“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention” – Unknown Author
“Marketing is the means by which an organization communicates to, connects with, and engages its target audience to convey the value of and ultimately sell its products and services.” – Julie Barile
“Marketing is meeting the needs of your customer at a profit” – Philip Kotler
Whether you know it or not you already market your business. A sign on your van with your name on it, an advert in the local paper, the invoice you leave with your customer with your name and address on it. Providing a quote for a job. Completing a plumbing job for a customer. These all leave an impression with current or potential customers.
But what is the impression you leave?
Here are some of the good impressions you would ideally want to leave:
• Good Quality
Unfortunately, the impression customers often get from plumbers and other tradesman is:
• Work to minimal quality requirements
How do your customers view you? That’s a big question you need to think about. You could be fooling yourself, thinking that because you’ll have a laugh with them, brush up afterwards and do a good job, they think you’re great. If you can leave a great impression every time with each current customer they’ll use you again, and they’ll recommend you to friends.
But how can you give that impression to potential customers who haven’t yet met you or used you to do work for them?
That’s where Branding comes in…we’ll discuss that later.
So, you’re good at what you do, you leave a good impression with your customers but you could just do with more customers calling you to ask for a quote. It’d be great if you could get to the point where all you did was do a few quotes each day, and employ 6 other plumbers to go and do the work while you supervise, wouldn’t it? That’s more than possible.
It all comes down to having and putting into practice a marketing plan. So, that’s what we’re going to help you do, step by step, improve the image of your company and find ways to get it out there in front of more people, so that you get more calls for quotes. And on top of that we’re going to help you leave the best impression with every customer so they use you again and recommend you to their friends.
With the right marketing plan you can become the top Plumber in your town, increase your earnings and employ a team if you want to.
THINK ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS
The first thing we want you to do is think about your customers.
It might be hard to do this because you’re a plumber and do your own plumbing at home. But maybe think about another tradesman you’ve had to hire to do work at your house, not the mate who’s a spark and did your electrics, but someone you didn’t know, maybe the Sky installation guy, the carpet fitter, or the kitchen fitter. How did you feel as the customer?
Or talk to your relatives about how they feel about tradesmen who come to do work at their house.
As a customer what do you want?
• The work to be completed on time
• The work to be completed to your specification
• No complications or extra costs
• To be able to live in your house as normal while the work is done
• The work area to be left clean and tidy
• The final bill to match the quote as near as possible
• Confidence that the work was done to a high standard
Now, think about your customers, do they receive all the above from you?
Could you do better?
In this marketing plan we’re going to address each of these customer “wants” and help you go above and beyond delivering them without much more work or cost to you.
The result will be happier customers who call you again next time, and are happy to pass your name and number to their friends.
The nature of people is that when we get a great service, a bargain, a terrible service, or a refund because we complained…we tell our friends about it. Let’s face it once most people have talked about the weather, their back ache, how their team is doing in the league or what their kids are up to, they don’t have much new to talk about with their friends unless they’ve booked a holiday. So they love to tell a story about what happened that week in their lives…and if they had a plumber come to do a job, that’s a hot topic in their mundane lives.
So you’re going to get talked about. Better if they’re saying all positive things about you, that they’re surprised at how much better you are than the last plumber they used.
Why were you better?
If wasn’t necessarily about the price. Cheap and Quality don’t go together in the same sentence usually. Most plumbers charge around the same hourly and day rate. And everyone thinks they know that tradesman fill out their day anyway so they can charge a day rate, whether the job took a full day or not, because that’s what people tell them, and what they think they observe.
So the reason they think you were better was a feeling, emotions made up by the small things you did. They felt comfortable, you didn’t make noise, you didn’t make a mess, you didn’t leave the front door open to let the dog and the heat out, you didn’t park over the drive so they couldn’t go out, they felt reassured that you were doing a good job, they felt comfortable leaving you alone upstairs, you were polite, you left your mug by the sink after you finished your tea, you didn’t take personal calls, you didn’t leave to do a higher priority job, they found you friendly and relaxed, you weren’t in a rush, you gave them an accurate and detailed invoice, you thanked them for their custom and left them with your business card and a free pen.
