Your marketing needs to be more efficient and precisely focused. 


Got all the business you want? Great. You can relax and take a load off. But if you’re living on the same planet where much of the working population is fighting the economic tide, you’re probably looking for more leads … like now.

The bad news is every single one of your competitors is in the same boat, so that means your marketing has to be more efficient and aimed with laser-like precision than ever before.

The good news is you can do seven things right now to change your business economy from a downturn to an upswing.  

1. Use direct response marketing

There is no type of advertising better suited to generating leads than direct response. Period. This method gets its name because the offers go directly to a prospect and ask for a response. Direct response builds its successful features around several important areas:


  • Bold. The offer must be powerful enough to prompt a response. The attention-grabbing headline or email subject line sets the course in motion. They’re bold enough for prospects to stop and notice.


  • Direct. Direct response ads speak to a prospect about his problem, fear or need and propose a solution right then and there. The solution is often a call for appointment, “click to respond” or a QR (quick response) code on a print ad that sends an instant coupon to help.


  • Limited. Direct response requires a sense of urgency. It’s no mystery that the prospect is encouraged to respond immediately – if not sooner – to the offer. He usually gets a little bonus for responding quicker. “Sense of urgency” can be a date deadline or quantity limitation and is one of the strongest traits of direct response marketing.


  • Reduce risk. Direct response ads have generous guarantees to reduce any barrier to action. They also can include free items (called “Freemiums”) as a bonus to act faster or improve response rates. A five-year parts guarantee, a “No Leak” guarantee, a $50 coupon for next service, a free upgrade from chrome to stainless - all help the prospect see that action with less risk is in his favor.

    2. Follow unclosed leads

    When you leave a lead unclosed, it’s like leaving money unclaimed. The lead you spent money to acquire, pursued with an appointment, spent money to evaluate and present, could be waiting on one tiny step: your follow-up.

    Re-contact all your unclosed sales from the past 30 to 60 days. You’d be making a sweep of the prospects yet to take action, which is why it’s sometimes called a “sweep letter” (or email). Make this re-contact a regular part of your own sales schedule, just like your marketing plan tells you when to run ads. Sweeten the offer if you’d like or add a new sense of urgency (last remaining water heaters at that price, for example).

    Don’t let a lead die without follow-up. Give your unclosed sales another chance.

    3. Generate publicity

    We all recently watched in horror as home service contractors got roasted on a “Today Show” sting. And sting it did. The negative publicity will cripple them for years … or worse. Yet you can make positive publicity to counter increasing public distrust, which separates you from the crowd.

    Send media releases (email, print and links on social networking pages) that educate consumers about anything from plumbing technology, spotting problems or even identifying a scam. This builds your credibility and professionalism, plus it positions you as an expert and potential person to interview when good or bad news erupts in the trade.

    Simply vow to send a release per month, regardless. For minimal effort and cost, your company branding, mission and willingness to help can put you far above the crowd.

    4. Upsell early and often

    One way to boost profits quickly is to try to generate a higher ticket from each customer during each call. These are not “opportunities to pillage” but opportunities to serve. When I got my new water heater, I actually had to call the company back to buy an agreement. It would’ve been much smarter to offer it on the spot.

    Other options: warranties, water filtration, higher-efficiency fixtures, additional fixtures, free on-site plumbing problem prevention and maintenance agreements. Are your customers going to ask you if you have them? No. You must tell them. And that usually begins with your own questions.

    “How else may I help you? Do you have any other questions or needs today? Have you considered a maintenance agreement?” You’re gently upselling toward other products and future calls.

    5. Focus on the most profitable

    If you knew an area where you spend your marketing dollars was five times more profitable than any other, don’t you think it’d be a good idea to keep a laser-like focus on that particular area? Well, that segment is called “your customers.”

    Be willing to stand out by having a program of thank-you calls, cards or letters, follow-up surveys, congratulatory letters and emails or a “welcome” to the maintenance agreement family. They can be “Sorry we missed you” door hangers or maintenance agreement appointment reminders. The most valuable is a quarterly customer retention newsletter that is mailed to every address; shorter emails go to customers monthly. Ideally, the enewsletters would look the same as printed newsletters.

    Customer acquisition costs six times more than customer retention, but most plumbers do not have a retention program. This is even though they know customers buy more, buy faster, pay more and refer faster. This is a huge area of waste and one of the biggest marketing mistakes contractors make.

    6. The truth about inserts

    Though there are rumors that the U.S. Postal Service is headed for an untimely demise, we’ve got a few things to point out that could have a big impact on your bottom line.

    An eye-opening article in the Wall Street Journal last year charted the consequences of switching from “snail mail” to email for marketing.

    One company gave up direct mail, went purely email and saw a 25% drop in business. So it went back to “real” mail and recouped the loss. Don’t make the mistake of thinking “cheap” is better any more than you’d want your customers to.

    Mailings have not gone away but have become more targeted and personal. The most cost-efficient business mailing today is targeted to customers and very likely customers. The same holds true for targeted newspaper inserts, which are experiencing double-digit results even in today’s economy.

    7. Claim your local listing

    This could’ve been first on the list, but I’ll leave you with this thought: 64% of purchases from contractors begin online. If your local listing is not claimed - as is those of nearly 40% of plumbing contractors - you are giving away sales to your competitors every day. And if the listing is poorly optimized and isn’t on Page 1 of Google, it is costing you leads and sales.

    Do a Google search for “Plumbing in ”. If you either do not show up or if your listing says, “Edit this Listing” in the top right, you have got to claim your listing right away.

    No-cost local listings grade

    PM readers can get a no-cost listing grade by sending a request to Your grade will show you if you’re claimed and how to improve your lead count.

    Follow these seven methods. Even if you just do three or four, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.