What I Learned from My Plumber

Some businesses offer such great service that they don't need to market. Most of us need to provide compelling content.

What I learned from my plumber, even before COVID-19, was to keep my hands out of my mouth like he did. But that’s not what this post is about.

What I really learned from my plumber is to know who you are and what you’re about if you want your business to flourish. You see, my plumber (his name is Wayne) doesn’t do any online or print marketing. He doesn’t need to. He gets all the business he can handle simply by word-of-mouth and his name in small letters on the side of his truck.

How does he do that?

He does it by always living up to his well-earned reputation. You see, Wayne knows his place—in business speak, his brand, his niche. He knows that providing great customer service to his clients wins every time.

Our Plumbing Story

My wife and I came to know Wayne when our upstairs bathtub drain clogged. Like many homeowners, I tried a plunger, commercial drain opening chemicals, and even a plumber’s snake. Nothing worked. We couldn’t use either upstairs bathroom and that meant not showering. Ugh! Stinky!

We called a large, well-known plumbing firm. They sent a guy right out. After looking at the drain and the connecting pipes in the linen closet, the guy shrugged his shoulders and called his boss. Not a good sign.

The next day, a supervisor came out. He poked around, found an old drum trap (look it up) that was blocking the snake. He said they’d have to cut out the trap. To gain access to do so would require cutting a large hole in our dining room ceiling. Estimated cost for the plumbing alone: $1,300. Who knew what it would cost to repair the ceiling?

We had no money. So I decided to do it myself. I bought a new drill and special bits to remove the lid from the drum trap. After more than a day’s drilling, the lid was still solidly in place. That meant I couldn’t get my snake down the drain to loosen the clog. Total impasse and disgruntled spouse.

The Referral

That’s when our neighbor across the street rescued us with a referral to Wayne. He’d known Wayne for years and called Wayne to tell him of our plight. He also cautioned us that Wayne liked to tell stories.

Wayne came out the next day, took a look at the drum trap mess that I’d created, and said that he could cut out the trap, unclog the drain, and install a new trap—all for $600. And no hole in the dining room ceiling!

The next morning, Wayne showed up on time and went to work, telling stories about previous jobs all the while! It was quite a show. He was on his hands and knees, head in the linen closet, and the stories never stopped.

But then Wayne was stymied too. On day two, even after he had replaced the drum trap, his longer snake couldn’t reach the clog. He didn’t give up.

He went to the basement, opened a cap in the drain there, snaked out the clog (along with a lot of nasty water) and triumphantly declared, “That hair must have built up since the house was built 50 years ago!”

Total cost, even after several hours of unplanned work: $600. Now I’m sure that the story of the stupid homeowner who made a big mess when he should have called Wayne to begin with has now made it into Wayne’s repertoire of tall tales. Other than that, we felt that we’d escaped unscathed.

What My Plumber Taught Me

The first and most important lesson for me is not to fart around but to call Wayne when I need him.

Beyond that, Wayne taught me some lessons that every business owner or manager should heed.

  • Keep your client informed and show up on time (provide good customer service).
  • Know what you can and cannot do or offer (know your technical skills or product).
  • Quote a fair price and stick to it (don’t price gouge).
  • See the project through; don’t give up (solve your client’s problem).
  • Treat your client with respect (be client-centered).
  • Clean up after yourself (go beyond what is expected).
Word of mouth marketing works for local, small businesses. Most of us need compelling content so that consumers or clients can understand the benefits of our brand.

The result for Wayne was another satisfied customer who would refer others to him. And we did. Enthusiastically!

Cost of that sort of marketing: $0

Value of that sort of marketing: Priceless

I hope you heed what I learned from my plumber: strengthen your brand, focus on your client’s needs, provide great customer service, deliver value beyond what is expected, conduct yourself with integrity.

Do those simple things, even if you must do other kinds of marketing, and you’ll thrive. Oh, and please keep your hands out of your mouth.

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