8 Advertising types for plumbers - pros and cons

Introduction To Advertising For Plumbers

There are plenty of advertising tactics for plumbers. This roundup covers eight of them and their pros and cons. If you are short on time (aren’t we all), jump to Google Ads - which is, for many plumbers, the best advertising tactic if implemented properly.

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Marketing vs. Advertising

First a word on Advertising. I’m defining it as a subset of Plumber Marketing. It’s normally a non-personal marketing activity where you as the business owner has control over:

  • The costs
  • The impressions or visibility
  • The pages, links or phone numbers your prospective customers are connected to 

Goals Of Advertising

As a plumbing business owner, you should not just be aiming for getting better known in the area (local awareness) only. Frankly, you can’t afford it - that’s for big corporations. 

You should be thinking more like a direct marketer. Your advertising should do three things (in order of importance):

  • Generate leads (phone calls, contacts).
  • Position your business as better and different from your competitors.
  • Build awareness of your business and brand.

A corporate type plumber marketing campaign that builds awareness and delivers no/few leads is a waste of money for you. On the other side of the coin, a campaign that does not generate much awareness but still brings in good leads at a reasonable cost can keep your business rolling and growing.

That’s what you need to aim for.

Before You Start

You're probably action orientated so you want to get moving with your advertising when you decide to do it.  Yet it's good to take stock before you start and consider this important approach from Dan Kennedy (an old school marketing guru):

  1. Identify your ideal customer and how to reach them.
  2. Create a compelling message your prospects find hard to resist.

Who Are You Advertising To? 

Think about your ideal potential customer. Write down things like the geographic area you want to target and some demographics of the people you want to target such as age, household size, occupation & income, gender and age of the home.  

There’s a big difference between targeting working mothers in a high-income area with older homes vs stay at home parents in a newly developed suburb.

Also, consider some of the attitudes and approaches people have to plumbing. For example, you probably don't want to be advertising your Plumbing Services to DIY enthusiasts. 

To help you do this it's a good idea to follow these steps to define your target market and message more accurately. Yes, it’s tedious; but it’s the research and planning that sorts the successful advertisers from the also wasted money people!

What Does Success Look Like? 

How will you know if your advertising has worked and what are you trying to achieve?  Is it OK if it generates only 10 leads? What about if all the work is for dripping tap repairs? 

Crafting Your Compelling Message

There are some powerful elements to help your advertising cut through the noise, and get responses from your target market. Some of these things are:

  • A memorable brand or a business name. It's easier for people to remember names like Plumbing Detectives or Plumbing Doctor than it is to remember WRK Plumbing for example.
  • Even a local business needs a clear point of difference.  If you are a plumbing business that specialises in everything (eg we specialise in domestic and commercial) then it's hard for your ads to cut through.
  • Think about it this way if you're going to get married ...would you rather have a photographer or a wedding photographer take the photographs?   If you can communicate a clear point of difference, people are more likely to respond to your ad when they hear it because they understand that you are the solution to their problem.
  • Social proof in the form of online reviews and testimonials.  There's too much BS and overclaim advertising around these days. People don't trust it and they don't trust the messages that businesses send.  What they do trust is online reviews. 9 in 10 people trust online reviews as much as referrals from friends and family. Having a good lot of online reviews will significantly and boost the conversion from your advertising - by as much as 200%.

Local SEO vs Social Media Marketing vs Plumber Advertising

This article is not about Local SEO or Social Media Marketing. Search engine optimsation is a form of plumber marketing but it is not advertising. The same holds true for social media marketing. These two are about earned traffic. Advertising is about paid traffic.

You can read more about our local SEO and social media marketing service for plumbers here. It's a very cost-effective SEO strategy.

Google Search Ads

If you own a plumbing company and need an effective way to market your services, Google search ads is a great choice. It can help you hone in on your best prospects, be very cost-effective, and get your marketing campaign going.

What It Is

Google Ads is a pay per click advertising platform where you bid on keyword searches, create an ad and pay every time somebody clicks on your ad.

