There was a time when you opened up a business, connected your telephone lines, printed up a business card and the next person you met with was your local telephone book salesperson. He came out to sell you some ad space and you were convinced you had to be there. Why? Because your competition was there and that’s where the customers went to find you.
Today, the phone book is practically obsolete. Clients instead go online, using search engines, review sites and social media sites such as Facebook. The opportunity for you as a plumbing contractor is enormous. You now have the opportunity to display your name, contact info, photos, videos, news, marketing collateral, educational materials and customer testimonials in front of thousands of people who are searching for your type of business.
“Right now I don’t get a lot of calls from Facebook, but that’s going to change,” notes Troy Winkle of Honest Plumber in Las Vegas. “The future of getting new business leads is going to be social media. Right now, our main goal with our Honest Plumber Facebook page is to get our brand out, get people to like us, give useful information to our community and build relationships with our clients.”
Social networks embody the new word-of-mouth marketing. Ask any business owner how he gets his business and most will tell you it was built on referrals. If a business provides exceptional service, clients talk about it. That hasn’t changed; in fact, it has exploded with social media - 90% of customers trust peer recommendations.
Start with the biggestSo where does a plumbing contractor start when it comes to social media? With the biggest network of them all, Facebook. Facebook now tops Google for weekly traffic in the United States. With more than 700 million registered users, Facebook is the biggest and most popular social network on the Internet.
What began as a place for social gatherings now caters to businesses as well. Every month Facebook seems to be adding more tools for businesses to use. If you already maintain a personal profile, keep it personal, but claim a business page for your company.
You need to present your Facebook and any social media profile just like you would your website, your office, your trucks, etc. When one person sees your business’ Facebook page and “Likes” you, it could domino into thousands of people seeing your business daily.
Connections are what Facebook calls “Likes.” Collecting Likes is a bigger deal than you might think. Accumulating a lot of Likes says you are an active service company and that people take time to like you, read your updates, share your information with friends and network with you. It also helps your Google listings. Having lots of followers on your Facebook business page is a part of an algorithm Google looks at to rank your site and even take a link for its search engine results page.
Social networking sites such as Facebook exemplify powerful tools you can use to update and educate your clients and their friends and convert them into clients in the future. You are the plumbing expert in your community, so educate people. But don’t try to sell to them. We often see contractors throw out sales information on social networking sites. No one takes the bait, so plumbers leave and never come back - “It doesn’t work for my business.” Well, they’re right. Social media doesn’t work if used incorrectly.
Imagine going to a business networking event, walking up to every person and yelling you have a sale this weekend for 40% off your services. Most people will walk the other way or take your business card just to be nice, but chuck it in the garbage can on the way out the door. The same principle applies to social media. Social media isn’t about selling, it’s about connecting. Connect and educate, be an expert in your field, answer questions, engage, show interest; in other words, network. You want to be the go-to guy in your industry, and being a great social networker can make it happen.
“Throw out tips to your followers, and don’t ask for anything in return. Build trust by giving,” says Rob Luongo of Bosco Home Services in Toronto. “Facebook gives our clients and community an avenue to communicate with us that really isn’t matched by any other platform. People wouldn’t email or call us to crack a joke, but they can do that on our Facebook page.”
Extend your business identityYour business has an identity, right? You have a logo, you have a color scheme, your business cards and letterhead match, your brochures carry the same theme as your business cards and your website brings it all together online. Now extend that to your Facebook page. Most plumbing contractors with a Facebook page have a plain profile without any customization. We recommend customizing your Facebook page with a similar look and feel as your company identity. It separates the page as a professional one, it makes you look like a leader in your industry and extends your professional identity one step further.
Your Facebook page should distribute news about your business and industry, blog updates, links to your website, videos about your business, staff photos and customer testimonials, as well as enable connections with friends and happy customers. Start posting tips to your Facebook page and sync your blog with your Facebook page so everything published on your blog gets automatically posted to your page. Create videos and publish them to a YouTube channel that feeds into your Facebook page. Anything you can create about your business should always be available on your Facebook page.
Your Facebook page is up and running, now what? Tell the world. The first thing you need to do is share it with all your friends on your personal Facebook account, if you have one. Next, start telling your customers about it. This is where the fun begins. Every time one of your happy customers goes onto your Facebook page and likes you, this activity gets posted on their Facebook Wall. Now all their friends have the opportunity to see your page and learn more about you. Imagine if just five of your customers liked your page and each of them had 200 friends. You would already be exposed to 1,000 new people.
If we looked back about 10 years, all a plumbing contractor needed was a website with a few photos of the company trucks, building and staff, a little information about the services it performs and a phone number. Today, that just doesn’t cut it. Contractors still need a website to garner credibility, but that alone is not enough. Plumbing businesses need to maintain a prominent and permeating presence in the social sphere, starting with Facebook.
Read about a plumbing contractor who uses Twitter successfully in his business at PMmag.com.
About the authors: Dean Iodice and Josh Nelson co-founded PlumberSEO and together have more than 25 years of experience in Internet marketing, search engine optimization and social media management. PlumberSEO executes online marketing and SEO functions on behalf of plumbers, HVAC contractors and other contracting businesses throughout the country. The firm helps obtain Google search page one placement and strictly honors a no-competitor agreement, working with no more than one plumber in each market. For more information, call 866/610-4647 or visit PlumberSEO.net.