Focus on the finish

How to create a professional online presence

As a plumbing contractor, you know the difference between the rough and finish. The hard work that goes on behind the scenes is not what gets noticed – it’s the details that make a project look complete. With your business, it’s no different. If your website looks unprofessional or there is inconsistent or lacking information out there about your services, people might wonder what’s really going on below the surface. If you don’t take time to add the finishing touches, you risk losing out on new customers.

Your first instinct may be to get your phone number out there on a basic website, so customers can find you in emergencies. But, to get big jobs, like bathroom remodels, you’ll need a web presence that showcases your business, areas of expertise, and previous work. Customers need to be able to contact you quickly, and also trust that you will be respectful of their home and do good work.

You can tell this story by getting online. Take the time to do the rough work to build an online presence, and also add polish to finish the job like you would a new installation.

STEP ONE: The rough

Following are the nuts and bolts of your web presence. Start here to compete effectively with other contractors in your area.

Establish a presence

In this day and age, people won’t find you if your business isn’t online. If you don’t have a website, get one now! There are plenty of services that can help you quickly and easily set up a website.

Your website should clearly list your phone number, emergency contact information, location, services offered, and business hours. Because many new customers will search for you in a hurry, you need to make sure that your website works on mobile devices. You also need to think about the design, and make sure you have a clean, straightforward, and professional look.

Fix your business listings

Even if you haven’t been putting your business information online, it’s likely already out there. You might be shocked to see all of the places your business is listed online. Do a quick Google search of your company name, and check all listings to make sure they are correct. Google, Angie’s List, Yelp and YP.com are a good place for plumbers to start.

If the wrong phone number is listed and potential customers can’t get a hold of you right away, they will move on. You need to contact each listing service and provide them with the correct information about your business, and keep it updated whenever you make a change.

Optimize for search

A good website that can’t be found is the proverbial tree falling in the forest. Try searching for “plumber” and the name of your city and see what comes up. If your business isn’t there, it’s time to get to work on search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is a series of important adjustments to your website that will improve its page position on search engines. Things like proper titles, descriptions of services, and links to other sites. It’s important to get this right. Think about it, when is the last time you went to the second or third page of Google results?

There are good books like “Local Online Advertising for Dummies” or lots of info online to help you. You will need to keep up to date as some of the rules change constantly.

Update your contact list

An accurate and informative contact list is one of the most powerful marketing tools. Maintain your contact list by adding new customers, updating out-of-date information, and entering notes about previous jobs, birthdays and any other important information about your customers.

It can be a drag to go through the scrap pieces of paper with email addresses or random notes on your phone. But, the investment you make now will pay off when you want to reach back out to these customers to secure more business in the future.

STEP TWO: The finish

Once you have the basics in place, you need to add polish. Following are some ways you can incorporate details to enhance your presence, and get in touch with more customers to build your business.

Show third-party validation

Make sure that your website clearly states that you are a licensed contractor. List awards, accreditations, and certifications to show that your business is credible and well-run.

Add photos

You may think that customers won’t be interested in pictures of pipes or valves, but posting “after” pictures will show the quality of your work and reinforce that you are effective, clean, and pleasant to have in the home.

Posting pictures of your staff, office and equipment will also show that you are professional, and will help your customers know what to expect when you arrive at their home.

Manage your reputation

You need to have a presence on the big reviews sites like Google, Yelp and Angie’s List because 78 percent of purchasing decisions are impacted by online reviews, according to the Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange.

Send an email to your happy clients and ask them to write a review about their experience with instructions and a direct link. Post those positive reviews to your website to get the most out of them. You should also monitor and respond to reviews. It makes a big impact on consumers if they see that you’re taking the time to address a review, regardless of whether it’s negative or positive.

Build a network

Most people ask around to find a plumbing contractor they trust. Make sure that your satisfied customers keep you in mind for referrals.

Make it easy for them to recommend you with a quick email and a first-time offer they can forward to their friends. You can also establish a quid-pro-quo referral policy with other contractors to keep additional business coming in.

Stay in touch

One sure way to grow your business is to turn one-time customers into repeat customers. Regularly emailing your customers with helpful information will help keep you top-of-mind for future projects. Offer tips such as advice for keeping your pipes from bursting or how to winterize your home, and promotional emails with special offers. Consistency is important here. Newsletters should arrive every week or month. Set a schedule and stick to it.

As you know, both the rough and the finish are critical to the functionality of plumbing, and the same is true for marketing your business online. It may seem like a lot to manage if you haven’t done this before. But, investing time in your online presence will help you reach customers at the right moment, and establish stronger relationships that keep clients coming back to you as their go-to for plumbing services.

Paul Bascobert is president of Local at Yodle. Yodle is a leader in local online marketing that helps 50,000 plus local businesses, including almost 1,000 plumbers, find and keep their customers simply and profitably. Find out more about Yodle at www.yodle.com, or by contacting the company at info@yodle.com or 877-276-5104.

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