Example pf plumber google search advertising

There are several major benefits of Google search ads for plumbers. There are also some signficant issues These are:

Pros
  • Fast start. You can start generating traffic, leads, and calls for your plumbing business very quickly since your ad is launched within minutes.
  • Fast stop. If you have too much work at a particular time, you can pause the campaigns or parts of the campaigns in just minutes.
  • Budget control. Google search ads offer many options to control your budget. You can bid on certain times of the day, adjust your pay per click costs, and maintain a daily budget.
  • Geographic control. You also have a high level of control over your geo-targeting so you don't spend money on ads in areas you don't want to service. You don't get this level of control with other advertising channels.
  • You know exactly what you are paying for. You can bid on specific keywords searches related to your plumbing services. If you specialise in bathroom plumbing or drain clearing you can focus your ads on that only.
  • A constant stream of prospective customers. Once you get a campaign going, you can expect to see continuous results for an extended period of time. Of course, this doesn't mean that it's a set it and forget it type of situation.
Cons
  • Google Ads can be very competitive. More plumbers are using the platform to grow their businesses. As a result, you can expect to be up against other plumbing businesses who, in some cases, make very aggressive offers like “$0 call out” and low fees for the initial service.
  • You can't buy your way to the top. Google is looking for the best ad and they judge this by clicks (and some other factors) using a system they call ad rank. That's why the discount offers work so well in Google Ads. There are many customers looking for a cheap deal.
  • You will need to pay high click costs. For example, in some cities, click costs for drain clearing or hot water system related keywords can be north of $20. That's $2,000 to get 100 clicks, which may lead to 10 enquiries ($200 each) and if you convert 1/2 of those to customers $400 a customer.
  • Google Ads is technical and complex to run. There are many different ways to optimise your campaign. It can be very challenging for the average plumber to learn. Plus business owners often get caught up in other priorities and don’t put enough time into Google Ads. According to Wordstream, 25% of SMB spend is wasted by not actively managing their search campaigns.
  • It can be hard to understand the policies, recommendations and guidelines. Google has certain policies and guidelines for campaigns and wants to see certain things for your landing page.
  • Proper tracking required. You need to track at a low level exactly what works and what does not.
Conclusion

Despite the cons of Google search ads, the benefits still outweigh the challenges. According to this Google report businesses who use Google Ads make an average of $2 for every $1 spent. And if your business is good at upsell and retention of customers, then paying more than you make from the first customer interaction is still a viable way of getting customers. 

I suggest you get the help of a Google Ads professional if you have trouble making campaigns work for you or you simply do not have the time to build and manage the campaigns.

What you need to run Google Ads

To run Google ads effectively in this very competitive environment, you need the following:

  • A budget of $1,000+ a month for at least 3 months to find what works for your business and target customers.
  • Your own Google Ads account and Google Analytics set up on your website
  • A good, fast converting website, or specific landing pages for each service you are advertising.
  • Phone call tracking so you know what keywords and ads generate calls and customers.
  • Contact us or enquiry tracking.
  • Ideally, you would want to have a contact management system to follow up and nurture new customers and leads you have paid for but didn't convert.

Remarketing or Retargeting Via Facebook or Google

In a perfect world, people would land on your website, have a look around and make a purchasing decision in under 2 minutes. 

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? 

For most businesses, this is not the case. In fact, 95% or more of their website visitors leave without contacting the business or making a purchase.  It’s not you or your site, it’s just how it is.

How Retargeting Works

diagram showing the mechanics of retargeting

One of the best ways to convert leads is by remarketing, specifically on Facebook. Read on to learn why you need to implement remarketing ads into your marketing strategy.

What is Facebook Retargeting?

When someone visits your website or lands on your social media channel, a pixel is added onto the browser. This pixel then allows you to follow users online and provides them with gentle reminders of your brand. But effective Facebook retargeting involves a solid strategy.

There are several major benefits of Facebook retargeting ads for plumbers. There are also some signficant issues These are:

