Plumbing contractors are not known for their marketing prowess. Yet, nothing happens until a customer calls, and no matter how good your word of mouth, marketing can drive more calls. The simplest marketing might be the sales promotion. Here are the steps.

1. Pick a product or service

The purpose of a sales promotion is implied in its name. It is to drive sales. But what sales? You need to select a specific product or service. Pick something that people want or know they need and the job becomes easier.

It is also important to pick a product or service with good gross margins. There are expenses associated with a sales promotion. These include the incentive to the customer and the cost of communicating the promotion. Thus, you should never promote a low-margin product or service.

2. Select your target audience

Knowing who you are targeting with your promotion defines everything. If you are targeting women ages 30 and over, your offer, your messaging, and your media are likely to be radically different from a promotion targeting senior citizens about aging in place. Describe your target. Give him or her a name. Write out what bothers the person, what the person does, where he lives, and how much disposable income he has.

3. Create a compelling offer

The point of a promotion is to cause consumers to take action when they otherwise might not bother. Create an offer that’s compelling. Typical offers are percentages off or dollars off. Percentages work better for low-cost items, where you can make the percentage off a large one. Dollars off work better for more expensive items.

Other offers include things like BOGOs or buy one, get one. Bundling multiple products can be similar. You can also bundle something completely unrelated to the plumbing business. Examples include consumer electronics or short vacations from a vacation bundler. You can offer extended warranties or special financing, such as 12 months no interest. If a manufacturer runs a rebate promotion, you can double it. Get creative. Focus it on your target audience.

4. Time the promotion

For the most part, you are going to want to run a promotion during a period of weak demand. You do not want to run a promotion during periods like certain holidays when you are running at or over capacity. You might want to time the promotion in advance of a season or around a specific holiday.

5. Create a sense of urgency

There has to be a sense of urgency or people will not act. It could be a limited-time offer or an overstock special, good until you run out of product. In inflationary times, you can also stress that consumers should act before a manufacturer’s price increase. Government actions, such as mandates against gas appliances might be used to create a sense of urgency to act before the mandate takes effect.

6. Create a story

The best promotions are more than merely a sale. There is a story behind the promotion. The story gives the reason you are running the incentive. A good story makes the offer more compelling.

7. Create an Internal Incentive

If you really want to give a promotion a punch, add a spiff to it for your CSRs and field personnel. If they are inclined to sell, your CSRs and plumbers can make a huge difference in the success of a promotion merely by giving homeowners a few suggestions.

An alternative to a direct spiff is a company-wide incentive. Challenge the team by offering a fun company wide event if a given level of sales is achieved.

Finally, you can create a sales contest where the sales leader wins a bonus or some other prize. A good sales contest will not just reward the sales leader, but everyone who performs, even though their awards may not equal the leader’s.

8. Select media

You have the perfect offer, perfect message, and perfect timing, but your promotion will fail unless you select the right media. The cost of the media will vary based on reach and frequency. Reach is how many people will receive your message and frequency is how often. As a rule, it is better to tighten the reach and increase the frequency, especially if you have a limited budget.

For small promotions, your own email blasts, website, social media, and flyers given to customers might be enough. For others, you will want social media advertising, paid search, and other digital ads. Radio is great media if the station’s coverage matches your service territory. Cable TV can target with amazing precision down to zip codes and in some case neighborhood. Do not forget direct mail, which is increasing its impact as more advertisers abandon it for digital. If your promotion will run long enough, outdoor advertising may factor in.

When using broadcast media, think of your target customer. If you are trying to reach women, age 30 and older, advertising on sports talk radio is the wrong place. Find out from the radio stations how many women of your target demographic listen at the times you want to advertise. The same holds for cable TV. You might want to target home and garden cable shows or even cooking shows. The audience demographics and cost per thousand impressions defines the right choices.

With direct mail, there are mail services that can target homeowners exclusively and even take it to the neighborhood level. Greater precision will yield better results. Combine it with greater frequency from multiple mailings and the results will continue to improve.

9. Get everyone on board

Before you launch your promotion, make sure everyone on your team knows about the promotion, the messaging, and the media. Promotions have failed because the guys in the field had no idea what the people in charge of marketing were preparing. When a prospect asks about it, you want everyone from the bookkeeper to the CSR to be in the know and able to respond correctly.

If you really want to give a promotion a punch, add a spiff to it for your CSRs and field personnel. If they are inclined to sell, your CSRs and plumbers can make a huge difference in the success of a promotion merely by giving homeowners a few suggestions.

10. Execute and wait

When you pull the trigger, give your promotion time to penetrate the consciousness of the market. It takes repetition to break through to people. Then, assuming it is not an impulse purchase, prospects need time to let the offer marinate before taking action.

11. Evaluate

Ideally, you can run tests to evaluate different approaches and choose the more successful option. In reality, few plumbing contractors are in a position to do much testing, or inclined to test. It works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, there are four reasons. First, the offer may not be compelling. Second, you might be targeting the wrong demographic. Third, your timing might be off. Sometimes this is outside of your control due to unanticipated weather or other events. Finally, you might have the wrong media.

Right down notes about the promotion to use as a reminder for future promotions. Did it work? How well? What could have been done better? What would you change if you had to do it over? Learn from each promotional effort.