing decisionsbased on the now, but with an eye on possible future impact.

We’ve worked with business owners who actually grew their businesses during recessions, and you know what they did differently from the shops that closed their doors? They kept on marketing through the low points. 

Yes, you may need to cut back in some areas temporarily, but don’t delete the marketing column on your P&L sheet altogether. Revisit your budget, see what’s cost-effective and beneficial for where you are right now, and tweak things. Your marketing strategy should never be fixed, so do what you need to do.

One last reminder: We’re never really living in “certain” times. We never really have total control over the world we live in and do business in. What we can control is how we respond. That’s it. 

As scary as it can sometimes be to keep rolling when you don’t know what’s coming next or how you can plan for it, remember that you’ve kind of been doing it all along — it just wasn’t so obviously out of your hands in the past. 

About the Authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They're also co-creators of the award-winning app Closing Commander, which helps contractors close more estimates effortlessly, and co-authors of the book, Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit www.sparkmarketer.comwww.about.closingcommander.comwww.facebook.com/sparkmarketer, or www.facebook.com/closingcommander.



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