Pros
  • Low cost. You are only targeting ads specific traffic - people who have recently been to your website. That’s normally not a high volume.  Retargeting can boost ad response up to 400% according to CMO.com
  • Higher purchase intent. Given the visitor has already been to your website, it’s safe to infer they have some interest in your plumbing services. So spending more money trying to convert these people is a higher return on investment tactic than nearly any other advertising you can do. Retargeted visitors are 70 per cent more likely to convert to a client on your website.
  • Small audience required. Obviously for privacy reasons you can’t target one person, but Facebook allows you to start running ads when the audience size is just 100 visitors - this is way lower than Google’s requirements.
  • You can zero in on your specific audiences. For example, if you only want to target people who have spent more than 2 minutes on your site - you can and should do that. You can target only the people who looked at specific pages - let’s say bathroom plumbing - you can. If you have enough traffic you can put both together.
  • You can set up sequences of ads. You don’t have to run generic ads. Using drain cleaning as an example, you can advertise 24/7 emergency drain clearing on days 1-3, your reviews on days 4-5, an offer on days 6-10, reminders (Is that drain still blocked) days 11-21, and reminders to get the tree roots cleared again 1 year in the future. The possibilities are endless.
  • Geo-control. You can target only the visitors in an area you want to target. For example - if you want to expand in the next suburb over from you that’s possible.
  • Good tracking. It’s easy to set up all the tracking you need to see where your business comes from and what ads are working and not working.
  • Low competition. Most plumbers have not tested and made this tactic successful. So the ad costs are much lower, and people don’t normally see plumbing ads on Facebook. 
Cons
  • Can be annoying and intrusive. When done incorrectly, it becomes intrusive and overbearing. Your target audience shouldn't see your ads everywhere they go online nor should they see them too often.
  • Need to remove new customers. There’s nothing more annoying for a new customer to see a retargeting ad offering $50 off a service you charged them full price for just a few days ago. Your tracking and systems need to be good to stop this from happening.
  • It’s complex and time-intensive. Getting around the Facebook ads interface is complex. And they seem to change parts of the system without warning. And you need to be engaged with both testing audiences and ads so you don’t blow your money. It really is a case of doing more of the good and less of the bad.
  • Limited targeting. You can only retarget on Facebook (and related entities like Instagram and Messenger). Facebook is social. At the end of the day, people go on Facebook to be social. They are not looking to solve their plumbing problems like they are when they search Google. Your approach needs to recognise that.
  • Proper tracking required. You need to track at a low level exactly what works and what does not.
Conclusion

There are many good reasons to use Facebook retargeting. Nine in 10 potential customers will leave your website without contacting you or becoming a business. 

Retargeting gets them back and it's very likely to be your highest return on investment marketing campaign.

Facebook's smaller audience size requirements make it a no brainer for all plumbers.

What you need

To run Facebook retargeting Ads you will need:

  • A Facebook page for your business.
  • A Facebook ads account.
  • The Facebook tracking pixel installed in the code of your website with the relevant variations (for example new customer tracking) in place.
  • The target audiences correctly defined.
  • Facebook ad campaign(s) targeted at the various website visitors audiences.
  • Ideally, you would also set up a custom audience for new customers and exclude these people from the remarketing to avoid annoying them and wasting money advertising to people to become customers when they already are. 

Google Remarketing

What It Is

Remarketing is Google’s name for what we referred to above as retargeting. It’s a way to connect with people who have previously visited your plumbing site. It works in a similar way to Facebook retargeting. 

Here’s an example of some Google Display ads on speedtest.net - a good site to go and see who’s remarketing to you. Only # 2 is a remarketing ad being shown because I’ve been to the Xero website recently.

There are several major benefits of Google remarketing ads for plumbers. There are also some signficant issues These are:

Pros
  • Broader than Facebook retargeting. Google and its partner sites, present a much greater opportunity for remarketing than Facebook does. They have many many more sites and this provides a wider range of targeting options.
  • Increases brand awareness. Google remarketing keeps your plumbing business's offerings in front of your prospects. The more they see your brand, the likelihood they'll think about your business first when they're ready to purchase plumbing services. Value Click Media reported that remarketing generated a 1000%+ lift in business name searches - much higher than other placement strategies. In the case of Google remarketing, you can show your ads to visitors as they are using Google or visiting its 10,000's of partner websites. This helps your plumbing business to both increase brand awareness and remind those audiences to book a service.
  • Purchase intent is high. Since they would have visited your website once before, you know they're interested in repairs for leaky pipes, repairs of drains, or other emergency plumbing services. Retargeted customers are 70 per cent more likely to convert to clients via your web site.
  • Cost-effective. Running a Google remarketing campaign takes money, so this is an added expense in addition to your regular Google campaigns. However, with a narrow audience, who has demonstrated high purchase intent, these remarketing campaigns are nearly always the most cost-effective advertising you can run. 
  • You're in control. You can monitor which websites that display your ads are having the highest click-throughs and conversions. If a website isn't performing as you expect, you don't have to show your ads on it. You, thereby can save money and focus on having your ads run on websites that convert.
  • Encourages audience participation. You can expand on the types of ads that your visitors have seen on your website before, and then show them in remarketing campaigns. For example, you could display a banner ad that consists of a hot water heater repair image that was taken from a tutorial on your website. Displaying just text or even how-to YouTube videos are options too. You can also use other elements called rich media, that allow visitors to actively engage with the content.
  • Geo-control. You can target only the visitors in an area you want to target. For example - if you want to expand in the next suburb over from you that’s possible.
  • Good tracking. It’s easy to set up all the tracking you need to see where your business comes from and what ads are working and not working.
Cons
  • Need more traffic than Facebook. A remarketing audience on Google needs to have 1,000 active members before your ads can run. It's only 100 with Facebook. There's no reason you can't use both channels as there is not much overlap. But this is a big limitation if your website only gets say 500 visitors a month. If your website does not get much traffic, Facebook retargeting is a more viable option.
  • Targeting not as good as Facebook. Facebook not only allows for a smaller audience, but there are also more targeting options to allow you to pull the remarketing targeting levers to generate a positive ROI. Google's targeting options are not as granular.
  • Repetitive ads can be annoying. After seeing the same ad about five times on various websites over two days, it can become annoying. 
  • You need good tracking in place. You need to know that your remarketing is working so you need to understand what groups of visitors respond and which messages and offers work so you don't waste your money.
Conclusion

