It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Thank goodness for the Hope Plumbings of the world, right? And would you believe that their marketing efforts have helped a company like this boost sales, too? I sat down with Owner/Operator, Jack Hope, who shared examples of their success due to paying attention to marketing, promotional products, and most importantly their customer’s needs.
Distinct Images: First things first…how did you get into the plumbing industry?
Jack: I got in to the plumbing industry after finishing school at IU Bloomington because a friend’s family owned a large plumbing business and wanted to grow their service division. After working there for several years and learning a bit about plumbing, I decided I wanted a new career. I went back to school full time to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy, all the while continuing miscellaneous plumbing jobs to support myself. I began teaching philosophy, but quickly had more plumbing work to do that I could keep up with.
As I finished up my degree, I had to decide between continuing school to pursue a doctorate or running a rapidly growing plumbing business. For some time I was able to be both a philosophy instructor and manage our business, but that quickly began to be too much. I opened Hope Plumbing in 2007 and Brad Persic joined the business in 2008 to help keep up with phone calls while I was in school. But as the business has grown, I had to stop teaching philosophy classes at IUPUI and manage the plumbing business.
Distinct Images: How did you stumble upon DI?
Jack: We have a family connection, but things started to take off when Greenline Printing was established and we ran the very large gas line they needed for their new screen printing machine.
Distinct Images: What promotional product items have you ordered from us?
Jack: T-Shirts, toilet stress balls (my personal favorite), tumblers, sharpies and yard signs.
Distinct Images: Why do you think there is value in branded promotional products?
Jack: With as much money as we spend on advertising, 8 out of 10 calls come from referrals and repeat customers. Promotional products take care of our customers and mainly serve as our ‘Thank You’. It’s worth it to maintain a customer and it’s an inexpensive way to engage with our existing customer base.
Distinct Images: Have you seen a direct increase in sales or increase in brand awareness due to your distribution of promotional products?
Jack: There has certainly been an increase in brand awareness from both repeat and new customers. Since we started using our yard signs 7 months ago, I’d say we have earned 5-10 brand new customers and heard from many of our existing customers whom have seen the signs.
Distinct Images: Do your competitors use promo products as a marketing tool?
Jack: I don’t know. I assume they use them to some degree, but most of our competitors are bigger than we are and have a different goal in mind. They do ads with the goal of making their phone ring when a person has a problem. We do ads to gain real customers and build a relationship. A customer to us isn’t someone who calls once; it’s someone who calls us every time they need a plumber. Our goal is to get bigger like some of the others, but we have a different approach to doing so. We “Specialize in Older Homes” and in our neighborhood this separates us from the other plumbers.
Distinct Images: What have been the most successful promo products you have ordered and why?
Jack: TheYard signs by far. We strategically place them in the front yards of customers, friends and family and it serves as our standing billboard throughout the neighborhood. We invested in high quality stands so the whole structure lasts longer and looks professional, and you wouldn’t believe how many comments we’ev gotten and people who tell us they see them! People may only see one or two of them, but it feels like they see it more because it’s outside their neighbor’s house. We often hear, “I see your signs everywhere!” which is exactly what we want to hear.
Our t-shirts work great for us, too. Those are our walking billboards! Our friends want and distribute them, we get requests from people who want to wear them to the gym, people who just like the look and people that enjoy the novelty of a plumbing t-shirt. We pass out quite few shirts.
Distinct Images: How would you describe your marketing approach (budgeted, spur of the moment, strategic…)?
Jack: Our marketing approach is only partially strategic. I am all about opportunities and how they present themselves and am probably a typical business owner in that I have no attention span. So if something comes up that sounds cool, new, popular and seems like it might work…I want to know ALL about it. Then I decide if it’s a good fit and we act accordingly. Right now our focus is creating a program for distributing yard signs and attracting attention to www.hopeplumbing.com.
Distinct Images: Do you have a busy season? If so, when is that?
Jack: Let’s put it this way: our phones ring the same all year-round, but the seriousness and urgency of the calls differ depending on the time of year. Take December, for instance: the urgency to fix your dripping faucet takes a back burner until you’re finished Christmas shopping for your kids, so it’s forced to wait. But in the spring, people are cleaning house and acting on the things they might have called about or postponed in the winter. And in the spring, nature plays a big part, too. The tree roots are growing, sewers are clogging and breaking, so we’re busy.
Distinct Images: Hope Plumbing is active on Twitter, how is that helping your marketing and business exposure?
Jack: Twitter has worked really well for us. It has generated more business-to-business transactions as well as referrals. It’s such an easy way to share contacts and connect with people! We are able to quickly and simply show off the personality of the company.
Distinct Images: What does Jack Hope do when he’s not fixing toilets or managing that process?
Jack: In truth, except for repairing a toilet at my parent’s home, I have not done any plumbing work for a few years. When I am at work, I spend my time ensuring that we are doing quality work and constantly pursuing new customers.
When I am away from Hope Plumbing, I like spending time with my family, especially at our old lake cottage where we go as much as we can in the summer. I enjoy reading, but don’t seem to have as much time to read as I did before getting married and having a son.
I love Twitter. I get most of my news, all of my current event information and quite a bit of entertainment out of the accounts I follow. I am also currently addicted to ‘True Blood’, ‘Mad Men’, ‘House of Lies’, ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Dexter’, ‘Ray Donovan’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’, ‘Suits’ and most of all ‘The Newsroom’ (and just for the record, while ‘The Newsroom’ is a great show, all of the shows mentioned above pale in comparison to ‘The Sopranos’ which laid the groundwork for that type of television). But, like Tony Soprano once said, “’Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”