This article was originally published by me in Plumber Magazine by Cole Publishing. It has been re-edited and revised for use on this blog.
Every plumbing company has slow days. Admit it, you’ve called your phone at least once to make sure it was still working.
A few slow days and it starts to feel like the sky is falling.
Meanwhile, on busy days, the phone won’t stop ringing.
Alright Goldilocks, be careful what you wish for.
Dry spells and slow days are completely natural. A lot of different factors can affect the ebb and flow of business. Some factors you can control and others you can’t.
Even if there is no one to blame, it’s still frustrating and stressful.
A million tiny factors affect how often your phone rings. Big things like the consumer spending index. Small things like how much your competitor is spending on ads. They cause a butterfly effect and you don’t control any of them.
Meanwhile, there are things you do control. All the tiny decisions you make every day inside your business. Do you remember to ask for a review a the end of an appointment? Did you update your Facebook page yesterday?
Not a single one of these things make – or break – your business. They all have an effect though.
Let’s discuss how to make your phone ring on a slow day.
The beauty of plumbing advertising these days is the instant gratification. We get insight into a buyer’s intentions in real time. That allows us to show the right advertising at the right time.
It’s amazing and also creepy.
Here’s how it helps you: Search engine and social media advertising are easy to turn on and off as needed. This makes it the perfect advertising medium for a slow day.
If someone is searching for a “plumber near me” there is a great chance that they need a plumber right away. Marketing pro’s call this ‘purchase intent’, and it’s a very good thing.
That doesn’t mean its easy pickin’ though. You still have to capture the customer’s attention and trust. That means having good ads ready to go.
Don’t try to slap something together at the last minute and expect the best return on your investment.
A crash course on effective online advertising
Focus on ‘purchase intent’ language. I.E. avoid, “how to fix a leaky toilet” and instead use, “Local plumber for a leaky toilet.”
Always use a call to action. Click, Call, Book Now.
Link to pages that relate to the ad content, not your home page.
Learn your platform so you can get your settings right.
Define your audience well. Go as specific as you can.
Give a promotion that is appropriate for the season.
Don’t use jargon. Keep it simple.
Make it about the customer.
Use pictures of people, not objects.
I like to have a stash of ads ready to turn on at a moment’s notice for slow days. If you don’t, use your next slow day to make some.
Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to make money.
Post in Online Community Groups and Apps
This is useful for residential work. Better yet, it doesn’t cost money. It does work best if you play the long game.
That means start now.
Many people use these forums to ask for recommendations. That’s good for you.
Be sure you understand the etiquette of these groups before you jump in.
Here are a few general rules of thumb:
Take part, even when you don’t want something.
Be active before you ask for anything.
Keep your comments a-political and friendly.
I’ll say it again: follow the rules!
These groups may allow self-promotional posts, but may also limit the frequency. Consider this a good thing. Repetitive advertising posts would run off the good visitors.
Once you have established yourself, it is easy and okay to let people know when you are having a slow day. A simple post should do it. Try, “Hey it’s Bob the Plumber! I’ve got appointments available today if anyone needs me.”
Don’t forget to include your phone number in your post!
Pay for Leads
You know these websites. You’ve likely hung up on their salespeople before.
I don’t like to pay for leads. In fact, it’s a last resort.
But, for some, lead generation sites are bread and butter. It can work. And it’s not a terrible idea for a rainy day.
Like them or not, they are an available tool. Every tool deserves consideration.
If you aren’t planning to rely on these sites for regular business, don’t pay a membership. Don’t enter a contract. You don’t want to pay for something every month that you rarely use.
Regardless of how you feel about these websites and services, think of it as opening and closing a valve. These prospects clearly don’t have a relationship with a plumber, so this is your shot. You might give up some margin on this job, but you can turn an expensive lead into a customer for life.
That’s the true opportunity.
Remember It’s Not Always About Revenue
As you know, running a business is about more than generating revenue. If you absolutely can’t find paying work, there is still plenty to work on in your business.
Life may have handed you lemons today, so let’s make some lemonade.
If your goal is to do more commercial work, a light day is a blessing. You should be doing sales calls on a regular basis anyway.
In reality, many of us are too busy doing actual plumbing work to keep that up. Slow days might be the universe telling you to play catch up.
Prospecting may not lead to work today. It can help future-proof your business against similar moments in the future. It hurts not having revenue coming in, but this is one way to make the most of it.
Take on a Project
How many times have you wished you had more time? Slow days are stressful and cause us to worry. Stress makes it difficult to concentrate on the big picture.
Clean up your shop.
Organize your truck.
Research new equipment.
Fix that broken cable.
Update your price book.
There must be at least one thing that you’ve been complaining about not having time to do.
Make this list while you are clear-headed and stick it in a drawer.
Conduct a Training Camp
An unexpected slow day is a great opportunity for training. Even if that training is on you.
Use this time to:
Review and practice important concepts with employees
Give junior employees supervised time on large equipment
Watch YouTube or online training videos about new technology
Look at training as an investment. Employees will appreciate the focused attention, energizing them for busy days to come.
Know Your Seasonality and Plan For the Future
While the odd slow day can happen at any time, the timing isn’t usually a total surprise. You know the seasonality of your business, so plan for it!
This is a great time to encourage employees to take vacations or personal days. Be ready for the cash flow crunch. Tailor your expenses to reflect reality.
Running a plumbing company can sometimes feel like putting out a series of fires. In this way, quiet days are a small gift. Use this time to reflect and plan.
I’m not sure that slow days ever become comfortable. But after a few years, you realize your business isn’t crumbling. Do what is in your power to do and then make the most of the day as it comes.