Matt Michel: 11 networking opportunities for plumbers
Plumbers are bad at marketing, but they are good at engaging customers. Therefore, the easiest marketing for plumbers is personal marketing through networking to become a community center of influence.
Here are 11 ways to boost your networking.
Join a service club
It’s amazing how few contractors belong to a service club like the Rotary Club, Lions Club, Optimist Club, Kiwanis Club, or Civitan Club. Service clubs are all focused on, well, community service and the promotion of ethical business practices.
Accordingly, service clubs are stocked with community centers of influence. These are the local community leaders others call to find a good service provider. By attending club meetings and events, and working on service projects, club members build relationships with each other. Since business is built on relationships, plumbers who are in these clubs benefit from the referrals of these centers of influence.
Moreover, club membership takes very little time. Most meetings are conducted over breakfast or lunch. Service projects occur several times a year and usually happen outside normal business hours.
Get involved with alumni groups
Some high schools have alumni groups. Many military units have alumni and reunion groups. For plumbers who attended college, there are collegiate alumni groups.
By seeking out and joining alumni groups, plumbers are immersing themselves in a group of people with a shared experience. This is a bond that can build relationships.
Remember, business is built upon relationships.
Join your chamber of commerce
Almost every community has a local chamber of commerce. Chamber mixers and luncheons exist for the primary purpose of allowing and encouraging local business owners to interact. Chambers are excellent vehicles for networking.
Join a leads club
Unlike service clubs, leads clubs exist for the express purpose of making introductions and generating business leads.
Typically, leads clubs are exclusive and limited to one representative from each industry group. The meetings can be anytime of the day but are usually tight, fast-paced, and no-nonsense. Members take turn to share information about their companies with others. Each member tries to help other members of the leads club with business opportunities. Some clubs even cross-market, preparing coupon books and promotional material that everyone in the club distributes to their customer bases.
There are several national and international leads club organizations like BNI, LeTip, and Netweavers. There are also local, independent leads clubs. Contact your local chamber of commerce for information about independent leads clubs.
Merely volunteering for various civic boards through the local government or other volunteer organizations will help networking. Again, it helps you build relationships and business is built on relationships.
In addition, it reflects well on your company when you gain a reputation within the community of being one of the “good guys” who is involved with and supports the community.
Get involved with your local trade association
While it may not help you generate leads, networking through your local trade association is also important. It represents an opportunity to give back to the industry that has become your livelihood.
It also helps you identify local industry problems or opportunities by interacting with your peers. You can also meet new vendors with money making products and services.
Join customer associations
Do not overlook the associations and groups populated with current and potential customers. This can include homeowners association, home and garden clubs, restaurant associations, and so on.
When you attend these meetings, do not be a shill. Instead, participate, contribute, and build relationships. It will lead to business.
Join a meetup group
MeetUp.com offers a number of informal and formal group meetings in a geographic area around different interests. Some are business-related, such as marketing and public relations groups. Others are related to personal interests.
Join professional societies
Do not overlook professional societies like the American Marketing Association, the American Management Association, and so on. Not only are these avenues for networking, but they present learning opportunities for you from attending their meetings and listening to the speakers.
Consider a company ambassador
Sadly, few plumber contractors network well. A growing number of contractors in the Service Roundtable and Service Nation Alliance are deciding to overcome their own deficiencies and preferences by hiring company ambassadors and assigning them the job of networking.
In addition to base pay, they are commissioned based on calls that come through a special tracking number on their business card. Some are also tasked with reaching out to customers to generate positive online reviews.
Give to get
Ultimately, the goal of networking is to generate business. This will come from referrals.
To get referrals, you must give referrals. A key part of your networking initiative should be making referrals to others. Always be sure to call the person you made the referral to and let him know you referred him. This way, you get credit whether the person you referred mentions you or not, and whether the person you referred actually follows through or not.
For more business resources for plumbing contractors, visit the Service Roundtable at www.serviceroundtable.com. To view the private side of the website, call 877-262-3341 and ask for a tour.
This article was originally titled “11 networking opportunities that boost your net worth” in the April 2018 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.