For most plumbers with websites that get less than 2,000 visitors a month, Google remarketing is not a viable option. You are better off using Facebook retargeting.

Even higher traffic websites will have trouble delivering segmented ads. For example, if you want to communication your bathroom plumbing service to only visitors who have been to your bathroom plumbing page, you will need 1,000 in that specific audience.

You are mostly restricted to brand awareness reminder advertising. It might work for you and is worth testing

What you need

To run remarketing on Google you will need:

  • A Google Ads account.
  • Google remarketing code installed on your website.
  • A remarketing campaign with ads for specific messages.
  • A way of automatically getting the leads into a CRM or email marketing system so you can follow up and nurture your leads.
  • Ideally, you would also set up a custom audience for new customers and exclude these people from your marketing to avoid annoying them and wasting money advertising to people to become customers when they already are. 

Google Display Ads

What Are Google Display Ads

Google display ads are the visual ads that you see why you're reading an article on a blog newspaper site or checking the weather forecast when watching a video on YouTube.

Google display ads are served on what is called the Google Display Network. The network consists of about 2 million websites and apps and according to Google reaches about 90% of Internet users.

Here’s a couple of display ads that show for me on the Weather Channel - both are relevant to me and my business (But I already use SEMRUSH - so they are kinda wasting time/money/space for both of us!).

The Google Display Network is a little bit like TV or radio advertising in that it interrupts people when they're doing something else to show your ads. They may or may not pay attention.

Pros
  • Builds awareness. The biggest single benefit of Google display ads is early awareness of your business locally at a reasonable cost. Earlier I said that awareness campaigns don't help you grow. Thus it's important that you also adjust the ad and the landing page to try and capture more than just awareness from the customer.
  • Lower cost. You can reach people for a much lower cost - about 1/10th the cost of search advertising.
  • Wide reach. Obviously, one of the big benefits of the Google display network is its very wide reach. Google says they offer display ads via more than 2 million websites, videos and apps where your ads can appear. You can go on Youtube, Gmail, well-known websites and phone apps.
  • Local geo-targeting. While your ads might appear on international websites or YouTube. Yours ads only appear when someone in your target area visits that site.
  • Great targeting. There are a number of ways to target your market. For example, Google is an in-market audience for many home services areas, including Plumbing Services. This is a bunch of people in your area that Google knows (from search behaviour etc, have just started looking for plumbing services. You can also target based on placements, keywords, affinity, demographics. See more here.
  • Free awareness building. People in your local area see your ads, and over time they may recall your brand and call you directly. Where they see your ads and don’t click to your website, it’s a free awareness boost.
Cons
  • Effort and knowledge. There is a larger effort involved in setting up the campaigns, particularly setting up the display ads because they are more visual than text and there are many variations in sizes.
  • Getting to know what works takes time. It takes a while to weed out the bad sites that Google acted to keep the network (and really shouldn't be there).
  • Need to consider beyond the click. It's important that you do more than just drive awareness. You need to use remarketing and lead magnets to on your landing pages to capture any customers who may be interested in doing business with you so that you can communicate directly with them via email. This improves your sales rates and ROI.
  • Wasted spend. As opposed to Google search, where people might be searching for an emergency plumber, the people who see your ads on Google display are not necessarily looking for a plumber at the time this means that some of your advertising is wasted. Frankly, this is normal in advertising and for the most part you only have to pay for clicks.
  • Proper tracking required. You need to track at a low level exactly what works and what does not. 
Conclusion

If you are operating in an expensive and competitive market for Google Search ads, you should seriously test out Google Display ads as a lead generation method. 

