“I’m just a plumber,” is a common refrain you hear a lot while talking with Roger Wakefield. Sure, he is “just a plumber,” who owns Texas Green Plumbing, Richardson, Texas, a full-service plumbing business with eight trucks out on the road specializing in leak detection and water conservation.
“We’re not a big company, but we’re a very busy company that does well in our area,” Wakefield adds. “We’ve always emphasized water conservation in all that we do. One day, a friend pointed out to me that if our society kept going the way we were going, my granddaughters wouldn’t have water available like we do now. I started looking at plumbing in a different way.”
So, Wakefield became a certified Green Plumber through Green Plumbers USA and, later, a LEED Accredited Professional.
And, true, he’s been “just a plumber” for the past 40 years.
“I was 17 managing a fast-food restaurant thinking my life was looking good,” he says. “One day my best friend, who I’d hired, asked me if I was going to do this forever. Luckily, his father and three older brothers were all plumbers. I got started in plumbing shortly thereafter, and I love it as much now as I did then.”
Over the next decades, he gained experience working for others, ultimately becoming director of operations for a mechanical contractor before opening his own business in 2015.
Thing is, however, this “just a plumber” is also killing it on social media. You can find him on all the platforms from Twitter to TikTok and everything in between. For example, he was one of the first pros invited by LinkedIn to beta test the site’s LinkedIn Live presentations, where you’ll find him doing weekly live streams giving plumbing tips or advice on business and building relationships.
Where we think he really shines, though, is on YouTube where his fast-growing Roger Wakefield channel is nothing short of a sensation, posting new videos Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, that have been viewed more than 41 million times and earned more than 371,000 subscribers.
“We’ve got more than 600 and some odd videos up,” Wakefield adds.
His most popular? “Real Plumber Tries AWFUL Plumbing Hacks,” which has been viewed 3.8 million views. Plenty of others have been well over 1 million times apiece.
“It blows my mind,” Wakefield says.
What started out rather modestly as plumbing tips has grown into an entertaining array that showcases Wakefield’s big personality. With his buzz cut and handlebar mustache, Wakefield is a natural for the small screen.
As we finished off this cover story some the latest videos included were “What Are Plumbing Supply Companies Doing To Be Sustainable?” “Plumber Locates Sewer Odors With a Smoke Machine” and perhaps, the inevitable “PLUMBER vs ELECTRICIAN: Which Is A Better Trade?”
Wakefield has also pushed further into marketing with cross-branding videos with, among others, Ferguson, Elkay and A.O. Smith.
Plus, he’s a celebrity in his own right and has also spoken on the subject of social media marketing at national meetings such as VidCon, one of the largest conventions of its kind for online influencers.
“I went up on stage there and told everyone, I’m just a plumber who was unclogging toilets yesterday and will be unclogging them tomorrow,” Wakefield says. “But I’m a plumber who has learned how to use social media to become known. And if a plumber can do it, anyone else can, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20, 50 or 70, you can do this.”
AmStan’s Plumbing Expert
Back in 2017, Wakefield got a big introduction to the social media world thanks to earning American Standard’s Know How contest and wore the plumbing manufacturer’s crown of Plumbing Expert.
He’d already dabbled in making videos before he’d heard of the contest by posting some online commercials to his website.
So, he certainly had what it took to enter the contest since participants had to create a video offering a handy consumer plumbing tip, followed by scrutiny to judge his plumbing knowledge.
“I knew I was an educated plumber with a plenty of endorsements in Texas, such as Medical Gas, Water Supply Protection Specialist, Multi-Purpose Residential Fire Protection System, not to mention my Master Plumber and LEED credentials,” he adds.
Wakefield’s tip was a natural for his plumbing business – how to turn the water off in case of an emergency.
“Everybody should know how to turn the water main off,” he adds, “That can save homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.”
While the tip was top-notch and his credentials were solid, it certainly didn’t hurt that anyone watching the video can tell he had a blast making the video, all of which helped him win the contest. His fun-loving personality is clearly on display. You can see what we mean by watching the video on Wakefield’s YouTube channel: bit.ly/3gdXX9p
As the winner, Wakefield as the American Standard press releases stated, got “exposure via social engagement.” His role was to engage with the American Standard community through plumbing tips and tricks, webisodes, and live videos shared on the company’s website and social media platforms.
“That's where I got started with social media,” Wakefield says, “and learned that people just really want good content and great information. I really enjoyed it.”
The Roger Wakefield brand
After his reign as American Standard’s Plumbing Expert was over, Wakefield began to use what he had learned for his own branding.
In part, Wakefield was getting tired of being ripped off by what he calls “OPM” marketing companies, aka “Other People’s Money.”
“We paid agencies thousands of dollars a month for marketing that literally made the phones stop ringing,” Wakefield adds. “I mean, we would pull out our cell phones and call our main number just to make sure the phones were working.”
All these companies each had their own specialty in different areas of advertising and branding, but none of the companies were able to deliver what Wakefield needed or what they promised.