Yes, if you can do all of those things, and most of them won’t cost you anything or take up much more time, you’ll have much happier customers.
Types of Customers
We’ve made a lot of assumptions here that all customers are the same. You and I know they’re not. So it’s often good to stop and think about the different types of customers you have and how you can adjust your approach to them.
Older people – worry a lot. They hear horror stories of tradesmen stealing from people while they’re in their house, or ripping them off. They are as confident as they used to be and they think young people are rude to them and don’t respect them. So with older people, when you speak to them on the phone, go to do a quote, and do the job at their house, apply a few principals which will make all the difference to them:
• Be very polite, say “please” and “thank you”. Call them by their title and surname ie. Mrs Smith, unless they ask you to call them by their first name.
• Be respectful of them and their home. Wait for them to invite you in, ask them where you can put your tools, ask permission to go into a room.
• Reassure them by talking about the local area and your other customers. They want to know you’re a local and can be trusted.
• Move slower than usual, don’t charge around their house or run up and down the stairs.
• Leave the front door closed and locked at all times.
• Have a shave, wear a clean polo shirt and button it up, wear clean footwear and offer to take your shoes off or wear boot covers.
• Accept a cup of tea and a biscuit and chat to them while you drink it, they might not get many visitors.
Female Customers – again security can be a concern for female customers who are home alone. In addition, female customers can worry about being ripped off by tradesman because they don’t know the ‘technical stuff’.
So, you can help reassure them by being respectful, waiting to be invited in, asking permission to enter a room, and being polite.
You should try and explain in terms they will understand why you need to do something a certain way if it’s going to cost more than you quoted, but provide an alternative option that will mean the cost won’t go up. Break down your invoice clearly and detailed so they can see every item that went into the final cost.
Male Customers – often think they know the ‘technical stuff’ when usually they don’t! But if they want to call you mate and talk over your shoulder about all the work they did themselves on the house, give them the time of day and commend them for the work they’ve done.
If they’re still hanging around and they’re stopping you from working, say politely something like “It’s been good chatting Paul, I’d really like to get this completed for you today so I can keep within my quote for you, I’ll give you a shout when I’ve done X, so you can see as its progressing.”
When providing a quote for a ‘knowledgeable’ male customer, presume he knows all the technical terms and talk to him on the same level as another tradesman. He’ll like that you respect him and his knowledge. But provide a detailed quote so he can go away and check prices himself if he wants to, he probably will. If you give a basic quote with no breakdown he’ll be concerned you’ve just rounded up a couple of hundred and will probably go for the cheaper price.
Commercial Customers – Something we’ve yet to cover is commercial customers. And thankfully they’re a bit more straightforward because often the two decision factors on whether to use you are Price and Reassurance.
Always provide your best price to a commercial customer first time along with a detailed quote. If they try and negotiate tell them that you have spent a lot of time ensuring the quote is as accurate as possible, and that you can’t reduce the price without reducing the amount of time you can spend on the job, which would affect your ability to complete the job to the high standard you work to.
Some people provide a high quote so they’ve got room to negotiate, but what in fact that does is potentially lose the opportunity to negotiate if they create a short list based on price, or make you look like a cowboy if you were willing to reduce your original price.
If you get the chance and you have the examples, tell them about other commercial work you’ve completed, and provide if a possible a commercial reference from a current customer.
Make assurances in writing if possible with your quote that the work you carry out will not distribute their business, and provide a guarantee on your call out service that you will respond within the same working day a fault or incident is reported.
So the principal is:
“Treat every customer the way they want to be treated”
The above are suggestions that should work in the majority of cases, but you may find individual customers need to be treated in a certain way to first break down the barrier of a first meeting, or to build a longer term customer relationship with them.
WHAT IS IT?
Branding is “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
The strength of your brand can influence whether people remember you or not. People remembering you is highly important in an industry like plumbing because customers don’t regularly use you. Unlike your barber for example, who you go back to every 4-6 weeks for another haircut. You don’t have to try and remember every time which barber you used last time, and you don’t shop around each time to try and find the best price.