It will work better if you combine it with Facebook and/or Google retargeting.

And get the help of a Google Ads professional if you have trouble making campaigns work for you or you simply do not have the time to build and manage a campaign.

What you need to run Google Display Ads

In order to set up a Google display campaign, you basically need the following:

  • A Google ads account where you can set up the campaigns and upload the ads.
  • Appropriate landing pages and lead magnets to capture potential future customers email addresses.
  • Marketing automation to follow-up on engagement and nurturing with leads to turn them into potential customers.
  • Google Analytics set up on your website so you can track everything properly.

Facebook Lead Ads

What are Facebook Lead Ads?

Facebook lead ads are ads connected directly to a lead form within Facebook. This approach allows you to capture prospective customer details while also offering leads a chance to connect via newsletters, contests and even demo requests. When a lead clicks on a lead ad, a pre-populated form pops up.

The lead inputs their other contact information, giving brands the opportunity to lead them through the marketing funnel.

There are several major benefits of Facebook Lead Ads for plumbers. There are a few wrinkles you need to understand before you rush headlong into what looks like an amazing ad opportunity. These are:

Pros
  • It's easy for prospective customers to subscribe. Because the forms are pre-populated with the Facebook information of the user (name email phone number et cetera), it's really easy for people to complete forms, especially on a mobile phone.
  • Lead forms populate your CRM. If you are using a CRM, the late you generate can be directly synced into the system which makes it very easy to track and action the leads as well as nurture them.
  • Optimised for mobile. Facebook is nearly always used on mobile these days, and the process works really well on a mobile phone - it feels very easy and seamless.
  • Capture useful information. You can ask more than name and email in the Facebook form. So for example, you could ask about current plumbing problems or the age of the home.
  • Reaching potential customers on Facebook. You can reach and connect with your prospect on Facebook. No need to go to a website or landing page.
  • Make use of Facebook’s tight local targeting. Like all other Facebook ads, you can make use of demographics, interests and custom lookalike audiences to focus where and who you show your ads to.
  • Build an audience for the future. Since plumbing repairs and installs can be costly, capturing the contact information of potential customers is like giving candy to a baby. Even if your services aren't needed now, simply being able to send friendly, pressure-free DIY tips builds credibility. Then, when the need does arise, your company will stand out in their minds.
Cons
  • People are not on Facebook to buy. The biggest single problem with Facebook leads ads is that for most people who see your ad on Facebook, don't actually need a plumbing service. So if you're trying to just generate leads directly for your plumbing business then the answer likely to have low relevance, cost a lot and be not very effective in terms of return on investment.
  • You need to offer something. Instead, you need to think of leads as an initial process of getting the customers and potential customers to engage with your business by providing their contact information in return for something that they would value at the time. This could be a future discount coupon, the offer of a free service, product samples, some useful information in the form of a lead magnet, or entry into a prize draw some form.
  • Nurture process required. Leads who fill in a form and get your lead magnet will not magically become a customer. You need both a plan to follow up immediately to capture those who want to do business with you now and a process to engage with the others to grow your know like and trust factors. This is likely to involve retargeting, and email marketing. 
  • Needs personal information. Not everyone is eager to input their personal information, which means you do run the risk of paying for lead ads that don't perform.
  • Upfront cost. Your business is generating leads, not sales today. So you need to be very careful about knowing the cost per lead, the conversion rate of leads to customers and the cost per sale.
  • Lot’s of moving parts. There are a lot of moving parts in this lead generation stack; ads, lead forms, links to CRM or email marketing, giveaways/lead magnets, retargeting and a nurture program.
Conclusion

The biggest problem here is that you are essentially going into a cafe and handing your brochure to everyone in the cafe. That's not going to go well, because most people don't have a plumbing problem at the time. And people in cafes will be more polite!

When it comes to successfully using lead ads, you need to know who you're targeting and why. 

Learn how to do A/B testing to optimise your lead ads prior to settling on one final ad. And, don't be afraid to think outside the box and target consumers who you haven't in the past. The results just might surprise you.

What you need to run Facebook Lead Ads

To run Facebook remarketing Ads you will need:

  • A Facebook page for your business
  • A Facebook ads account
  • The Facebook tracking pixel installed in the code of your website
  • A Facebook ad campaign(s) targeted at a focused group or groups of prospective customers
  • A way of automatically getting the leads into a CRM or email marketing system so you can follow up and nurture your leads

Ideally, you would also set up a custom audience for new customers and exclude these people from the marketing to avoid annoying them and wasting money advertising to people to become customers when they already are.