“We spent so much money – too much money – on new and improved websites, SEO and Google Ad Words,” Wakefield adds. “Our big lesson: take responsibility for our own marketing and do not let anyone else totally do it for us.”
With that in mind, Wakefield made one of the best decisions of his life and headed to San Diego in 2017 to attend Social Media Marketing World, an annual three-day extravaganza packed with seminars from the best of the best on content marketing and social strategy.
“I really wanted to learn how to do social media marketing directly from social media marketing people,” he adds.
Once there, he found out he was the only plumber attending.
“I’m an early riser so I’m at the registration desk an hour before they opened,” Wakefield adds. “And the registration folks want to find some plumbers for me to hang with. They not only couldn’t find plumbers, there weren’t any HVAC contractors, electricians, roofers, landscapers either. Basically, I was the only one there from home services industry.”
Wakefield adds that the woman helping him that morning get registered had the most broken-hearted look when she realized Wakefield was all alone.
“And I just smiled from ear to ear and told her, ‘Look, we’re good. Don’t you worry about me. I will be fine.’ ” Wakefield says. “And I realized right then that I’m doing things different than most other companies in my industry.”
It was exactly the opportunity he went looking for.
“There was just so much information coming at me,” he explains, “that I felt like I was drinking water from a fire hose.”
Up until that trip, Wakefield hadn’t really thought that deeply about YouTube other than as a place to watch cat videos.
“I really thought I was there mainly to learn about how to make my business grow through Facebook,” he adds. “But then I walked into a seminar on attracting customers through video and one the first things the presenter said was that YouTube in the second largest search engine in the world and it’s owned by Google, the largest search engine in the world. Why was I not looking at YouTube as a way to grow my business? It hit me like a load of bricks. Why aren't more businesses using YouTube that way?”
By the time he returned, Wakefield was ready to change the entire marketing strategy of his company. By the end of 2018, his first full year of posting YouTube videos, he had 361 subscribers. A year later, he had 20,000 and it’s gone up and up since then.
His rookie attempts are all still up to view.
“I leave them up there because I like being able to look back and say, wow, we’ve come a long way,” Wakefield explains. “And I want people to understand too. Look, we don't start out as perfect. None of us. I'm not there yet. I continuously try and improve every day.”
However, scroll though Wakefield’s YouTube from oldest and newest and you can really see a natural progression as he learned more.
“Like I said, I’m just a plumber and a plumber is nothing without his tools,” Wakefield says. “People ask me all the time how I got started in social media, and I just tell them, somebody handed me a whole bunch of new tools, and I learned how to use them.”
How to Be a YouTube Star
We could probably write another couple of thousand words based on what Roger Wakefield told us that helped him master YouTube.
But here are a handful of tips that might help you take on social media:
Just Start: “The No. 1 challenge for us was simply getting started. We, like so many other people, gave too much thought to the process. When getting started in video marketing, you use what you have. Everyone starts at the same place. We had iPhones and iPads and those were our cameras. We slowly started buying microphones and gadgets needed to improve the quality. Our daily challenge now is to improve 1 percent on each video and learn how to create content people want to see. We now have tools and knowledge to help us, but it is a continuous learning process.”
Content Ideas: “Ask your CSRs, ‘What question have you been asked most often this week?’ That’s a video right there. If your company can be the company that can answer that question, you are bound to get business.”
Engagement: “Content is king, but engagement is queen and she makes all the rules.
Here, Roger means much more than how many views your video might be getting. How are you doing IRL?
“Early in the morning and late at night, I reply to almost every single message I have. And I do this because No. 1, the relationships. If you just put videos out there and you never engage, you’re not really doing anything, but advertising.”
Slow And Steady: “Start out doing one video a week. Start out doing a just a Facebook Live every now and then. Start out doing a YouTube Live every now and then. Start out maybe just writing one article a week on LinkedIn. It does not have to be overwhelming in the beginning.”
Look At The Camera: “Always look at that camera. Look right in the lens because you’re talking to someone on the other side. When you talk to that lens, you say “You” because you’re only talking to one person.”
Do your R&D: “Success leaves clues. I do very well now, but the thing is, look, I'm nothing special. I'm a plumber. I just happened to walk into Social Media Marketing World a few years ago. And anybody can do exactly what I'm doing and can do exactly what I did to get here.”
The Trades Academy
Beyond his own YouTube channel, Roger Wakefield has also created The Trades Academy, for anyone interested in getting into the trades.
“I love plumbing,” Wakefield says. “And I love telling people about the plumbing industry. There’s a tremendous opportunity most people either don’t see or understand that there are hundreds of thousands of construction jobs waiting to be filled.”
So, Wakefield came up with a BHAG, an acronym we hadn’t heard in awhile, which stands for a “big hairy audacious goal,” a term coined in the well-known management book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.”
His eight-week online academy focuses on the hows and whys of setting out for a successful career in the construction industry. Anyone interested can sign out for additional meeting with Wakefield as a founding member of the Trade Tribe.
Connect with Roger