I Love A ParadeGreg Gouthro, co-owner of Gouthro Plumbing & Heating, knows you can’t focus all your advertising in one place. So he and brother Gary Gouthro have found ways to make small marketing investments pay off in big ways.
Most notable, and what makes PM feature the company in its pages this month, is Gouthro’s award-winning parade floats and successful community involvement. During most holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, the Fourth of July and others, you’ll see Gouthro and his creative team making memorable trips down the parade route.
The company’s first parade was nearly eight years ago on St. Patrick’s Day. Gouthro built a float and pulled it with his service truck. His young children threw candy to the crowds. He didn’t go into it expecting a marketing return; it was an all-welcome, no fees-type entry. Just sign up and show the people a good time.
It was a simple thing to do and the company took first prize for design. It was featured in the newspaper - a bonus advertisement exposure.
“If you’re going to do it, have people remember it. Be silly, be creative,” Gouthro says. He’s used bubbles, smoke effects, confetti and mechanical moving parts to stand out. “Our best compliments are when people say, ‘I can’t wait to see what you do next year.’”
Gouthro is involved in the industry through PHCC and in his community through the local parade committee. And he networks himself there, too, as he shares seats with owners of local businesses, who more often than not are also the local politicians. He’s received both commercial and residential jobs from this exposure.
The plumbing and heating company’s approach to parades is the same as its approach to service work; it makes sure it does the best possible job. Gouthro makes sure company trucks are clean, stocked and well-organized, since every day is a parade when you drive a rolling billboard.
“The effort you make simply driving down the street shows you run a good business,” he notes.
Gouthro currently has three trucks: two box trucks and one minivan. But it doesn’t matter what make or model you’re using, he says, just be sure to keep your brand consistent. Gouthro’s stand-out fire-engine-red color, simple and uncluttered signage, and handpainted logos are more noticed than if the truck is a Ford van or a Chevy with a commercial box.
Other out-of-the-ordinary marketing ideas the company has taken advantage of include buying booth space during a recent charity visit by the New England Patriots; sponsoring Little League teams; advertising under the scoreboard at a nearby hockey arena; church bulletins; and advertisements in school playbills.
“It’s often these small investments that customers are most attracted to,” Gouthro says, who has downsized his traditional Yellow Pages involvement after discovering there wasn’t much of a difference in return based on the ad size.
With a client list of more than 5,000 names, the company can certainly be profitable just marketing to the customers it already has.
In short, Gouthro’s parade and community involvements are a low-cost investment that gives the company a return higher than expected. “Be proactive in how you go after your customers. And do whatever you can to make it memorable,” he says.
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