Recently a user on MyBroadband asked a question about marketing a plumbing business. The issue he had was that after two years of starting his business, he was still not comfortable with the amount of business he was doing.
Below are extracts of our our response to that user. The post has been modified. In red italics, we have added edits to make the response applicable to any business.
- Print stickers on vinyl with your business name, your name, and contact number (Cell number that you will use as long as you live), and your email address. They should be good quality so don’t get spoiled when wet and don’t come off with time.
Stick them to plumbing connections you do. So when a guy for instance notices a tap is leaking and he goes underneath the sink to shut off the gate valve, he will see your sticker and you are first to mind when he thinks he needs a plumber. Or when a ball valve or flexi connector leaks at the toilet he will think of you.
Valves and leaking flexi problems happen often, and the profit on these jobs is good for the time you spend on these jobs.
Get your brand out there. Let your business be the first that existing clients call when they are looking for your products.
Give attention to the products that you are able to obtain higher profits for. For example an item that a plumbers use often is a rubber washer which costs about R2, and can be sold easily for R5-R10 without the customer going to look elsewhere for a cheaper price on it.
- Go to the smaller plumbing and hardware stores. These are usually owner-run so these guys will have time for you. In my opinion, the bigger stores don’t really have time to get to know smaller plumbers. Be the go-to-guy for the store owner. When he has a plumbing issue, he should call you.
Don’t get over-excited when you charge him and don’t be as formal with him as you would be with other customers. Because people and customers ask him if he knows a good plumber and he will be more likely to recommend you if he likes you personally and believes he is getting a good deal from you. But be careful not to sell yourself short, and seem needy.
Build up contacts with other small businesses who would be willing to help you on your journey to making your business a success. Your success means their success. The spirit of Ubuntu amongst like-minded people should never be under-estimated.
- Print a few license disk stickers and give them to clients after you have finished doing a job for them. People don’t buy these, and are always looking for free stickers when new disk time comes around.
Get your brand in the minds of potential customers. People like freebies, and will always accept them. At the same time you are making yourself available to them when they need to use your services. A small expense now could mean big business benefits in the future.
- Get a bundled sms system, and set it to automatically send out birthday messages when client’s birthdays come around.
Putting it into perspective, 1000 smses costs about R300. If you know the client’s home language, send the sms in that language. People whose mother tongue isn’t English, appreciate an sms in their mother-tongue. Don’t make it so formal.
SMS is a great medium to keep in touch with clients and prospective clients. It doesn’t cost that much, and is a non-intrusive medium to advertise to your clients.
Let them know about special offers or promotions. Be careful not to spam them though. Send enough smses to keep your customers aware of you, and not so much that your smses start becoming a nuisance.
The company we use for bulk smses is SMSworx and we are very satisfied with the service we receive from them. Their website address is www.smsworx.co.za.
- Perhaps you already do this, but keep a kit of common replaceable items with you. Things like pan seal rings, washers, flush valve parts, plugs, caps, common fittings, things like that. Also have enough consumables at hand, like solder wire, flux, gas, PTFE tape, etc. Keep at least two of each at hand always.
So when you do a simple job, and you need these things, you don’t have to drive to a plumbing shop to get them. Saving you time (so you can get to your next job quicker). And saving you on fuel and vehicle costs. Because the real cost of a journey isn’t just fuel, but tyres, maintenance etc.
So if you don’t have to drive every-time to a store, you are saving for example R30 (10km journey). So if you doing this for 4 jobs a day, you have saved enough to at least pay your “handlanger’s” wage (Or part of it). This isn’t perhaps a marketing issue, but it’s increasing your bottom line, which is actually the issue you want to improve on (the root of your marketing concern).
Keep always an ample supply of commonly used items, or good sellers. Keep smaller expenses down, it’s usually these expenses (which are often seen as insignificant) when added up that could mean the difference between you making a profit or a loss.
- Make appointments to see owners of guest houses, restaurants, businesses who need plumbers often. Introduce yourself to them, and let them know about you. These guys usually want speedy service because it affects their business. Be prepared to come out at odd hours to solve their problems.
Put a face to your business and build personal relationships. Market directly to people you know would definitely need your products.
- Get Whatsapp, BBM, Twitter, Facebook and let your clients know you use it. Get a Blackberry for business use. The R60 BIS is convenient in that you get emails all the time, Whatsapp all the time, Facebook all the time, and all it costs you is R60/month. This will enable you to respond immediately when clients contact you.
Learn how to make a mobile business card, so you can just sms a guy your details and he has to just click save to save it on his phone contacts. Make the card with the prefix “plumber” and then your name. So when he is looking for a plumber 3 months down the line, he just searches plumber on his phone to find you. Because by then he’s probably forgotten your name to search for it. So your name would be “Plumber John” or “Plumber Peter” or whatever your name is.
Technology is changing the way the world does business. Make use of it, they’re usually free for basic use.
- Send out year-end promo gifts to clients and acquaintances. Don’t go for gimicky items. Rather spend a bit more and give gifts like pens, or key-rings, quality items that people will want to use and keep. Don’t print too much info on them. Maybe just your business name and number, don’t make it too bold. People don’t like the whole world to know that they like free things. Budget for it.
Keep your brand active in people’s minds. At the same time, you are letting your customers know that the business they give you is appreciated.
- About your website, if I’m looking for a plumber, I wouldn’t really care how the website looks. Yes, It could do with a bit of neatening up, but it’s not the be all and end all. We know the struggles of small business, and money just isn’t always available for these type of things.
If you’re looking to get corporate work, then do a lot more work on your website. Corporate guys want to know that you know what you’re doing, and that your business is not just another fly-by-night business. Vision, mission, proper business email address, all that.
The problem with deciding how smart to make your website, is that if you make it too smart, smaller clients will assume you are too expensive. And if you make it too amateur, then people don’t take you seriously. Find that middle ground.
Websites are important. More and more people look to the net for answers to their questions. Determine your target market. Do clients who will approach you appreciate a nicer website, or do they require a basic website to determine whether they want to do business with you. Every business is different.
- About Google Adwords. Narrow your keywords. If you’re in Krugersdorp, then even just set “Plumber Krugersdorp” as your only keyword. Because that’s what people will search for when they need a plumber in Krugersdorp.
If you’re broadly setting keywords like “plumber” then a guy in Cape Town searching for say a job as a plumber will come to your site and that’s wasting your money. Every click on your advert is costing money. Your results may be less, but the queries you will be getting will most likely be genuine queries.
Think like a customer when deciding what keywords to use. You don’t just want results, you want relevant results.
- Get registered with Google Analytics, and analyse the results and adjust your website content as need be.
Google Analytics is a useful tool when analysing the effectiveness of your website’s contacts. Use it, it’s free. The insights it will provide you with are valuable in deciding what content your website visitors want.
IRP5.co.za offers professional business & business tax services, and website development. Contact us if you would like assistance with taking your business to the next level.