Why Plumbers Must Adapt to the Digital Landscape

Efforts like online marketing are no longer a choice to be made for your business. They are imperative if you want to grow.

Why Plumbers Must Adapt to the Digital Landscape

Doug Stine of Stine-Nichols Plumbing in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Growing a business in 2020 is vastly different from doing so even only 10 years ago. This is true for just about every industry out there, plumbing included.

Simply put, as customers have started looking in new places for service providers, a strong digital image has become a prerequisite for any business. Your audience is requiring a different experience to truly get sold. An old saying continues to hold true: Adapt or get left behind.

Having been in the plumbing world for over 40 years and running Stine-Nichols Plumbing in Kansas City, Missouri, since 2014, I’ve seen the industry go through massive shifts over the years. Some of these have been more technical-based and led to more efficient ways of doing work in the field. Meanwhile, other shifts have been focused on the business side and forced owners to adapt to market or technological changes.

One of these business-related changes is the need to adapt to the digital landscape in order to simply survive. In 2020, it’s a must and something that should be on the minds of all plumbers.

Customers Start and End Their Search Online

In order to scale a business in an industry like plumbing, you have to understand that most new leads are going to look for potential contractors online. This is primarily related to service work and residential customers. Work like new construction is of course a little bit different and requires more effort on the networking side of things.

But in the realm of service work, again, customers are typically starting and ending their search online. To stand out, you’ll need a couple things in place: 

  • They have to be able to find you. First and foremost, you need to appear for highly searched keywords in your area. Think phrases like “plumbing Kansas City” or “hot water heater Kansas City.” Appearing high on search results will require an investment in SEO. The truth is most searchers don’t make it onto Page 2 of the search results.
  • Once they find you, you need to “wow” them. Everyone in the plumbing industry knows there’s a plethora of plumbers in any major market. It’s just the reality. With that in mind, you need an easy way for people to request free quotes and find reviews in order to provide credibility, and a professional presence on social media. It should be a seamless experience and not leave any doubt about what kind of business you are in the mind of the consumer.

In the end, just remember that while some new leads will still come through word-of-mouth, you also need additional avenues of lead generation to truly scale. 

Establishing a Digital Brand

People buy from businesses they know, like and trust. No matter what industry you’re operating in, this has always been the case. With the ability to reach a much broader audience through our computer screens, it really is possible to achieve this digitally. You should be asking yourself questions like: What separates you from the dozens of other plumbers in the area? What is your business’ story?

Every business has a story. I could spend days talking about crafting a complete story map, but for the sake of brevity, a story is this — an easy avenue to get a general audience to know, like and trust you. Your story should describe why you are so passionate about plumbing in the first place. What made you want to get into the industry? How does solving your customers’ issues fit into the puzzle?

Just as every business has a story, it should also be a unique one. Outline your story and work it into all of your digital messaging. Don’t forget to humanize yourself. No one wants to follow a business that just posts stock photos of sinks, toilets, water heaters and so on. Show who your team is and why people can trust calling you to come to their house for a repair.

Creating Transparency

Employees, vendors and customers want to work with a business that has good values. There’s no denying that. In order to display that you have these “good core values,” you need to be completely transparent. Considering everything is so digitally focused nowadays, being fully transparent includes doing so physically on the job as well as in all of your marketing efforts online.

Here are a couple of my favorite practices that we’ve implemented here at Stine-Nichols Plumbing:

  • Don’t make selling your own goal. When managing your social media pages and website content, you may be tempted to keep throwing new offers or specials at your customers, pushing them toward the opt-in page and so on. Yes, these are critical, but remember that you want to get the customer to trust you. Post engaging content that gives them an inside look at your business, in addition to the specific services you provide.
  • Preach your core values. Whenever it comes to the underlying values that lead your business in its daily operations, there’s never any shame in sharing these with your target audience. If you celebrate monthly birthdays at the office, feel free to share that. Don’t feel the need to keep all content so direct.

Repeat Customers

Particularly in a service-based industry like plumbing, getting customers to come back to you for future projects is essential. It’s a lot cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones.

With that said, let’s go through a test scenario. Say a homeowner finds you in a Google search and hires you to unclog a drain. Simple enough, right? You complete the job and that’s that. But two years later, this same customer has a water heater that’s acting up and needs it replaced. 

How can you ensure you capitalize on the prior work you did for this homeowner? Email marketing. Each time you complete a job, you should be putting these customers into email marketing campaigns. It doesn’t have to be anything extensive and complex. In fact, a once-a-month email providing a plumbing tip would suffice. The underlying principle is the fact that you’re staying in front of the customer. It’s nearly impossible for a homeowner to predict when their plumbing will act up. It’s your job to be the first name they think of when it does.

Increase the Value of Your Company

This point depends on where you’re at in your own career. For those just starting out, you’ve probably got more short-term ideas on your mind at the moment. Nonetheless, a company’s digital image is becoming a stronger factor in what makes a company more valuable. Just as is the case with owning a home, the goal is to increase the value of your investment over time. It’s as simple as that. Getting a name for yourself online, ranking near the top for highly-searched keywords, and developing a social media presence are all going to be instrumental in increasing the value of your plumbing business.

Start Small

In 2020, adapting to the digital landscape really is a must for any plumbers who are trying to scale. One final point of advice is to start with something. You don’t have to go all in right away and hire a full marketing team. Start with a marketing budget that fits where you’re at. Maybe that only means a revamped website. Maybe it means hiring someone to grow your social media following. Whatever it is, just make sure you’re investing some resources toward the digital world.

About the Author

Doug Stine is an owner of Stine-Nichols Plumbing in Kansas City, Missouri. You can reach him through the Stine-Nichols website or Facebook page



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