Local Newspaper Ads

Print advertising in newspapers or magazines is still a significant form of advertising communication for plumbers servicing a specific area.

Below are some of the more specific pros and cons of placing a traditional ad for your business and your company’s service in your local paper.

Pros
  • Affordable.  Even though they may say that people get all their news digitally now, there are plenty of people who still have the newspaper delivered especially in the older demographics and the rates to go into a classified or display ad are relatively low eg $200 a week and the costs are controllable.
  • People look when needed. Most people just chuck free local papers in the bin - and your ad dollars go there too. But it's also true that when they need a plumber, they will look at classified ads so there’s always a passing parade of potential customers looking for a plumber and this can make it cost-effective.
  • People can sometimes find digital ads intrusive. When someone reads a newspaper, they are already conditioned to expect to see a lot of ads. In fact, some people even flip to the classifieds specifically to browse the ads.
  • Reaching your location demographic. You are likely reaching household decision-makers between the ages of 35-60. If that’s your market you are in a good medium. These tend to be the ones who read the newspaper and will see your ad.
  • It’s easy. Putting an ad in the newspaper is easy, you just ring the classified section and tell them a few details. But this leads to problems where all the ads look the same (see below). 
Cons
  • Declining audiences. Local newspaper’s daily readership and reach are consistently waning so they are becoming less and less effective. The newspapers know this and that’s why they are, like Yellow Pages, trying to offer digital services which are likely poor value vs managing this yourself or via a digital agency
  • Short shelf life. Even when they are taken inside, free and paid newspapers have a very short shelf life and this means you need to keep advertising to keep in front of your audience.
  • Limited placements and creative execution. Newspapers ad placements (especially classified ads) are typically a highly cluttered space. You’ll need to make your ad stand out in some way and there are limited ways you can be creative when working with a newspaper’s ad designer or creating your own due to space restrictions. This leads to low returns and poor brand awareness. 
  • Hard to track. Your ad very likely will show your website address and your phone number. And given the small size of a local audience, you may not even notice the additional call. You can ask where they heard of you and they may say they saw your ad in the paper.
Conclusion

As a direct marketer, I've never been a fan of marketing that is hard to track. My recommendtion is only get into this if you can track it properly with specific call tracking numbers and landing pages.

And keep doing it for a while so you know that it is or is not producing the right leads at an acceptable cost - so allocate some budget to it.

What you need to run local newspaper ads

You really don’t need much if you are going to do local newspaper advertising. It just takes a phone call and they will often do it all for you. If you want to do it will you will need the following:

  • A clear offer you want to make residents.
  • A specific phone number that is different from your standard phone number. This allows you to know exactly how many calls you go from your ad. You can set it up to forward to your normal number.
  • A tracking link or tracking domain. Instead of listing your standard website address, you can use another version of it. For example, if your standard website address is bobsplumber.com.au you can use bobsplumber.net.au (provided you own it) and then you can count the traffic to that website (and redirect it to your .com.au site.). Alternatively, you can use bobsplumber.com.au/leader (eg the name of your paper). Just be aware that people at times will just type in the main address and you lose info. 

Leaflet Distributions

In this area, we are referring to activities where you pass out service brochures, leaflet drops and promotions to homes, apartment and office complexes. Perhaps this is a leaflet drop in a suburb or leaving service brochures in the mailbox of local homeowners near where you do a job.

Here's some advice about leaflet marketing.

Like every other type of advertising, leaflet drops have pros and cons for plumbers.

