Good news! Your plumbing business is doing pretty well. You’d like to keep it that way, right? There are many ways of accomplishing that objective. Keep doing what you are doing, maintain your status quo and stay the course are a few variations of this theme: continue doing what you’ve always done and everything will be just fine.
But we all know things change. The economy changes, the weather changes, technology changes and people’s view of things changes. So while business is very good right now, what might change six months from now, or a year, or five years? We don’t know.
So, from a business perspective, it makes sense to be prepared. Being proactive in business is far better than being reactive. You never want your plumbing business to lose customers and then be in the position of wondering, “What happened?” Here are some ways you can take the lead and make sure your business stays in the public eye, rather than continue doing what you’ve always done:
1. Be visible: How will people know about you? Offer expert advice, write a blog or ask local publications if you could a contribute a regular column or question and answer feature to the newspaper or trade magazine.
2. Be nice: Doing good for others does several things. It makes you feel good; it makes your employees feel good working for you; and it helps someone or a group you believe in by offering monetary or volunteer support. It also gets media attention.
3. Be different: Use your website and social platforms to show off a new service, employee, staff promotion or technology. Send stories about a customer your business helped in a press release to local papers. Everyone likes to hear good stories.
These are all ways to stay in the line of sight of your local media, and by staying top-of-mind to media, you’re more likely to be contacted when a reporter needs a plumbing expert to comment or offer a statement on a story.
Being visible is a two-way street however, and the caution here is to be aware of how visibility can go sideways in a split second. But overall, getting coverage is usually a good thing, and very hard to achieve on your own. There is a lot of competition, so positioning yourself or your designated business spokesperson as an expert in the plumbing business will make all the difference to the media. They want an easy story, so if you have established yourself as an expert through your website (like having your own blog), or by writing articles for the local paper or industry publication, you are credible, and the media will reward you for your availability through coverage. The best kind of coverage is what is called “earned media.” The coverage is not only free, but in the eyes of the consumer, it’s unbiased. They know the difference between an advertisement on TV and a news story, and a news story resonates with people much more than an ad.
In addition to getting earned media by being an expert that reporters can call on for a story or interview, doing something good is a great way to obtain coverage. These days, many news organizations try to add coverage on “feel good” stories into the news mix. This is true for TV, media websites and printed publications as well. Having a company charity that your employees volunteer their time to is always a good story, especially because it is not about you — it’s about the employees. Another option is to use your business as a drop off point for donated items for a community food, clothing or toy drive.
Other ways to garner attention through good deeds is to offer to fix the plumbing for an underprivileged family or charitable organization. The nice thing about these types of stories is that your business gets earned media coverage for doing something to help the community, without having to purchase expensive ads or advertorials.
When doing good deeds, make sure to take photos, write a caption and send the news to the community calendar, the local reporter covering nonprofits or human-interest stories, and to the newspaper or chamber of commerce news portal. Your news won’t automatically get into the paper or website, but your chances are better if you provide well-written copy that a reporter doesn’t have to rewrite. Making the job of a reporter easier will get you better coverage.
Getting coverage may need the expertise of a trained professional, because the competition is fierce, especially for those in the home service business. You will need to differentiate your business from all the others in your area by offering something no one else does, or by doing something no other business does. Do you offer your employees a special perk, like free tablets after three months? Does your plumbing business have trucks with GPS or other types of trackers, so you know where they are at all times, or for clients to be able to track them? Do you insist your technicians are background checked, wear uniforms and have photo badges for security concerns of customers? Or maybe you employ a worker who is a disabled veteran or your business specializes in hiring people with disabilities.
What makes you different from the rest? Once you have collected the details, it’s up to you to get it into the hands of the right media. This is always one of the most difficult parts of marketing and promotion, because it can take years to be able to become proficient in PR tactics and understand the nuances that exist in obtaining media coverage. Sending story pitches is one way to get a story covered. Pitches need to written well and have a hook that will grab the attention of the sometimes jaded media. It’s understandable, because they’ve written many, many stories. It takes a lot to get their attention.
What to do with coverage once you get it
Most business owners are not PR specialists, and no one would expect them to be, which is why there are companies that specialize in PR for home service businesses. These companies do the heavy lifting for service businesses by leaving nothing to chance. In the world of getting attention, they are the experts, and they use tactics many businesses are not aware of. Social media, using keywords and hashtags, is a great way to increase visibility, but most business owners are not hashtag savvy. Knowing which publications, TV stations and media websites to pitch to and when is another important factor. And who covers the industry and where they work can be a huge advantage, in addition to having pre-existing connections. PR is not for the faint of heart, or for those who are not persistent and do not like to hear the word no. Getting coverage and then marketing it to get the most out of the coverage is a challenging task, one that professionals are adept at to help your business to stand out from the rest.