Growth doesn’t happen by accident.
Well, sometimes it does.
Sometimes you throw magic beans out your bedroom window thinking they’re worthless and then bam… you’ve got a giant beanstalk.
And sometimes your competition closes its doors out of nowhere, providing you with a sudden increase in business.
sustained long-term growth is always intentional. It’s never the wrong time to think about growing your plumbing business. Here’s how to ensure your business (and not one of your competitors) ascends into the clouds.
25 ways to grow your plumbing business
1. Prepare to be busy.
Being busy can have positive and negative consequences. No matter how much you love your job, some long days are easier than others. But being there when needed is how you find and keep loyal customers. Mentally preparing yourself to expect an increase in call volume can help you focus on meeting the needs of your community and keep you connected to your purpose.
2. Set goals and plan for your future.
Where do you want to be in five years with your business? How about the next ten years? Do you want to franchise? Add more team members? How about an exit strategy when you’re ready to retire? Setting measurable objectives for your business can help you stay focused on your long-term goals. Be sure to check back frequently and re-evaluate as your business changes—celebrate your achievements and then sit down and set new goals.
3. Re-evaluate your existing infrastructure
Are you keeping track of your calls and appointments on pen and paper? How about your billing and invoicing? It might be time to consider what digital tools and systems and to support your business growth. Carbon paper invoices are difficult to keep track of and can get ruined or lost. Start looking at technology and solutions that can automate and streamline the tasks that you’ve been doing by hand.
4. Consider outsourcing specific tasks
Knowing when to take off a few of your many hats as a business owner can be difficult. However, as your business grows, it’s simply not possible to do it all yourself. From taking calls, to balancing the books, to managing your marketing campaigns—running a plumbing business is a full-time job before you even pick up your tools and head out to a call. Intelligently outsourcing tasks to trusted team members or even freelancers can give you back time to meet your customers’ needs or—dare we say—take a day off.
5. Train and recruit key team members
Businesses that recruit and keep high-quality employees have:
- Clear and well-defined job descriptions
- Robust recruitment and training practices
- Room for growth within the company
- Apprentice programs that incentivize journeymen to stay with the company
Plumbers and many service industries are facing a trade worker shortage. Re-evaluating your training and mentor programs can help you recruit and retain more team members. Once you’ve assembled the right team, ensuring that each employee has opportunities for success will give your business an edge over competing employers.
Speaking of your team members…
6. Review your company culture.
Encouraging a positive company culture gives your employees more than just a paycheck. Celebrating your team’s successes and developing an intentional culture that makes your employees feel valued will give your business a considerable return on your investment in their growth.
7. Keep an eye on where new leads can find you.
Checking your online presence should be a regular task that you or a dedicated team member performs. Update your website frequently, checking that the correct contact information displays front and center. Keep tabs on your Google My Business profile. Is it visible and up to date? You’d be surprised how many websites have outdated addresses and phone numbers. Make it a point to check these things regularly to ensure your customers can find you easily when they need you.
8. Don't wait for your customers to look for you.
Prospecting for new clients is complicated. Automating certain marketing functions frees you up to focus on fixing pipes. Once you decide what you’d like to automate, such as email campaigns or social media advertising, search for tools that can help you do that. Having the right tech focused on your target audience can help you create more leads and generate more revenue.
9. Know your target audience.
Anyone with running water and pipes isn’t going to cut it as a “target audience” for plumbing businesses looking to spend their marketing and advertising dollars wisely. Dialing down on who your potential customers are means getting to know your current customer base. Survey your customers and learn more about them. Their age, marital status, how many times they flush a day—well, maybe don’t get to know them that closely, but you get my point!
Business marketing is multifaceted, and so is your target audience. The more you know about your clients and customers, the more you can focus your efforts and make your ad spend go further.
10. Try networking.
Get out there and build relationships with other business owners. After all, people want to work with businesses that they know and trust. Be visible in your community, get involved, and network with community stakeholders to make your community friendly with your business. Networking is a low-cost way to bring in prospects for your company.
11. Use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
A customer relationship management (CRM) system is a tool that lets you collect and store your customers’ contact information (name, phone numbers, email address, etc.). This allows you to reach out to them with news or updates; for example, warning them about upcoming inclement weather or natural hazards and how that can affect their plumbing. Are you running a special? Use your CRM to give your customers a heads up. A CRM can give you ways to stay in touch with your customers and helps your business remain visible.
