The most effective marketing is the quality of your service

Where word of mouth yesterday was over a water cooler at the office or over the back fence, today it happens more often on Facebook and Twitter. A friend will ask if anyone can tell them of a good plumber and folks dive in with names to help.

This works good for things like a plumber or electrical work, not so much for who to build a Web site or Point of Sale system. There is a pretty clear cut off on what a person will recommend out in the open and what they will avoid.

For companies that provide house repair or ‘handyman’ services, they can really get ahead with a few good mentions. I’m not talking about paying Opera, I’m talking about the casual friend to friend recommendation that is read by many more people than those two friends.

Recently I was reminded of this when I was faced with for-pay services and was asked online if I would recommend someone in that exact space.

Friday, I worked from home as all of my meetings had dial in phone numbers and a project just wrapped so the team needed a break from the tension. It was a great time to catch up on a couple items that required a service come into the house to handle.

First up was the plumber. He had been out 6 months ago on a regular maintenance systems check and quoted a few items he could help us with. One item, a sticking toilet that is in a very thin room making it an environment I had no desire to squeeze into. The quote said $150 which I would rather not spend but seemed worth it since I wouldn’t be squeezing in that area and could continue with my day job as the repair was being done.

When the gentleman arrived, he mentioned that he had quoted on several of the bathrooms. I said I only needed the one since the other two were in bigger areas and I handled myself. He went in to each one to inspect my work. He commented that I only replaced the Fill Valve and Float Assembly, to do the job right I should have done the Tank Bolts and Flush Valve too. I let him know I had actually replaced everything in that area as it came in a kit.

He left for his truck to get parts and a price agreement. When he returned, he showed me a price of $127, a pleasant surprise as it was lower than the earlier quote. He asked if I wanted just the $127 Fill Valve and Float Assembly or if I wanted to pay an additional $100 for the Tank Bolts and Flush Valve. I had to ask him a couple times to repeat what he was asking since he had just said you should always do the whole job and now he was saying he had only quoted us for half the work. I tensed up a bit but signed for the work…

Upon completion he brought me the bill and suggested we take a look at the repairs and see if we needed him to make any adjustments. Just as we were wrapping up looking over the $200+ worth of plastic bits, he asked if we had any other issues with the toilet. I wasn’t sure what that could be so I said we were OK. He then proceeded to let me know that they have full toilet assemblies available and he could put one in, he would just credit the repairs he just did against the new unit, leaving a $300 balance due (on top of the $200).

I wont mention them by name here or on Facebook to answer my friends request for a good plumber… I may need him as a friend later. I do wonder how the math works out for up-sells vs having to spend extra on marketing. If they quoted like what they said must be done for a proper job and then had not tried to tag on an addition $300 service, they would have gotten their name out to 200+ of my local friends. It’s all just a numbers game. They feel they will get enough people to bite on the extra services/profit and spend the additional on advertising to make more money than pay nothing on advertising and lower their average visit bill.

We know the truth though, they haven’t thought this through at all… they feel that marketing is a cost of doing business and everyone needs a high average ticket. True yesterday, doesn’t work for long term successes in the modern ‘social’ world.