Pros
  • Visibility. Leaflet distributions are not common now - most promotions have moved online. On average in Australia, households only get one or two a week and combined with fewer and fewer postal items, you can be reasonably sure your leaflet will be seen. 
  • Low(ish) cost. You can distribute 15,000 fliers for about $400 - $800 in Australia. That’s a controllable and known cost.
  • Local targeting. You can select the postcodes and suburbs where your flyers are distributed so you can make sure they are delivered to your target areas.
  • Simple to do. It’s straightforward to create a flyer and does not require a new level of learning as you would need to for digital marketing like Google Ads or Facebook Ads. And when it’s done it’s done. You don’t have to keep managing it.
  • Creative, eye-catching content is possible. You have more space than say a Google Ad, so you can convey more information and be a little more creative in your execution.
  • Retained material. While most people will dump your flyer as unsolicited mail, nearly 4 in 10 leave them lying around for a few days and 1 in 10 keep them for a week or so (Direct Marketing Association).
  • Easy to read. Consumers are used to reading print media and it’s a good way to get across information because they read it rather than scan it as they do on the web.
Cons
  • Seen as junk mail. Leaflets are seen as junk mail and this has several implications. They are quickly thrown in the bin or ignored and they may not convey the quality image you want to convey for your brand.
  • Poor targeting and ROI. While I said it was good for local targeting, you need to consider how many people have both a plumbing problem they want solving and no existing relationship with a plumber at the time your leaflet arrives. During any month there are about 120,000 searches for plumbing related work in Australia - that’s 1.2% of households. That means of your 15,000 households we get your leaflet, 175 might be in that situation. You need to discount that by the number who actually see your leaflet, note that your offer is relevant and respond so you are likely talking a handful of prospects.
  • Often badly done. While it’s simple and easy to do, the flyers created are often very amateur looking and missing key marketing messages. This will reduce effectiveness and retention
  • Harder to track. Leaflet drops can be hard to track - especially if you only get 5-10 calls from them. You can offer price off deals for people who mention the leaflet when they call for instance. See tracking below.
Conclusion

Local leaflet drops are a bit like Facebook lead ads. You are essentially spraying your message to everyone in the area in the hope that some of them will have a plumbing problem (and no existing plumber relationship) at the time the leaflet hits.

What works depends on your offer and messaging at the time, and it can be hard to get profitable leads. For example, free plumbing inspections are going to get more leads than an offer to clear a blocked drain.

You would also need to set up tracking properly to know if it's working or not and give it some time.

What you need to run Leaflet Drops

As noted, leaflet distributions are easy. All you need is:

  • A design and message that you want to get across
  • A supplier to put the design together, print the leaflets and distribute them
  • A tracking number and or a tracking link for people to contact you from the leaflet.

Local Sponsorships

Local sponsorships are a great way to get your name and business out into your community by working with local organisations, events, and sports teams.

They often also have a marketing and SEO advantage as mentioned below;

There are several major benefits of local sponsorships for plumbers. There are also some potential problems which I've outlined below:

Pros
  • Access to your target market. If you are careful about the choice of sponsorship it can get you direct access to your target market. For example, if your target market is older people living at home sponsoring the local bowls club or specific events at the local golf club can get you direct access to a member of your target market
  • Name recognition. If you sponsor a sports team or a sporting event, a local fair or art event, or even a new building in the area, your name will be included in it. That means every time someone attends one of those events or sees that building, they'll see the name of your business.
  • Credibility and authority. Your potential customers will have a more positive opinion of your business if it’s tied to the right (perhaps high profile) community events. It will make everyone who sees it form the perception that your business is reliable and reputable. Perhaps they may even see it as larger than it actually is.
  • Geographic control. You also have a high level of control over your geo-targeting so you don't spend money on ads in areas you don't want to service. You don't get this level of control with other advertising channels.
  • Relationship building. Local sponsorships help you build good relationships with the community. If you sponsor game nights at the arena or funfairs for children every summer, you'll have a good relationship with those venues and event organizers. They'll talk highly of you to other local businesses, venues, and event organisers, and this in turn can help you get more business.
  • Community participation. Local sponsorships make you an active part of the community. People like to see businesses give back to the communities they are a part of. By sponsoring local events and teams, you are showing that you care about the activities and the people in the community. You want to see them succeed so you are giving back to them.
  • Boosting your SEO. As part of your sponsorship deal, you should ask for both an acknowledgement that you are a sponsor AND a link to your website. Backlinks from other sites boost your SEO.
Cons
  • The expense. Some events, venues, and organisations make the majority of their money by selling sponsorships to local businesses. They may offer tiers of sponsorships, so you can choose what level of sponsor you are and how much you will pay. But often there is only one type of sponsorship offered, and if you want to get in with them you'll have to pay whatever rate they are asking for.
  • Local sponsorships can be competitive. Depending on what kind of business you have, it can be hard to find local events and activities to sponsor that doesn't already have a business similar to yours sponsoring them. Lots of businesses like to use sponsorships to get their name out in the community. This means they are looking for the same opportunities you are and may get there first.
  • Local sponsorships can bury your brand amongst other businesses. Some organisations or events don't bother to cap the number of sponsors they allow. This means you could be a local sponsor of them - and so could two dozen other businesses. Instead of your name being front and centre on ad copy, their website, and banners, you'll be just another logo buried among the rest of them. 
  • Potential problems with the organisation or person. It happens. Imagine that you are sponsoring a local sports celebrity and they are arrested for some crime they committed. That rubs off. Other potential problem areas are misuse of funds, poor administration and getting other sponsors that conflict with your desired brand position (Green Plumbers co-sponsor with a Coal Miner).
  • Hard to track. Like other ‘offline’ marketing activities, sponsorships are hard to track. This means it’s harder to know with any certainty that your plumbing business is getting a good ROI on your sponsorship investment.
  • No control over returns. If you sponsor an event for instance and it’s cancelled due to weather, or has poor attendance because the event managers didn’t do a good job marketing it, that’s out of your control. Generally you have spent your money upfront as a lump sum whereas other marketing tactics can be drip feed, test and know type of activities that reduce your risks
Conclusion

