Marketing Principles for Plumbing Contractors

September 24, 2010

By Adams Hudson

Good marketing generates leads. That's as true for plumbing contractors as it is for any other kind of business that relies on sales and service. But what makes marketing "good" doesn't have to be a mystery. In fact, it begins with a few general principles:

Exploit your assets and benefits to a larger audience. This is advertising that says who you are, why you're better, and what the customer gains by using your services. Your customers like you because you offer something that is different from other plumbing contractors. Determine and focus on exactly what that difference is and spread the news.

Make something marketable from something you may have taken for granted. Do you have 24-hour service? Do you guarantee satisfaction, service, response times, parts warranties, follow-up services, etc.? If you don't, you're missing an opportunity. If you do, but don't market it, you're missing the point of having it.

Advertise this Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to the masses if you can afford it, and/or a peer group similar to your existing customer base demographics.

People's habits, actions, desires, and concerns are more alike than you think. If lots of your customers live in zip code 33334, yet 33335 has similar demographics but very few of your customers, it's time to bombard them with your offers. (Testimonials work extremely well with these affinity groups. You can thank me later.)

Research, resell, reap, and repeat. This advertising says, "We identify with you and your needs, and here's how we can prove it to you." Once you've recognized your most likely or desired customers, cater to them with advertising and marketing that appeals to them, their needs, and their situation.

By the way, a Yellow Page ad with 17 logos and a picture of a toilet isn't "identifying" with an audience. But here are some quick ways that you can:

Research - Focus on your existing base of customers, and target a larger but manageable group. Age of home, income, lead pipes, low water pressure, outlawed polybuteyline piping (identified by build dates), and many other profit opportunities await the smart plumber.

Resell - Continue to present yourself to these prospects. Win them as customers through a staged approach in different media. Print or radio (broad market) can be followed by direct mail (focused market) that speaks their language. Then follow up with either postcard, newspaper inserts to their zone, or telemarketing.

(Big time hint: If you do better than 1% response rate on a mailing, resend that piece to the same list. A client once called to say he'd gotten 3.4% response on a utility-assisted mail out and wondered what to do next. You can guess what I told him. His results were 2.2% on the second try.

Reap - Determine how effective the promotion was by calculating cost per lead and cost per sale. Then invest some profit in additional marketing that fits your best approach. You must track your leads with one question: "...and how did you hear about us?" Mark it down. If you don't measure it, how will you ever know?

Repeat - When your promotional techniques start pulling, simply repeat the process. Don't change for the sake of change. Be prudent.

Finally, don't fall for these two commonly held beliefs: 1) If business slows down, cut your advertising first; and 2) When business is good, there's no need to advertise.

Adopt a clear strategy to lessen the effect of business ebb and flow. Set a sales goal; get a marketing plan; set your budget in writing; and allocate through the year. With powerful marketing, you can eclipse your competition, get more leads, sell more accessories, and solidify more loyal customers.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a copy of the free 16-page report, “Get More Leads in Less Time” to help you market more effectively.  Fax a polite request on your letterhead to 334-262-1115, or email  Call 1-800-489-9099 or visit to subscribe to his free contractor marketing newsletter.

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