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Plumbing and HVAC Marketing: Growing in Tougher Market Conditions

 

Race to the callsIf 2008 was an interesting year, then 2009 ought to be fascinating in plumbing and HVAC.  I've resisted the temptation to comment on the state of the economy through the year, because to a certain extent it's always crystal ball gazing, and it's generalizing too.  Things can change fast out there.  For example saving money on heating oil was big news only a few months ago, now it's cheaper than it has been in years.  By the time you read this, who knows.

Nevertheless here are some thoughts for the year ahead, some obvious, some perhaps less obvious:

- The phones are still ringing and the service work is still out there.  Repairs are a resilient market, and more often than other industries the customers are property owners with access to equity and finance.  People aren't going to choose to live without heating or a sewer service.

- Some clients are growing in this market, with record lead numbers in the past few weeks.  That's because they've been unlocking latent potential within the business. (As in, regardless of the market, their business practices have been improving)

- That creates a follow-on point.  When any company's call numbers are down, the solution is to go and grab somebody else's calls.

- There's another important point too.  I've seen a lot of companies come to us this year that have been misdiagnosing their problems.  When a company is in all sorts of trouble, the economy is an obvious and convenient scapegoat.  But in many cases it's not the problem at all.  Sure, it's not helping, but plenty of companies out there have the phones ringing hot day in, day out.  Or to put it another way, companies that are in trouble now, were almost certainly already in trouble for other undiagnosed reasons before.  Very often they've been missing completely what other companies have been doing very successfully - especially their capacity to change gears and tactics with speed, and outflank their competitors' in their respective markets.

- The upshot is that there are positives out there too.  In some markets it's likely that we'll see clients' competitors disappear from business - which is a great opportunity to grow market share.  Successful companies are sharpening their competitive edge too - when economic conditions improve they'll be very well positioned to benefit the most from any upswing.  A lot of the groundwork for future success is being put in today.

- Big ticket replacements and upsells are (anecdotally) trickier than normal to sell at the moment.  There seems to be greater demand for 'quick fix' short term solutions.  As you'll all know, there can be a difference between repairing something so that it works for a month, and a more comprehensive solution that keeps the customer trouble-free for years to come.  The good news is that this just builds up future work in the marketplace - old furnaces and boilers will still need replaced, and collapsing sewer lines will need repaired.  If a customer wants a quick fix solution, then at least it is an opportunity to wow them with your service for when the big ticket sale comes around.

- On the economic crystal ball gazing front the downturn that affected new construction, custom home building and remodeling was part of a separate property speculation cycle.  That has been followed up by a whole new economic challenge, which isn't going to help any of those sectors, but now impacts on residential service spending much more.  When people lose jobs, that's when they become lost to the market as potential customers.  That's perhaps the biggest risk factor in the market over the year ahead.

- Print Yellow Pages deserve a special mention.  If you're advertising with print YP (and many companies don't of course) then you've probably never been in a stronger negotiating position with them than right now.  Be cautious of books that are over-cluttered: some simply don't have enough work in them for the number of advertisers.  Also be wary of books with tiny circulations - the price has to be related to the number of pairs of eyes reading it.  Print Yellow Pages still has a significant number of calls as a medium, the question mark is over the premium price tag that is often attached to them.  That's where the negotiating comes in, because several of the YP companies are really hurting right now.  Over the past year the share price of Idearc (Verizon Super Pages) and RH Donnelly (Dex) have collapsed to only one hundredth of their previous value.  [The collapse in those share prices is related to the high level of debt that they carry, both companies have revenues and assets in the billions, but debts in the billions too.  As of time of writing, Idearc's entire market capitalization was only $11.5m.]

- At the end of the day, market conditions are like climbing a hill.  When you reach a steeper part of the hill, you can still climb, it just takes more muscle and effort than it did.  Many companies can and will be growing in 2009; it's just going to take rolling up the sleeves and getting stuck into their respective markets harder.

Just as a final note: we're fortunate enough to speak and meet with many hundreds of plumbing, HVAC and electrical contractors, suppliers and manufacturers every year - and if there's one thing that always shines through is that they are always an absolute pleasure to speak to and work with.  If we didn't enjoy it, we wouldn't be doing it.  Continuing apologies too to the companies that, unfortunately, we have to turn away from time to time.  In some cities, alas, we're not looking to take on any further clients.

Best wishes to everyone in the year ahead.

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Plumbing and Mechanical "Truck of the Month" Winners!

P&M Truck of the Month In the glamorous world that is plumbing and HVAC marketing and advertising (!) it doesn't get much better!  The truck wrap we created for Drain Pro LLC in Phoenix, AZ has been awarded Plumbing & Mechanical's "Truck of the Month" accolade!  You can read more about it here (opens in a new window).

There is business thinking behind it - as with all these branding and outdoor advertising efforts.  After all it has to fit in with a wider marketing strategy that makes the phone ring.

The vehicles that plumbing and HVAC companies are running are a tremendous asset - and with rising gas prices making running a fleet around a city every day more expensive, it makes sense to squeeze every bit of value back out of them.

The key is in appreciating just how many people in any area see those vehicles every day - potentially, it's enormous top of the mind awareness that can be provided from an existing asset.

Put a powerful advertisement up there and it can give you up to five years of value, at (spread over five years) a very low per impression cost.  The downside, is that the cost is all at the start - you are paying for the five years on day one.