If you think it out well and sponsor organisations where your target market is, this is a very good marketing tactic that can get you leads and boost your local SEO at the same time.

It's a marketing tactic every plumber should seriously consider because of these dual benefits. Give preferance to organisations that will link to your website.

What you need to run Local Sponsorships

Like leaflet drops, you don’t need much for local sponsorships. Pretty much all you will need is:

  • Time to find suitable opportunities and to negotiate a deal with them.
  • Offers to make to the members of the club or event participants.
  • Collateral like your brand materials, logos and relevant copy, images and social media links and posts.

Tracking Your Activity

You want your plumbing marketing activity to be profitable and beneficial. And you want to be confident that you or someone in your business understands the key dynamics like; the number of leads and customers attracted, the value of those leads and customers, cost per acquisition for both leads (who may become customers) and customers.

So you need to be able to track stuff properly. Yet I often see letterbox drops like this with three ways of responding. And no website address - the most likely place customers would go to check out the business before they call so there’s no way to see if there was increase online activity from the leaflet drop.

Example of a plumber leaflet drop with too many response options

Tracking Digital Marketing

Normally digital marketing is easier to track through the whole process. You can do this using:

  1. Google analytics, tracking links and UTM tracking codes
  2. Tracking numbers connected to Google Ads, website landing pages and Google Analytics.
  3. A Contact Relationship Management system (not your phone contacts!) to track leads to sales and nurture leads to sales.

Tracking Offline Marketing Activity

Tracking offline marketing is more difficult and more prone to error. Here are some of the things you do are:

Use special tracking phone numbers that only apply to that activity. You can still direct that number to your normal number, but it allows you to know where that call came from and how many calls generated that marketing tactic generated.

Use alternative domain names or landing pages. For example, have a page called /offerA, for example, on your main website and associate that page with the specific marketing tactic. Or use a .com, or .net.au version of your domain name and put the offer up there. Just make sure these pages or domains are excluded from Google Search with the “no-index” tag so people don’t find them outside of the specific marketing tactic.

Alternatively, tell them what to search for. We’ve all seen it on TV where major advertisers finish a TV ad with for example “search for Landrover Runout Deals”. You can do this too. Just pick a relevant phrase that’s not hard to rank in Google for eg [Business Name] + [Area] + [Deal name] and optimise the page for that

Use manual tracking. Ask the caller or prospective customer where they heard of you. Use offers or codes that are only used for that specific marketing tactic and ask about codes or get them to provide you with the coupon or leaflet to get the offer. Lastly, you can offer a ‘thank you’ gift for referrals, to give the referrer or a new customer a reason to tell you about the referral.

In all cases, you should log the details into your CRM along with the source of the lead or customer. That way you can go back later and see how much business you got from the particular activity.

Once you have a tracking method in place, you have to keep up with it!

Start With One Method And Perfect It So It's Profitable

I’ve provided the pros and cons of eight plumber advertising tactics. My recommendation now is to pick one and work with it until you perfect it so it delivers profitable clients. 

As a plumber you are in a competitive market, there are other plumbers trying to grab your prospective customers. And they are often helped by digital marketing agencies like ours.

This means you can’t afford to start a tactic and get distracted by work or another new tactic because you are going to get eaten for lunch by the experts. And who’s got the budget for that?

80/20 Perfection Of One Marketing Tactic

Far better to run with one tactic for six months and learn what works and what does not and get to a stage where you have kept all of the good things that work and have eliminated all of the bad things that don’t work for your business (but might for others).

But don’t keep digging to the nth degree. If you are happy with the cost of getting a new lead then roll with that and move to another tactic.

Meantime if you have any questions or thoughts please add them to the comments below and I’ll be happy to respond. Or just contact us.

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