Different marketing roads for different plumbers: Which way is right?

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A 2009 photo of Alex Lacek (left), with Leonard Megliola and David Callahan at the Bestline Plumbing offices in Gardenia, California (Los Angeles).
mike johnson
From Michael Johnson: “Here is a photo of a customer who asked for a photo with me. I just installed a new dishwasher and kitchen faucet.”

As I prepare for a possible podcast regarding in-home residential contracting services (such as plumbing, electrical and renovation work), I reviewed some earlier posts here to gather examples, and rediscovered Leonard Meglolia’s BestLine Plumbing in Los Angeles, and Michael Johnson’s plumbing business in a Milwaukee, WI, suburb.

Both have really different marketing approaches, and both approaches are effective in the context of their situations.

Meglolia extensively promotes his plumbing business with fliers, massive numbers of printed documents that he circulates in his service area. He also has created consumer show displays. His leads are turned into sales by commissioned sales representatives.

Johnson told me how he got established in his business, from scratch. He reviewed the local newspaper, and made connections with leaders of a struggling community theatre group, offering practical advice and suggestions to rebuild the community enterprise This led him to connections with community leaders, and then he delivered his services so well that repeat and referral business won the day.

Today he has one of the most beautifully content-rich, non-self promotional websites I’ve seen in a long time. (In our original conversation, he asked me not to identify the community he serves, so I won’t post a direct link to his site here.)

Meglolia, meanwhile, has been skillful at search engine optimization, though his website dates back a few “generations” and social media reviews have been generally less-than-enthusiastic. (However, he told me that most of his clients are older and don’t make a big thing about social media.)

Is Johnson right and Meglolia wrong? Is one method of conducting business better than another? Here, I admit bias in preferring Johnson’s approach. It seems a business built on repeat and referral cleints, with minimal cash dollars on conventional marketing, would (to me) be a more satisfying enterprise than a high-volume enterprise that needs constant advertising refuelling.

But this attitude may miss the point. Meglolia after all serves a significant geographical area in a major urban community; he has a larger organization and needs to conduct business with many people who will need his services only rarely. Johnson has chosen to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond; where a small business (even a one-person organization) can do quite well to cover the market.

We can learn from both examples and I’ll respect both of their successes and effectiveness in developing their markets.

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