Plumbing Marketing Blog

Brawoliner ReliningWhen you're running a plumbing company it's a competitive market out there.  That means that every competitive advantage is vital - and one key advantage that many plumbing contractors have is in not having to dig up landscaping or concrete to access and repair a damaged sewer line.  From the property owner's perspective it's huge because they save both the distress and the expense of the destruction of parts of their garden or driveway as well as the cost of putting them back as they were.

For the purpose of full disclosure we do help with the marketing and advertising of relining systems internationally (the Brawoliner system for example), but we work with clients that have a range of trenchless systems including both relining and pipe bursting.  (I do genuinely think the Brawoliner system is the best on the market however - if you haven't seen how it works there's a video on the trenchless relining systems site on the technology page).

From a business perspective the benefits of having that competitive advantage are long as you have the drain and sewer calls to take advantage of them (which happily our clients normally do, since its precisely our job to get them).  What is most interesting though is the response of the general public to the technology.  Working in the world of advertising plumbing and HVAC, I'm ever-so-slightly accustomed to a glazed look on people's faces shortly after they ask anything work-related, but trenchless repairs do seem to capture the imagination with more sparkle.  It really is astonishing to most folk out there that it's even possible to repair or replace a pipe underground without digging.  Not just that, but that it's also possible to reline a pipe around multiple 90 degree bends, along different diameters of pipe, and that its even possible to patch a junction between two pipes without digging a big hole or trench to reach them.  No question it also helps to be able to show the end client the before and after of a video inspection of the line.

It's one of several interesting technologies that both plumbing and HVAC contractors are working with to help give them a competitive advantage in the markets they operate in.

If you've your own trenchless equipment that you're looking to pull leads or boost sales with, or simply if you have questions about relining, we're always interested to hear them.




Weather PatternsOne interesting area in some of the data analysis we do is in correlating the relationship between local weather conditions and both plumbing and HVAC sales.  The relationship between sales of air conditioning and heating with the weather is unsurprising, but the relationship with plumbing perhaps more so.

An advantage that we have in working with clients is that we have years and years of tracked call and sales data from campaigns around the world.  With so much data to work with it gives us the opportunity to analyze it in interesting ways that individual plumbing and HVAC companies couldn't.

And what does the analysis reveal?  Well, obviously much of it is a competitive advantage for clients that we're not going to spill here.  However it was instructive and interesting to see the slightly different variations between both different countries and even within countries.

The result has some interesting uses, because of course the weather for the upcoming week is always reasonably predictable - it's the very reason forecasts exist.  Having a statistical insight into how that weather will effect the market gives our clients an opportunity to put their 'marketing chips' on the table with greater precision while their competitors are blind to the advantage.

If it's an area that interests you, you can find out more by contacting the Plumber Marketing team directly here.




Here are some of our photos from the deck of the USS New Jersey at one of the great events at Comfortech, being hosted this year in Philadelphia.



It's a multimillion dollar job "up for grabs" - as announced by the US State Department's Office of Inspector General.  That's the good news.  The bad news is, well, it's in Baghdad.  And it's to fix contractor goofs on a taxpayer-funded construction project.  But wasted taxpayer dollar woes aside, it does make for fairly entertaining reading.

The new US Embassy complex there cost an astounding $736m to build on a site that covers more than 100 acres.  But the OIG alleges that it will cost over $100m more to fix some of the plumbing, HVAC and other construction errors.  (They hope to recoup much of this from the original contractor).

See if you can spot some of the alleged 'goofs':

-  Mains water pipe bends and elbows for the fire sprinkler system and parts of the potable water supply were encased in concrete.  And then roads and sidewalks built on top.  (That alone is estimated to cost more than $1m to repair).

- No accessible clean-outs on dryer vent ductwork.

- No traps on the drain lines, across the site.  This affects over 200 drains ($1.5m repair bill).

(And this is my favourite...)

- Joining a non-trapped floor drain and an HVAC condensate line from the air handler.

That must have made for some interesting facial expressions the first time they turned the air conditioning on!

Anyway, the alleged repairs needed add up to more than $100m.  So I reckon that anybody that can figure out that non-trapped sewer drains and air handlers sharing the same pipes isn't a good idea must be in with a shout (!).