When someone needs a plumber they either have a name and number already to hand (not much you can do about that), or they refer to a directory, website, newspaper or other media to find a plumber. As they look down the list they look for some differentiation.
The greatest differentiator in your favour is if they recognise your name. How will they recognise your name? They’ve seen your van in their local area, or they’ve seen your adverts in the local paper. You’ve got a much higher chance of getting a call from that potential now.
The second differentiator is an emotional one. How they feel when they look at your advert, your logo, your name, your website, the words you’ve written about your service.
How does this logo make you feel?
If you’re anything like me it looks old fashioned, you’re expecting an old guy who’ll do a decent job for a decent price. So great if you need a leaking tap fixing, but if you need a whole bathroom fitting, he’s probably not your man, not dynamic, not using modern tools and methods.
So how about this one?
Larger firm with maybe several vans and lots of plumbers, some of which won’t be locally trained. Will do an efficient and good job, they’re obviously good at what they do, they’ve been around for a while and are local. Price might be a bit expensive due to their size.
And this one, what assumptions do you make?
Long established firm with traditional values who are small but good quality. Will be competitively priced. Family run firm concerned about their level of service and quality of work.
All three represent the same company, but it just demonstrates the difference branding can make. None of the three brands are particularly wrong or particularly right. It all comes down to what image the company want to convey, and which image is most attractive to their customer base.
RULES OF BRANDING
The rules of branding are ‘there are no rules’!
1. Look good
2. Be remembered
I’m sure you’ve seen one. The plumber, electrician, builder, or other local tradesman who uses a pun their name in a way that it’s memorable:
The Bonnie Tilers
No Lee King Plumbers
Royal Flush Plumbers
You remember them don’t you. Even if its because they make you groan. But they’re memorable, and that’s what you need as a plumber.
There’s no problem at all with using your name, but make sure alongside your name your brand tells them what you do, what you stand for, that you’re local, and you’re professional.
There are no rules to branding because sometimes a company breaks the norm and it works. If you do what everyone else does and your brand looks like everyone else’s, no matter how nice it looks, you’re not going to stand out.
But don’t trade quality for a stand out brand. A brand which makes you look cheap, unprofessional, not serious, will turn a lot of customers away.
So it’s a fine balance to be had. Hence most companies turn to a marketing consultancy to come up with branding ideas for them. As a small business you likely can’t afford to pay the prices these companies usually charge but there are branding solutions available which are less expensive and can provide a good option if you’re on a budget (See the section What Resources Are Available?)
The next step after deciding on a brand is then applying your branding. Where would you apply it?
• Your van
• Your overalls, or other work clothing
• Your business cards, invoices, and other paperwork
• Your adverts
• Your website
You want a consistent look across all of these places. So define some brand guidelines:
• The colours to use (6 digit colour codes are used by printers)
• The font / typeface to use for any wording and your name
• The placement of elements – ie where your logo goes
• The contact information to be shown – ie your phone number and email address
A good branding agency will provide the brand guidelines for you at no extra cost, and will provide the graphics needed at anextra cost for any printing or for example the vinyl stickers for your van. Using the same company for all of your marketing materials will ensure a consistent brand image across everything.
Why is your van important?
Other businesses have shops, where they can display their products. People drive past or walk past and notice them. When they’re ready to buy or just have a look, they stop by the shop because they know where it is.
Most plumbers don’t have the luxury of a shopfront. So your next nearest thing is your van. In fact in some ways it’s better than a shop because it’s mobile, advertising your business throughout your area.
So make the most of your van.
First of all apply your brand to it, make it look great. Vehicle signage companies will come up with ideas for you and help you make your van stand out.
Then don’t forget to have your contact details on there, large enough that someone can read them from at least 10 metres away. It’s amazing how many companies forget to put their contact details on their vehicle, or put it small on the back doors where no one can read it.
Another failure is putting a phone number on there, like your home phone number, where there is no one to answer. Make sure it’s a phone number that will be answered, and ideally a mobile number so people can send you a text if you don’t answer.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
The biggest impact you can make today on branding is to use a professional service to produce a strong brand for you. It can cost as little as £100 and when applied across all of your paperwork, your van, your clothing, adverts, and website, will have a massive impact on your potential and current customers. You’ll look a lot more professional – and therefore quality, reliability, and consistency are a given.
WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE?
Southport Marketing provide a branding service, and will provide a great brand to use across all marketing materials, your brand guidelines and graphics required in the future for print and digital marketing.
We charge £199 to create your new brand and provide the graphics required for print and digital marketing purposes.
For £299 we provide the branding plus quotation form, invoice and business card designs to pass to your printer.
WHAT IS IT?
We talked about impression at the beginning of this marketing plan, because like it or not you’re in a profession where there is a negative stereotype. People only call a plumber when they need one, and they tend to put up with the plumber’s negative qualities because they need the plumber to do a job they can’t do themselves, and they think all plumbers are the same so if often comes down to price.
This is even more important if you employ other people. Because while you as the business owner are concerned about your business and reputation, there’s a good chance your employees or sub-contractors aren’t. They just want to get paid for today’s job, and hope you keep giving them new jobs to work on. With a few little rules and directions to each of your employees, you can set a standard they will uphold and thereby help your company give the best impression possible.
HERE’S THE BONUS: If you can greatly improve the impression you make before you provide a quote to a potential customer, you have a much higher chance of converting that quote into a job. And, you can charge a higher price than your competitors who lose customers because they left a poor impression.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
There are several practical steps you can take today which will massively improve the impression you make on customers. You’re probably very good in some of these areas already, but if you can find a way to implement all of them you will massively improve your reputation.
Clothing – sorry but the builder’s ‘crack’ applies to plumbers as much as it does brickies. Imagine the old ladies’ face when she walks into her kitchen and sees the top of your hairy backside…not a good look! So wear a belt and well-fitting trousers, or even overalls if you don’t mind them. Aside from that, your general appearance should place you as professional. You should start the day with clean clothes which don’t have worn knees, frayed cuffs, etc. You certainly don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but in general well fitted clean clothes go a long way to convey a good image.
You can of course also get branded polo shirts, fleeces, etc, which go toward building your brand.
Cleanliness – includes aromas (yes, keep a can of deodorant in your van), your hair, face, hands, and your shoes/boots in particular. As already mentioned most people don’t want a sweaty, dirty person in their house, even if they’re doing a hard and dirty job. So if you can minimise the dirt you will leave a much better impression.
Take 5 minutes at the end of each job to hoover up, clean the sink surfaces, etc. If you didn’t do any of that, it doesn’t matter how good a job you’ve done, the customer will just sign when they see the mess you’ve left behind that they have to tidy up. However, if you do a good job of tidying up, it will be a welcome relief to them and leave a very good impression. Why not invest in a cordless vacuum, and anti-bacterial wet wipes.
Another thing to invest in, and not much invest here, is some shoe/boot covers. Costing less than a penny each, they are one of the best first impressions you can make. As soon as you are about to enter the house, put on the shoe/boot covers and you can guarantee your customer will smile. You will have done something very simple that no other workman that has entered that house has ever done.
Also get some dust sheets and make sure the dust created by any heavy drilling work is confined to a small a space as possible. Maybe leave your vacuum running next to the drill so it will suck up as much of the dust as possible.
Punctuality – seems obvious I know, but when you say you’re going to be somewhere, make sure you are there on time. A key to this is to set the right expectations. When you tell a customer a time give yourself some leeway. Rather than say “I’ll be there at 2pm”, say “I’ll arrive between 2pm and 3pm” or “I’ll be there mid-afternoon”. Always better to set lower expectations and then exceed them, than set a high expectation you can’t possibly meet.
If you’re not going to make it on time, let the customer know as soon as possible so they can make plans. I’m sure you’ve been there yourself, a delivery company say they will deliver between 8am and 6pm so you stay in from work all day, and then they arrive at 6pm or don’t even turn up at all! That’s one bad impression left on a customer.
Being too early can also be a problem for a lot of people, because they will get their house ready for you coming. So if you are running early, call the customer first to check it’s OK to come, or go and do that quote or invoicing you’ve been meaning to do.
Communication – ringing a number and getting an answer machine and then no one rings you back, answering the phone unprofessionally, not communicating to your customer when on the job – these are all things which add up to a bad impression.
