A lot of contracting work is seasonal in the sense of four seasons per year, with certain plumbing needs turning into leads, while others wait around until the weather changes. Got a big push for sprinkler systems in December or winterizing faucets in July? Thought not.

Yet, other kinds of seasons cross calendar boundaries and are more about customers’ customs than what the weather holds. As you tap into your customers’ mindset with special touches, you build on your relationships. The fall/winter holiday season presents many opportunities for doing just that — but getting into the spirit of the season doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor.

Here are 10 options for low-cost holiday marketing ideas:

1. On-hold messages. Your on-hold messages are a great way to reflect the festivity of the season. Gear these toward Thanksgiving, change it out for Christmas, jazz it up for New Year’s. You can do it yourself at no cost or have them professionally produced for a modest fee. Just remember, seasonal on-hold messages have to stay current. In other words, please don’t change it to a Thanksgiving message and then have it running through New Year’s!

2. Vehicle decoration. Have you seen large trucks with wreaths stretched across the front grill? It’s an attention-getter, for sure. If you’re not up for grilled wreathes, try 2-in.-wide red-and-green streamer tape. A service vehicle can stand out in traffic for less than the cost of a gallon of gasoline.

3. Financing offers.This is the spending season for your customers, so let them know you feel their pain with rebates, monthly payments and deferred payments. Customers with a cash shortage (which will be most of your customers) will be glad to know of these options.

4. Holiday publicity. Generate publicity by participating in charitable holiday events. For instance, you could offer a service discount for each toy given to a local children’s home, let your location become a drop-off point for toy drives or become a sponsor of a local food drive.

5. Marketing ideas. Large family gatherings mean a lot more water consumption and that means more pressure on the system. You can push for pipe inspections to help avert disaster — detecting costly leaks, preparing pipe to prevent winter freezing and saving your customers big in the long run.

And keep plumbing service ads running strong. An abundance of people gathered in one home for the holidays can lead to an abundance of plumbing issues, and you want to be there to solve any problems that arise. This means stressing the value you can offer to the customer, such as emergency service or 24-hour service.

6. Get Santa’s elves ready for service. Who are Santa’s elves in your shop? Your service technicians. They’re the keys to installations, replacements and upgrade leads — any of which are possible as they solve customer’s problems. So make sure they’re trained to serve customers by providing helpful solutions based on their depth of knowledge and vast expertise about your products and services. This is sales or upselling by its better name: service.

7. Have an open house. Invite customers, friends and the local media. As a plumbing or mechanical contractor, you don’t see this a lot — customers coming to you — but you can enjoy some real face time with customers, reinforcing your mission of service to them. They can see how you carry out your day-to-day operations with professionalism. Open houses also give you a chance to tell customers and prospects about services they may not know about. And they give customers a chance to say to their friends, “I’m going to my contractor’s open house today.”

8. New Years’ calendars. It can be a good idea, but limit them to only the top purchasing customers in your database. Customers get many calendars each year, so only the most attractive will make it to the wall, which means only the costliest. Be careful here.

9. Sales letters (in a direct response format). These should be sent out prior to Dec. 10. Rebate and deferred payment offers work well during this season. Do not send any sales offers between Dec. 10 and Jan. 12, or you’re wasting money.

10. Use social media to engage. Using social media to offer online incentives such as discounts is an excellent way to stay engaged with your customers during the holidays.

Remember, by taking a few moments for special touches here and there during this holiday season, you’ll have more customers to celebrate as the New Year rings in, which can keep you profitable as many more years roll along.

I want to reiterate one holiday don’t — don’t offer sales during the holidays. Since most of your customers are spending a lot of money now (and they are), it makes sense they don’t want to be hit again. Leave that mistake for your competition who thinks offering a “giant sale” during the holidays is smart. It’s not, unless your customers regularly give toilets for Christmas.

In fact, it is pointless to send “sale mail” anytime between Dec. 10 and Jan. 12. Not only will your efforts most likely wind up in the trash can, you earn a spot on the list of insensitive hawkers out there.


This article was originally titled “Make the most of the season” in the November 2015 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.