Where we come in is with the word 'potentially'.  Of course when your vehicles drive around your service area there is the potential for people to see them, and potential for people to remember it - but it's a game of percentages.  Our work is to try to increase those percentages from the same asset - to use the space as a billboard to express and advertising message that is seen by more people, and remembered by more people.  And when you have millions of impressions per year (especially in metro areas it can be in the hundreds of millions for big fleets) that can create a competitive advantage for a company.  It's not about creating something that just makes it easier for your techs to find in a parking lot, it's about speaking to potential customers in a more effective fashion.

To get the best value out of it, it does make more sense if you have a fleet (or are at least planning to grow to have a fleet).  Not just in terms of our time, but having extra vehicles on the road is a big factor in increasing the awareness - there is a kind of 'critical mass' where it seems to jump in effectiveness because so many people see them.

For help with your HVAC advertising or plumbers marketing, email or speak with the experts with a proven track record of helping contractors' businesses today (and listen to our testimonials kindly left by some of our clients on the top right of this page).

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Ideas to Improve Your Plumbing & HVAC Marketing

ImageThe start of the year is a good time to take a look at the year's numbers and see where you think you can improve your plumbing and HVAC business.

Even when you have strong marketing fundamentals, you always need fresh ideas to give the business that extra push.

Some suggestions include:

- CHERRY PICKING THE BEST WORK:

The multi-thousand dollar jobs change the profit picture for PHVAC businesses completely.  We are always working on new strategies to cherry pick the most lucrative work for our clients before their competitors even get a chance to make their pitch.  This is an area that is always worth the extra effort, because it's vastly more profitable for most contractors.

- DIVERSIFYING YOUR ADVERTISING:

It's good business sense to diversify your marketing from becoming too dependent on a single source.  That's because conditions in the market can change very rapidly.  A lot of contractors come to us with this very issue - they have had a good few years from a single revenue source, but they have suddenly found the going a lot tougher.  If you still rely solely on Yellow Pages or word of mouth then WAKE UP!

-  TOTAL CAMPAIGN TRACKING:

This is a way of tracking where every single call comes from, where you can see the effectiveness of your marketing dollars in real time.  If you don't know where all your calls come from then this an area you can definitely improve your business.  The reason is that knowing where every call is coming from is the first step to improving the effectiveness of your marketing and advertising year-on-year.

- CAMPAIGNS FOR REPEAT CUSTOMERS:

This is a different angle from cherry picking the best work; this is cherry picking the best customers with a lot of repeat business for you.  So it is worth thinking about how you can get the customers that give plumbing and HVAC businesses work week after week.  We have developed several unique strategies for targeting them.

- PUT SOME EXCITEMENT BACK INTO IT:

Finding new ways to grow your business should be exciting and interesting.  Think about some new ways to get that entrepreneurial fire roaring; your business is always just a few great ideas away from greater success - it ought to be enjoyable pursuing them.  If there is one consistent character trait amongst our most successful clients it's that enthusiasm - they want their business to grow, and enjoy it.

These are all strategic areas where even the most profitable business can look ahead, thinking of ways to sharpen up their contractor marketing and advertising.

If you are looking for ideas to implement your plumbing and HVAC business plans, or a dedicated advertising agency to work with you to grow your business contact us today (email and phone numbers to the right).  Don't forget to tell us a bit about your business too.

 

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Discounted Printing and Direct Mail for Plumbing and HVAC Businesses

If you are looking to have direct mail, door hangers or promotional collateral printed for your plumbing or HVAC business we are able to get some great deals on the printing costs.  All of the printing is HIGH QUALITY - full color on both sides, compare our prices with those offered by your local printer and I think you'll see why we are excited.

MORE LEADS FROM THE SAME MARKETING SPEND: When you can save on the printing it means you can produce more marketing pieces from the same spend; or to put it a different way - it's a great way to increase the return on your advertising and marketing investment.

If you are interested in us helping you get a great deal on your printing (and remember we can obtain quotes for shorter and longer print runs, and other printing collateral including full brochures, flyers, and presentation folders) then email us your requirements today or call 1800 630 0083 (US only).

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Plumber Slogans Revisited - There Are More Important Things to Worry About!

 

Image Plumbing slogans are an issue that are never too far away from a discussion about advertising for many contractors.  Part of the reason for that is perhaps the big name plumbing companies that spent the fifties and sixties pushing their slogans and jingles hard.  As a result many contractors think that it's the fast track to contractor marketing gold.  It isn't.

If you have heard slogans and jingles before and know them well, it's probably because gigantic sums have been spent over a great many years.  It's the stuff of market share, and of dominating markets.  If you're looking for big branding - "top of the mind" awareness, then you need to be thinking about big budgets and putting yourself in a position of market dominance in your local market.

If you're looking for more of your marketing dollars to get the phone ringing here and now with contracting jobs, then you'll need more than a catchy slogan.  Think about your branding, why customers should choose you, and how they benefit when they choose you.  Then get that message out there as your priority.  The odds are way in your favor for a faster return on your investment over pushing your slogan.  It's a simplification of many of the issues facing different plumbing and HVAC companies - your businesses have different competitors and are at different stages of the business life cycle - but by and large if the main focus of marketing your business is just the slogan, you're missing out on where the real action is.

For help with your contractor marketing year round, simply email us or call us and we'll see how we can help.  All the work we do is specific to helping you to beat your competitors in your area - so don't forget to tell us a bit about your business too!

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We're a niche advertising agency, working to sell plumbing services and products on three continents every working day, year in year out. Email or call us to ask about our credentials and how we already helped plumbing businesses just like yours. Our job is to work to earn YOU money!
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