Ring the number you have on your van or on your adverts. What happens? It still surprises me how many tradesmen still have their home phone number on their van. You’re not at home during the day, so of course you’re just going to end up with an answer machine full of messages, and potential customers who decided to go with another plumber because he answered the phone 4 hours earlier. So either:
• divert your home phone to your mobile (because a local number does show you’re a local plumber), or
• use your mobile number as your contact number, but have a voicemail message on it which says “Thanks for calling Bob’s Plumbers, I’m busy on a job, so please text me or leave a message after the tone and I’ll call you back”.
Should you answer your phone when you’re on another job? Not really, because your current customer is paying for your time. On that subject…
Use of your time – one of the main things that winds people up about tradesmen is their use of time. It gets noticed because they’re paying you an hourly or daily rate.
So, if you’re on an hourly rate make sure you are working, don’t be on your phone texting, phoning your Mrs, or checking Facebook. Don’t sit off in your van for a cup of tea and a biscuit. Be willing to bill for 15 or 20 minute intervals, so the customer doesn’t feel like you’ve rounded up. However do itemise the time you’ve spent that wasn’t at their property, such as picking up parts from the wholesalers (or an alternative to that is to add a margin to every part so that your travel and time is covered when not at their house).
If you work on a day rate make sure you tell the customer how long your day is! Some people are expecting 9am-5pm with a 30min lunch break. Others expect you to make up any time you’re not at their property after hours. So when you provide a quote, state your hours, ie a working day is 8 hours typically 9am until 4pm, but I may attend your property to complete those 8 hours between 8am and 7pm.
Sad to say some people will be keeping a note of the hours you are there working, so why not exceed their expectations by keeping a log too, and including that with your bill. This is particularly important if there is more than one of you working on that job, as often young apprentices can really let you down if you don’t let them know their working time is being monitored.
It’s particularly important to set rules for apprentices such as, not using their mobile phone when they’re working, and to ask for the next task as soon as they’ve finished the current one.
Noise – can be another annoyance for customers. Just because you’re working doesn’t mean you get to choose the music! Remember this is someone else’s home, so if you want to put the radio on or play some music, ask first. And if they say it’s OK, then be mindful of the volume. They will be elsewhere in the house and don’t want to be aggravated by your music. When selecting your choice of music bear in mind the age of your customer, as Granny Smith really doesn’t want to hear your thrash metal or grime music.
Other noise such as drilling is necessary of course to complete the job, but give your customer a quick prompt by saying “I’m just about to start drilling, it will take about 10mins, and will be quite noisy”. It will give them the opportunity to go and sit in the garden, or postpone their phone call to their Aunty Janice until later in the day.
WHAT IS IT?
To get noticed you must be different as we’ve already established. It can be difficult to stand out when there are another 20 plumbers in your area who have as many years’ experience, drive a similar van, and advertise in all the same places.
So here’s how you stand out…you show that you’re a specialist!
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
Look back at the jobs you’ve done, think about what you enjoying doing, what you’re particularly good at, and what makes a healthy profit. Make a list:
• Boiler installations & maintenance
• Central heating fitting
• Bathroom fitting
• Emergency repairs
• Drainage issues
If you can show in your name, advertising and branding that you’re a specialist in a specific area of plumbing then you will inevitably be the first company someone calls when they have that problem.
HERE’S THE BONUS: It will mean that you probably won’t get as much of the other types of work, but you will be able to charge more for the area that you’re a specialist in. You will be able to invest in the tools and certifications for your area of speciality. And you will become faster and better at it too.
Essentially being a “Specialist” is just a branding thing. You could place two adverts in the same newspaper, one as a general plumber, and one as a boiler specialist. You can make them look very different so no one knows they’re both you. You could even put different phone numbers on them. You will pick up work from both. This might actually be a good idea to trial, particularly during the interim while you transfer across to become a specialist.
HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS WILL WORK?
