As a restoration contractor firmly hunkered down in the trenches allow me to share my thoughts on marketing to plumbers for their water loss referrals. Steve has written on implementing the Law of Reciprocity with plumbers. I wholeheartedly agree … in principle!
In fact, if the Law of Reciprocity was embraced and rigorously followed by all of mankind the world would be a much happier place! This Law when rendered down is simply another way of what we’ve come to call the Golden Rule, “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”.
For us non Biblical scholars the “Golden Rule of Marketing” can be translated as: “I’ll give you my business card so you can give me referrals and you give me your business cards so I can give you referrals”.
In a perfect world a restorer would not need to go beyond this law to generate referrals from the plumbing community or any other niche group for that matter. BUT the problem is we do not live in a perfect world!
Sadly, this Law of Reciprocity begins to degenerate the moment a plumber is offered cold hard cash for their referral. And really who can blame them? It’s like giving pure sugar to a child! The more you give them the more they want! Suddenly you have created an obese, unhealthy child that is addicted to sugar!
So if you are marketing to the lucrative niche of plumbers for water related losses in addition to the Law of Reciprocity I would suggest you add the “Law of Leverage”.
A common definition of Leverage is: “the power to accomplish something – namely a strategic advantage”. Properly implemented AND followed Business Leverage will give you an enormous strategic advantage when marketing to plumbers.
Best of all, Leverage will serve as the cornerstone for a mutually beneficial referral program that both you and the plumber will benefit from for years to come. (AND without the fear of being out bid by the next restorer who walks in the plumber’s office!)
NOTE: This same principle of Business Leverage can and should be used when approaching all of your targeted niche groups.
The Law of Leverage is as old as time itself. Speaking of old, I was first taught and demonstrated the awesome power of this law back in third grade! My very old and wise arithmetic teacher Mrs. Merchalback (better known as Mrs. Humpback to us cruel and unruly boys!) tried in vain to get us to focus on the dynamics involved in leverage, fulcrum and weight distribution.
One day to illustrate the power of leverage she assembled our class on the playground for a lesson that has stuck with me to this day. Mrs. Merchalback demonstrated how easy it was for one person of much lighter weight to lift a much heavier weight on the other end of the see-saw simply by adjusting the placement of the weight.
So now picture yourself as a skinny little carpet cleaner with a big fat plumber sitting on the other end of the see-saw. (No offense meant to any plumbers reading!) You straddle the other end of the seesaw and absolutely nothing happens! Your weight is simply not enough. No matter how you reposition yourself along the see-saw that obese plumber just sits there smugly without moving. Grrrr …
But now add all of the customers that you service annually to your end of the seesaw. (Almost certainly you are in many more homes every year than your plumber prospect.) What happens? This added weight catapults your plumber prospect right off the ground! So when calling on plumbers gently remind them that you come to the playground with the considerable weight of your extensive client base. Think on this Leverage as I digress with how too often the plumber marketing game gets played out …
Simply put, too many restorers get caught up in the pricing one-up-manship. You see, every plumber out there is constantly being approached with offers of cold hard cash for every referral that is sent their way. The problem with this scenario is you have no “strategic advantage” or (you guessed it) Leverage! You see, if you are paying out $250 per referral then what will stop your plumber from switching to your competitor who is offering $300?
My personal opinion is to never, ever get into the business of paying out cash rewards for referrals. First off, it’s simply not healthy for your bottom line to be paying out large amounts of cash for a referral. And secondly, if anything the plumber should be paying YOU cash since you are in thousands of homes and offices every year AND are in a position to refer them!
So why not flip the referral question by asking: “ How much should I charge plumbers for MY referrals?”
It doesn’t take a quantum physicist to know that the “referral rich” niche group of plumbers is mined by nearly every restorer in the industry. So how can you approach this group differently and effectively?
Once again, remember that YOU have just as much (if not more) to bring to the table than the plumber does. This “extra stuff” of being in hundreds (or thousands) of homes every year is your Leverage.
What could all that potential business be worth to the plumber? And how do you get the information to the end user about the plumber? For us the answer was simple. We developed our own unique program called “Got A Leak” which “co-brands” our emergency services company with plumbers who meet our baseline criteria for inclusion. (And yes, I’ll share exactly HOW we designed and implemented this program in a future post.)
When marketing to plumbers, always focus on your Leverage. Now the average plumber will beg you to enter into a referral partnership that is a win- win situation for both of you.
I may have failed to grasp logarithms and calculus as I struggled through school but the simple concept of Business Leverage (along with a good dose of Steve’s law of Reciprocity!) has allowed me to dominate my local water damage market. (Plus I’ve become friends with many plumbers who actually are pretty good guys- just like you and me!) Thank you Mrs. Merchalback!
Your appreciative student,
NOTE: In this first part of “Plumber Leverage” I’ve focused on joint referral programs with plumbers. However, you can easily Leverage the average plumber by helping them with their Business Infrastructure. (SFS graduates will have a huge leg up on this one.) In my next post on Plumber Leverage we’ll look at how you can leverage your relationship with plumbers by becoming their “Strategic Partner”.
Ivan Turner is the CEO of ShowMe Marketing Solutions. ShowMe Marketing helps cleaning & restoration companies grow in a very competitive industry. Ivan has authored two books- Marketing to Agents & Adjusters, Plumbers and Building a Successful Cleaning & Restoration Business and has been published in “Millionaire Blueprints” and “ICS” magazine. ShowMe Marketing also offers a comprehensive Employee Policy Manual package that can be customized to fit your business. Contact Ivan at (573) 291-0234 or check out showmemarketingsolutions.com