Race to the callsIf 2008 was an interesting year, then 2009 ought to be fascinating in plumbing and HVAC.  I've resisted the temptation to comment on the state of the economy through the year, because to a certain extent it's always crystal ball gazing, and it's generalizing too.  Things can change fast out there.  For example saving money on heating oil was big news only a few months ago, now it's cheaper than it has been in years.  By the time you read this, who knows.

Nevertheless here are some thoughts for the year ahead, some obvious, some perhaps less obvious:

- The phones are still ringing and the service work is still out there.  Repairs are a resilient market, and more often than other industries the customers are property owners with access to equity and finance.  People aren't going to choose to live without heating or a sewer service.

- Some clients are growing in this market, with record lead numbers in the past few weeks.  That's because they've been unlocking latent potential within the business. (As in, regardless of the market, their business practices have been improving)

- That creates a follow-on point.  When any company's call numbers are down, the solution is to go and grab somebody else's calls.

- There's another important point too.  I've seen a lot of companies come to us this year that have been misdiagnosing their problems.  When a company is in all sorts of trouble, the economy is an obvious and convenient scapegoat.  But in many cases it's not the problem at all.  Sure, it's not helping, but plenty of companies out there have the phones ringing hot day in, day out.  Or to put it another way, companies that are in trouble now, were almost certainly already in trouble for other undiagnosed reasons before.  Very often they've been missing completely what other companies have been doing very successfully - especially their capacity to change gears and tactics with speed, and outflank their competitors' in their respective markets.

- The upshot is that there are positives out there too.  In some markets it's likely that we'll see clients' competitors disappear from business - which is a great opportunity to grow market share.  Successful companies are sharpening their competitive edge too - when economic conditions improve they'll be very well positioned to benefit the most from any upswing.  A lot of the groundwork for future success is being put in today.

- Big ticket replacements and upsells are (anecdotally) trickier than normal to sell at the moment.  There seems to be greater demand for 'quick fix' short term solutions.  As you'll all know, there can be a difference between repairing something so that it works for a month, and a more comprehensive solution that keeps the customer trouble-free for years to come.  The good news is that this just builds up future work in the marketplace - old furnaces and boilers will still need replaced, and collapsing sewer lines will need repaired.  If a customer wants a quick fix solution, then at least it is an opportunity to wow them with your service for when the big ticket sale comes around.

- On the economic crystal ball gazing front the downturn that affected new construction, custom home building and remodeling was part of a separate property speculation cycle.  That has been followed up by a whole new economic challenge, which isn't going to help any of those sectors, but now impacts on residential service spending much more.  When people lose jobs, that's when they become lost to the market as potential customers.  That's perhaps the biggest risk factor in the market over the year ahead.

- Print Yellow Pages deserve a special mention.  If you're advertising with print YP (and many companies don't of course) then you've probably never been in a stronger negotiating position with them than right now.  Be cautious of books that are over-cluttered: some simply don't have enough work in them for the number of advertisers.  Also be wary of books with tiny circulations - the price has to be related to the number of pairs of eyes reading it.  Print Yellow Pages still has a significant number of calls as a medium, the question mark is over the premium price tag that is often attached to them.  That's where the negotiating comes in, because several of the YP companies are really hurting right now.  Over the past year the share price of Idearc (Verizon Super Pages) and RH Donnelly (Dex) have collapsed to only one hundredth of their previous value.  [The collapse in those share prices is related to the high level of debt that they carry, both companies have revenues and assets in the billions, but debts in the billions too.  As of time of writing, Idearc's entire market capitalization was only $11.5m.]

- At the end of the day, market conditions are like climbing a hill.  When you reach a steeper part of the hill, you can still climb, it just takes more muscle and effort than it did.  Many companies can and will be growing in 2009; it's just going to take rolling up the sleeves and getting stuck into their respective markets harder.

Just as a final note: we're fortunate enough to speak and meet with many hundreds of plumbing, HVAC and electrical contractors, suppliers and manufacturers every year - and if there's one thing that always shines through is that they are always an absolute pleasure to speak to and work with.  If we didn't enjoy it, we wouldn't be doing it.  Continuing apologies too to the companies that, unfortunately, we have to turn away from time to time.  In some cities, alas, we're not looking to take on any further clients.

Best wishes to everyone in the year ahead.


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