You and I have plans, dreams and wishes. We want more income, but fail to determine how to get it. We dream of more free time, but fail to enact efficiencies to allow it. And we want less stress, but don’t attempt to eliminate the sources.

Yet one area can substantially help realize these dreams. In fact, most plumbing contractors don’t use the one mechanism that could sizably reduce their stress load while increasing their income and freedom. What is it? A marketing plan.

That’s right. A simple marketing attack plan can put your sales and profits through the roof. Marketing is the No. 1 way the majority of prospects decide to call you or not. To most of your market, your ads are your company. I know you’re thinking, “Most of my business is by word of mouth,” and that’s great. But this may also be due to a poor or nonexistent marketing message. Hey, it costs the same to run a bad ad as a good one, so you might as well run good ones.

Follow these eight top ways to improve your marketing results in the New Year.

1. Quit depending on the weather.Sure, you can plan on the weather’s influence on sales, but your marketing must reinforce your message regardless. Use direct response ads when the weather calms. Use more image and all-purpose ads in peak season.

2. Quit thinking your old marketing will suddenly have new results.This is nuts. I watch contractors crumble up thousands of dollars in dead ads a year. If it’s not helping your image or your lead count, chuck it. Get fresh and watch your market respond.

3. Quit thinking of co-op as your main requirement for advertising.Use co-op dollars from manufacturers to supplement advertising. Brand your company with your own ads, your benefits and why customers should choose you, not just the equipment. Pair this with your social media efforts to create brand consistency and awareness for your customers. Isn’t your company worth its own unique message? Hope so.

4. Set a marketing budget.This is so simple, yet not even one in eight contractors do this right. If you’re aggressively pursuing market share, it’ll cost you 6% to 8% of your sales; moderate marketers spend 4% to 6%; conservative marketers spend 2.5% to 4%. If you’re trying to be aggressive but only spending 2% of your sales on marketing, you’re looking for diamonds at the price of cubic zirconium. Not gonna happen. Spend what it takes.

5. Set a marketing plan in motion, no matter how small.At the most basic level, divide your year into quarters — two peak seasons and two off-peak seasons. Figure out exactly how much you’ll spend to promote certain messages during that time. Then decide how you’ll deliver the message and what medium you’ll use. You’re ahead of most of your competition just by doing this.

6. Control your marketing issues.Push preventive maintenance during your off-peak seasons. And keep your eye on the market. You should promote your market’s needs when the message fits. Don’t wait on your market to figure it out … you take control.

7. Zig while your competition zags.In my seminars, I often say, “You cannot stand out by sameness.” So obvious, yet contractors still use the competition as a model. Bad idea. Your ads and marketing message should be the most unique thing you have. Parade your unique benefits from the same old thing offered by your boring competition.

8. Quit ‘manic marketing.’Instead of panicking at the last minute and throwing something together, have ads ready to run in different media. All it takes is a little forethought. You already know the seasons, your product line, the service offerings and perhaps even the financing offers. So why not have ads ready that fit the season and the situation? It’s a minor amount of time for a major benefit.

We work with tons of plumbing contractors a year and the No. 1 problem we help solve is marketing control. You’re a contractor. You control job flow, costs, time, design and personnel … but you often have no control of your vital marketing. Take control and get more customers in less time at a lower cost. Higher income and less stress are the natural results! Sounds like your New Year is starting off right already.

Readers can get free marketing report, “21 Simple Things You Can Do to Differentiate Your Company Now,” by emailing a polite request to or calling 800/489-9099.

This article was originally titled “Smart contractor marketing” in the January 2016 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.