Think about when your car or van needs repairing. If it was new tyres you needed you’d probably take it to a Kwik-Fit type tyre fitters who buy a lot of tyres and can sell them cheaper, and will do the job fast. For your MOT you’d probably pick a large chain of generalist mechanics who only charge £30 for an MOT because they do them all day every day. If however there’s a problem with your car’s electric’s you’d select an auto-electrician, or take it to a dealer garage who specialise in your vehicle’s make. How about a service, if your vehicle was new you’d take it to the dealer’s garage so you could get the service stamps, or if it’s older you’d finder a less expensive local garage who know your make of vehicle.
Granted there are some people who take their car to same local garage for anything and everything, because they’re loyal. But that’s what the local garage specialise in…a local friendly service, rewarding loyalty with reliability. So, a valid area of speciality too.
If your local area has too many plumbers, or prices are being driven down by new plumbers moving into the area, or large plumber’s chains, then now is the time to think about specialising. You can quickly build a reputation for the type of work you’re good at and want to do.
WHAT IS IT?
Find ways to be different from the other plumbers in your local area.
If you’re a female plumber you’ve got a big head start! But there are other ways you can be different:
• Offer a money back guarantee
• Offer an introductory discount
• Specialise in a specific area of plumbing
• Drive a van which is different from everyone else’s
• Have a very memorable name
• Openly advertise your rates, on your website, in your advertising and on your van
• Give something away for free like the servicing of a boiler, central heating pressure check, etc
• 24/7 response to emergencies
However, you decide to differentiate yourself, make sure it’s something of value to customers. Maybe ask some of your customers what they think is different about you and your service already because you might already be doing something different and not have realised it’s not the norm.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
Decide how you’re going to be different, or are already different and then base your branding and marketing on that point of difference.
In your adverts, on your van, on your business card and everything else add a short line to promote that difference:
“Lincoln’s only Female Plumber”
“Derby’s longest established Plumbers”
“Free Boiler Service for every Customer”
“The Central Heating Specialists”
“24/7 Plumbing Emergency Response”
And then in your paperwork, on your website, on your adverts, and when you speak to customers promote that differentiator and provide a few more details to quantify it.
Because you don’t have a world-recognised brand, people don’t know what your brand stands for. So, a professional logo, backed with a slogan which differentiates you, can go a long way to educating potential customers about what you stand for, and why they should choose you over your competition.
WHAT IS IT?
Your business card, leaflets, adverts in the local paper, the signage on your van, your invoices, your quotations, the phone calls you make to customers.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
Plumbing is a trade where traditional marketing is still the most effective means of promoting your business, primarily because you’re local and you don’t have products, you’re providing a service.
We’ve already discussed Branding, and this is where you now apply that brand to every marketing campaign you do. We talk about marketing in terms of ‘campaigns’, because it is like a war! You are at war against your competition for attention. You should run several campaigns concurrently to ensure you’re winning battles on several fronts.
Here’s some of the campaigns you can do:
• Leaflets – have some leaflets printed and arrange to have them delivered door-to-door by a delivery company, or have them distributed with the local paper.
• Adverts – have adverts printed in local newspapers, business directories, on billboards on roundabouts, bus stops, the radio, and any other place you see adverts.
Having several of the campaigns running will ensure you have a steady flow of new customers contacting you. However, these types of campaigns can be expensive and will provide only a low response rate compared to the audience they hit.
The issue with these types of campaigns as well is ‘noise’. How many leaflets do you get through your letterbox each week? If you’re anything like me at least 10. How many adverts do you see in the local paper? Usually there’s 50+ in each newspaper edition. That’s if people even read their local paper before it goes in the bin. You are getting lost in the noise!
There are some more effective ways of marketing your business which can cost you less money, achieve a higher response rate, and avoid the noise of other advertisers.
Memory Aids – When you finish a job what do you leave behind with your customer, so they remember which plumber they used next time them need one. Often it’s just your phone number in their phone if they saved it, maybe a receipt which will get lost, and some great plumbing which doesn’t have your name on it!
So why not leave some memory aids! Get some stickers printed up with your contact details on them, and stick one to the front of the under-sink pipework, to the boiler, to the inside flap of the central heating control unit. Leave them a post-it-note pad with your details printed don it, or some pens with your name and number, leave at least a couple of business cards, or even a mug!
