The coronavirus has captured most of the discussion in the trade press since the lockdowns began. It should have — it’s been the overriding event. However, while we are doing the COVID-19 pivot, let’s not forget basic blocking and tackling. Here are seven simple steps you should take regardless of the pandemic.
1. Update your pricing
When your pricing gets out of date, you begin to subsidize your customers. Do they need your subsidy? If your flat rate is software driven, material prices can be updated in real time. But what about overhead? You should update your overhead every month based on the most recent profit and loss statement. Estimate the hours for the coming month and allocation overhead accordingly.
If you are using printed books, you probably won’t update as often. You should still update every quarter. Reprinting your books cost far less than the money you leave on the table when you get behind in your pricing.
2. Big brand wraps
The best, ahem, marketing vehicle you have is your big, wrapped truck. Your trucks are wrapped, right? You do have a professional design, right?
The Outdoor Advertising Association of America estimates your trucks receive 30,000 to 70,000 impressions daily. However, the impressions are not much if your plumbers are driving all-white “abduction vehicles.” Conversely, if they are driving well-designed professionally wrapped trucks they will pop.
A rule of thumb is people will over-estimate the number of trucks a company deploys by a factor of 10 when the wrap is well-done. That means people think the two-truck company must have 20 trucks and the 10-truck company must have 100.
Professional vehicle wraps imply company professionalism. People assume your training is better and your service is better. Well wrapped trucks result in more calls and less price resistance. They even help you recruit.
3. Get involved in your community
The review sites, dot com sites and big boxes are big business. They are big, impersonal businesses. They cannot compete with a community-oriented company, especially when “shop local” is practically a sign of patriotism. However, you cannot be community-oriented from your truck or your office. You need to get involved.
Every plumbing company owner should join a service club such as Rotary, Lion’s, Optimist, Kiwanis or Civitan. You are going to eat lunch. Why not eat with community centers of influence? Why not eat with the people others call when they are looking for a recommendation for a plumbing company?
Service clubs do more than put you in touch with community leaders. They provide the opportunities for you to show community service through their service projects. Yet service clubs are only one aspect of community involvement. Join civic boards and commissions. Network through the chamber of commerce mixers. Join a leads club.
The more people you know, the more people you connect with in your community, the stronger you will be relative to the big impersonal retailers and Internet companies.
If this is not for you because it does not fit your personality, it still needs to be done. If you do not want to do it, hire a company ambassador. Hire someone to attend all of these meetings, to call customers up after a job and visit with them to secure great reviews, and more. The pay for a good, outgoing company ambassador is less than you will spend on advertising to make a similar impact.
4. Hire forward
Do not wait until you have an idle truck before you look for your next plumber. Hire before there is a need. Hire for attitude and put the promising candidate with a senior plumber until ready to start service work on his or her own.
Sure, it takes a little money to run an apprentice program. Think of it as an investment in the future of your business. You cannot grow if you cannot put good people in your trucks.
5. Keep training
Did you slow down your company training because of the virus? You should increase it. Find online programs and courses for plumbers to take while idle. Conduct training meetings using Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx or one of the other programs. You can train for 15 minutes a day, before the team heads out for the first call.
If daily training sounds like a lot, think of it like daily bathing. Both make you feel good. Both improve your interactions with other people. And both wear off. That’s why a daily habit is good.
6. Add Services
One of the benefits of the virus was people got used to the idea of tele-this and tele-that. Why not offer a tele-troubleshooting service for a flat rate charge? You can get some money from the DIY guys and if it is over their heads, it will directly lead to more work.
This is a time for out-of-the-box thinking and different approaches. It is an opportunity to get creative.
7. Sell health
People have been getting more health conscious over time before the coronavirus. Health concerns are an aspect of an affluent society. The virus has only reinforced the trend. You should ride the wave and attempt to get ahead of it.
Water purification, porcelain with special glazes, self-cleaning toilets, add-on bidet seats, touchless faucets and tankless water heaters (think Legionella prevention) are all products you should be stressing to your customers. Create brochures on your healthy home offering to distribute at the start of every call.
These are simple steps most plumbers simply do not take. Yet, they can make a huge difference in your business.