Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

ImageI was at a meeting yesterday that included several water system contractors and I overheard one of them say to another, “You don’t have a website? Where on earth do you get your customers?”

We could talk for hours on the role of the web as a source of customers and information for them, but the broader question is, “where DO we get our customers in our industry?” Of course, they come from lots of different sources, from the traditional yellow pages, to repeat business, to word-of-mouth, and so forth.  

But here’s an advertising opportunity that I don’t think we are taking full advantage of. Where I live, the landscaping season is already here, and I don’t think a single one of those businesses doesn’t place a sign in the yard while doing the work. Beyond landscapers, every other home improvement specialists does it as well. 

What I don’t see, at least where I travel, are water systems contractors taking advantage of this. I travel in a lot of rural areas, and it’s not uncommon for me to see a rig set up either servicing a well or drilling a new one. Maybe it’s just me, but I hardly ever see a yard sign associated with the rig telling me who’s doing the work.

I’m not sure why. They don’t cost much, and I think they’re probably pretty effective. If I’m in the market for a service, and I see a yard sign in my neighborhood for that service, I can’t help but to evaluate what kind of job they’re doing (the best I can) and make a mental note of who’s doing it. In a way, I’m thinking, if it’s good enough for my neighbor, maybe it’s good enough for me. It’s a more subtle form of word-of-mouth advertising.

And, what we really have going for us in the industry is that if the rig is set up, one can’t drive by and not notice it. The next question, even if it’s fleeting, most poeple will have in their head is “I wonder what’s going on there?” If your sign is there, next to the road, they are going to make a connection between their water system and you.

The above is just an observation, Maybe you’re already using yard signs, but if you’re not, think about it. They have a lot going for them. All of those other service providers can’t be wrong.

Your stimulus package

Last week, I highlighted one of several life-size signs that I saw at a recent trade show that underscored who the contractor “really is”. Its heading was, “I’m a can-do guy.” But, another one that I thought was especially good read:

I’m a source of economic growth

As a small business owner, I help build my community in many ways. I employ people whose wages put money back into the community. I buy trucks, equipment, and professional services like legal and accounting. My taxes fund essential federal, state, and local services. I support local causes and charities. I am pleased and proud to lend a hand.

My business makes the community stronger.

There were still more just like the above that read: “I’m an educator; I’m an environmentalist; I’m a home improvement specialist; I’m an educator; I’m an insurance provider.”

I think they nailed it. As a water systems professional, you do far more than drill wells and install pumps. You are every one of those people above. Don’t forget who you are, what you do, and how you fit into the big picture. You’re a valuable professional in more ways than one. Carry yourself that way.

A can-do industry

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the combined Pumper/Cleaner Expo and the SSPMA Convention in Indianapolis. The Pumper/Cleaner Expo focuses on septic and sewer systems of all sizes, while the SSPMA is the Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association. The combined show is huge, with over 10,000 attendees over several days. As a first-time attendee, I was amazed at the size, breadth, and sophistication of the industry. On display was everything from hazmat suits to wireless sewer inspection robots that look just like the Mars Rover. But, what impressed me the most was the amount of pride the entire convention and its attendees exuded about their industry.

For example, throughout the convention hall were life-size signs with different taglines highlighting who the contractor “really is”. Here’s one of my favorites:

I’m a can-do guy.

I wear many hats to serve my customers. I’m part technician and part scientist. I’m a welder, fabricator, and truck driver. I know plumbing, electrical, hydraulics, and mechanics. I understand and follow local codes and regulations. I put all of my talent and experience to work for homeowners. I solve their problems the best way possible.

I do whatever it takes to serve my customers.

This convention may have been about the wastewater side of things, but without changing a word, the above could have come from any cleanwater systems contractor. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Testimonials: Overused some places, but not everywhere

I was recently involved in highlighting Franklin Electric’s commitment to SERVICE as part of the video portion of Franklin Electric’s annual report. The production crew did some filming at a Franklin Tech session and even visited a job site. In each case, they captured some excellent, unrehearsed comments from water systems contractors about Franklin Electric and our products.

What struck me once again was the power of testimonials. A credible testimonial from a real person is much more powerful than anything a piece of product literature can say. As a potential customer, we tend to relate far better to another customer than a product. The other power of testimonials is that people talk of benefits and what the product or provider has done for them, instead of talking about features. Testimonials make us think to ourselves, “If it works for him, maybe it will work for me. I may be missing out here.”

Of course, testimonials have completely taken over some genres of television. Manage to pay attention to any infomercial for more than 30 seconds, and you’ll quickly realize how heavily these genres rely on customer testimonials. If anything, they probably overuse testimonials in their efforts to get you to “JUST PICK UP THAT PHONE! PLEASE HAVE YOUR CHARGE CARD READY.”

 As overused as testimonials are elsewhere, perhaps as an industry we don’t use them enough. Peruse the websites of water systems contractors, and you hardly ever see a testimonial from a real homeowner talking about their private water system and what it means to them. Awhile back, we interviewed a slew of homeowners about their private water systems. I was amazed at the number who literally said “We love our private water system and would never give it up.” We also receive dozens of unsolicited comments on our website and Hotline from homeowners that comment about how much they like their variable-speed, constant pressure water systems. Many say they would never go back to a conventional system. Nevertheless, you hardly ever see a testimonial in our industry from a homeowner about constant pressure or even simply the advantages of having your own water system.

 You may be missing an opportunity here. Next time you think about advertising your services and products as a water systems contractor, think about all of your satisfied customers. Could you use them in a testimonial? Perhaps on your website or even on your Facebook page? If not there, just as a reference for your future customers? Perhaps simply ask them to tell their neighbors? After all, we all know that “word-of-mouth” is the best kind of advertising. Whether it’s more formal in a testimonial, or just two neighbors talking, take advantage of this opportunity.

Franklin Electric’s Key Factors: It’s a package

Last week, I wrote about how Franklin Electric’s Five Key Factors for Success probably match right up with what makes your business a success. In order, there are: QUALITY, AVAILABILITY, SERVICE, INNOVATION, and VALUE.

This week, I want to expand your definition of each of those just a bit. For example, take QUALITY. Most people think strictly in terms of product when they hear the term quality. Without a doubt, product quality is absolutely critical to our success and yours. However, at Franklin Electric, quality goes far beyond the product and extends into every interaction you have with the company. It includes the quality of expertise you get when you call the Hotline. It includes the content and presentation of our seminars. It even includes the lunch we serve at FranklinTECH.

AVAILABILITY doesn’t just mean having product when and where you need it. It means having people available for you to talk to at trade shows. It means having a Hotline available to you. And, it means having a Mobile Training Facility to make training available in the field.

When it comes to Franklin Electric and SERVICE, most people probably think of our team of Field Service Engineers. But, that’s only part of it. Service happens when a homeowner calls us for assistance and we refer him to a Key Dealer on our website. It happens when someone from Franklin Electric sits on a Board of Directors for a state association.

Franklin INNOVATION doesn’t just apply to products. It means finding new and better ways to approach whatever we do. This weekly blog is a good example, but also means a modern, fresh website, streamlined processes, and in the future, installing equipment that will automatically spread Hotline calls across three different locations.  

Finally, VALUE. As I said last week, all of it has to come together in a package that delivers the greatest value to your customer for his water system investment.

I’m sure you can think of many more Key Factors applications that don’t apply strictly to product; I’m pretty sure I could continue making a list well into next week if I didn’t have a deadline to meet. What really matters, though, letting these values guide you in everything you do. When you live and breathe them,  you’ll find that the product you sell suddenly becomes a package deal.