Another way of being memorable is by wearing clothing with your brand on it.
Your most likely next customer is a previous customer! Make sure all of your customers remember who their plumber was.
Neighbourhood Campaign – a neighbourhood campaign is a great tactic to implement which will get you new work every week. When you’re working at a property have you ever had someone come and talk to you when you’re next to your van and say “Ah I need a plumber, I just saw your van!”.
You can take this effect and multiply it by building on the awareness of your presence in that neighbourhood. Put up a board outside the house you’re working on with your contact details on it.
Park your van in a strategic position so other neighbours and passers-by see your signage. Before you start for the day or after you finish at the property (or get your apprentice to do this during his lunch hour!) spend 20mins putting a letter or leaflet through every door down that street saying along the lines of: “I’m working in this area this week, if you want any plumbing work doing please call me on this number and I will come and give you a quote.”
Some people have plumbing jobs they need doing but haven’t quite got around to getting done. By telling them you’re in the area this week you’re giving them a sense of urgency, which will stop them procrastinating. Suddenly it’s a lot easier for them to get that job done.
Referral Schemes – are something which catalyses the word-of-mouth effect which happens naturally. If you apply the section of this marketing plan about ‘Impression’ you will automatically improve the referral rate, but there are additional things you can do to get your customers to refer you to their friends.
• Leave them with several memory aid items such as pens which they can pass to their friends, and tell them that’s why you’ve left a few.
• Give them several business cards for the same reason and ask them to pass them onto friends, they will do it because they’ll feel bad throwing them in the bin.
• Offer a referral fee if they recommend someone, ie £10 M&S voucher for both parties if a customer recommends a friend. But make sure you come good on that promise.
If you implement a referral scheme you should see several enquiries per month coming through this channel, well worth the money invested.
Paperwork – it’s easier and cheaper to just write a quote or receipt on a scrap of paper torn out of a plain paper pad. But if you want to make your business look more professional, and you want customers to remember you, and off course have your contact details for future work, you should get a branded quotation pad, invoices and receipts printed up.
A quotation presented in detail on a branded piece of paper is a reassurance to the prospective customer. If another plumber scribbles a price on a scrap of paper, you’re in a much better position to pick up that job even if you’re more expensive.
A receipt and invoice on printed branded stationery will be filed away rather than thrown in the bin. Next time they need a plumber they will flick through their filing cabinet and ring you again.
A local printer or even an online one should be able to produce this printed paperwork for you relatively cheaply, and the unit price goes down significantly the more you order.
WEBSITES & ONLINE MARKETING
WHAT IS IT?
You know what a website it. Basically, it’s like a brochure for your company that’s on the Internet.
Online marketing? This can take many forms and is developing every day, but in general it’s advertising on websites, listing your company in web directories, doing Facebook advertising, sending emails to prospective customers, and answering questions on forums.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
You don’t need to do anything! Really, as a plumber you can get by with no online presence whatsoever. There are plenty of plumbers who don’t have websites, don’t have an email address and aren’t listed on yell.com. They do fine.
However, increasingly so, people are searching online for products and services. Here’s some facts and figures:
• Google gets over 100 billion searches a month. (Mashable, 2015)
• 30% of mobile searches are related to a location. (Google, 2016)
• 78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases. (Search Engine Land, 2014)
So the more you’re visible online, the more chance you have of picking up new customers.
If you’re at the top of the first page great! Nothing else to do. If you’re on the first page that’s good too, whatever you’ve done so far is working, just keep doing it.
But what if you’re not appearing on the first page of that Google search? What if you can’t find your business on there at all?
First things first, you need a website. It only needs to be one page with your contact details on it. But you can add a lot more to make it even more appealing to people by adding:
• testimonials from your current customers,
• list the services you provide,
• your qualifications and certifications with links to the governing bodies
• photographs of your work, especially finished projects like bathrooms and kitchens
• a personal profile telling people how much experience local experience you have, and that you’re local
• a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section to answer questions you get asked – to show you’re knowledgeable
• links to your social media like Facebook, and Google+ (accounts for work purposes only)
How do you get to the top of Google searches?