12. Consider specializing.
You don’t have to be the plumbing business that does it all. Think about your service area and if there are any service gaps in your region. The plumbing industry is vast, and the competition might be fierce if you’re going up against other general operations. Consider choosing a specialty (like sprinkler installation) and invest in the necessary equipment and training in order to stand out from the competition.
13. Build relationships with real estate agents.
Real estate agents are community stakeholders that can have a massive impact on your business. Build relationships with local agents and teach them about common plumbing issues that they can share with their buyers and sellers. Those agents are in homes in your service area every day, and they can be an invaluable resource in connecting you with potential customers.
14. Hire coaches and mentors that can help you grow.
You might be a master plumber who knows just about everything there is to know about commercial or residential plumbing. But how much of that training did you spend learning about accounting, marketing, or any other non-plumbing-related aspects of running your business? Consider bringing on someone who can teach you the different parts of running a successful plumbing business as your business grows.
15. Hire the right in-house experts or consultants.
While you can’t be an expert in every part of running a growing and thriving business, you can be an effective leader who brings in experts to round out your team. Take a thoughtful look at your business and consider where you might be missing some expertise. Hiring an accounting professional or digital marketer can help your business on the right track as it expands.
16. Look for opportunities to learn.
Your time is valuable and limited. It’s not always easy to focus on educating yourself because that takes you away from seeing customers and running your business. Look for ways to sneak education into your day. Listen to plumbing podcasts (yes, they exist!) or audiobooks while on the road. Subscribe to trade magazines and attend workshops. Never stop looking for ways to improve in your craft.
17. Choose how you want to grow.
Growth can be a vague and sometimes unhelpful term when it comes to running a business. The fact is that there are a lot of ways to grow your business—and it’s probably not wise to try and do them all at once. Being mindful about your growth means setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific goals. Some examples of growth could be:
- Buying additional trucks
- Hiring for different roles
- Expanding your service area
- Increasing the price of your average service ticket
- Taking on more customers
Some of these growth areas might be connected. Try to focus on only a few at a time rather than growing all at once.
18. Give yourself a timeframe.
Set a time frame for your goals. Do you want to grow by six employees in six months? What kind of advertising, training, and money will it take to hire one new team member each month? Making a plan and tracking the steps needed to achieve that goal helps you remain accountable to your team (and yourself!).
19. Re-evaluate and assess often.
Since your growth goals are specific, targeted, and measurable, you should be able to evaluate them from time to time. If you’ve gotten off track, this is an excellent opportunity to remind yourself of your goals and take corrective action.
20. Stay behind the desk.
There comes a time in every customer-facing service industry when a business owner must make a decision. Do you hire someone to manage your office, or do you come off the road to run your business and train new service technicians?
There is no single best way to approach this one. If plumbing is your passion, you can find trusted and capable employees to manage the office while you continue making service calls. Or you can come out of the truck and go into the office to manage your growing business. No one solution works perfectly for every business owner.
21. Try SEO
Most plumbing businesses don’t get tons of website traffic out of nowhere; the internet is flooding with plumbing companies. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps search engines find your business and, in turn, helps customers find you. SEO is a set of practices and tasks you can use to gain more traffic to your website in the hopes of turning a percentage of that traffic into paying customers.
The good news: SEO is one of those things that people become experts in, and it’s something you can intelligently outsource for your business.
22. Build relationships with local vendors.
As a plumbing business, you need to keep a certain amount of inventory on hand. By now, you have a solid idea of how much product you frequently use and what you like to keep in your warehouse. But when a big project lands in your lap, you want to be able to meet those customer demands without delay.
Local vendors can be a resource you can tap into to make sure you can have the products and appliances you need in a timely fashion. It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to build relationships with local vendors, but those relationships can come in handy as you grow and tackle larger jobs.
23. Consider your billing options.
Accepting multiple and more convenient forms of payment can go a long way when it comes to making your business more accessible to customers. Not everyone has a nest egg for emergencies. When someone’s water heater goes out on a below-zero night, being the business that accepts credit card payments rather than just checks and cash will help win more customers and build your reputation.
24. Try a referral program.
This one works for growing customers and employees. You can offer discounted or even free services to your loyal customers when they refer a new customer. On the employee side, you can offer monetary incentives to employees who refer new employees to your business. If you are going to use referrals, make sure you develop clear language outlining your referral program to avoid any confusion.
25. Focus on excellent customer service.
One of the most successful strategies in growing your plumbing business is consistently providing a top-notch customer experience to all your customers. This starts with providing high-quality service to customers in their homes and offices. But as your business grows, you’ll need to ensure your customers are receiving exceptional experiences across every touchpoint they have with your business.
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