That’s the million pound question! It matters a lot to big companies but for you there’s no need to spend too much money or time on this. Basically there’s several things you can do which will give you a very good chance of appearing on the front page of Google searches:
• make sure your website mentions the areas you cover, and the services you provide – lists of these are good
• register your home or business address on Google maps for your business (www.google.co.uk/business) and Apple Maps ideally (www.apple.com/uk/business)
• have a Google+ business page (https://plus.google.com)
• register your company on as many online business directories as you can with a link back to your website, especially Yell.com (www.yell.com)
• open a Linkedin account for your business (www.linkedin.com)
• add a bit of new information to your website every now and then
If you do all of that you’ll be ahead of 90% of your competitors. You can do all of this yourself and it shouldn’t cost you more than the cost of your domain name and website hosting, which would add up to about £100 per year. There will be a lot of time investment initially but then ongoing some minor maintenance.
An alternative is to pay a web marketing company to complete all this for you, and would cost in the region of £300+, depending on the quality of the work! At Southport Marketing we can do all of this for you, and for customers who have paid for this Marketing Plan, we offer a discounted price of £399.00 set up plus an annual fee after the first 12 months of £199 which includes hosting, email, new content, and some search engine optimisation. Please contact us for more information.
Do you need to be on Facebook?
Something every business asks is “Do I need to be on Facebook?”
To be blunt, no you don’t. It may help your business by being listed on Facebook, because Google will pick up on your Facebook account, but so do several other sites which don’t then pester you repeatedly with emails. As a tradesperson, you’re not going to get much work by being on Facebook. The question really is, what are you going to post on Facebook?
Putting up photos of work in progress isn’t something people want to see. It could be different if you do a lot of bathroom and kitchen fitting where you can put up photos of the completed projects, but typically you’d have very little to post. You also don’t really want to connect to your friends on Facebook and have them making jokes on your Facebook feed and stupid comments on your photos, because none of this reflects well on you.
So while it’s probably worthwhile at least registering a Facebook account, it’s not worthwhile maintaining it unless you have the budget to do Facebook advertising. Facebook advertising can be an effective way of getting your business in front of local people, however there are better ways to spend your advertising budget.
In terms of social media, Linkedin and Google+ are more effective as listing for your business because they’re associated more with business that social use. So, we would recommend you create accounts for your businesses on both platforms.
BUILD YOUR MARKETING PLAN TODAY
Now you’ve had a chance to read all the information above, it’s a good time to prioritise the things you’re going to do today to improve your market presence. Then also create a list of a further 10 things you’ll get to next month.
You can include any of the following in your marketing plan:
PRIORITY MARKETING PROJECTS
Get a new logo designed
Decide on how to differentiate yourself
Decide if you can specialise
Decide how to better serve different types of customers
IMPROVE ON THE IMPRESSION YOU MAKE
Set rules on music, time-keeping, cleanliness, politeness and respecting your customer’s home
Buy boot covers
Buy new branded professional-looking clothing
Use your mobile as your contact number and improve your answer machine message
Buy some branded memory aids
Implement a neighbourhood campaign
Get some professional branded paperwork printed
Implement a referral scheme
IMPROVE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
Pay an online marketing agency to set you up online, or
Set up a website
Register your business on business directories
Register with Google Maps and Apple Maps
Create Linkedin and Google+ accounts
WHY NOT GET SOUTHPORT MARKETING TO DO THE HARD WORK FOR YOU?
For £399 (discount of £200) for subscribers to our Plumbers Marketing Plan, we provide:
– An initial telephone consultation about you and your company to help come up with ideas for your brand
– A new brand with differentiation slogan
– Graphics for your printers
– Brand guidelines
– Branded stationery design – including quotation, invoice, receipt, and business card
– Neighbourhood Campaign leaflet design
BRANDING & WEBSITE
Or for £799 if you’ve not got a website yet, you get all of the above plus everything below (annual fee of £199 after year 1 for hosting, maintenance and new content) – a saving of £300.
– A new website design with 5 pages
– Email address
– Register your business on over 10 business directories including Yell.com
– Create Linkedin and Google+ accounts for your business
– Add your business to Google Maps and Apple Maps
Contact us today by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org