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Adapt or Get Passed By: 6 Ways Your KC Business Can Stay Relevant in the Digital Age


By guest contributor Doug Stine, Stine-Nichols Plumbing

If you’re a small business owner, you know some of the most valuable experience is learned on the job. I’ve learned a handful of those valuable skills, having made the transition from employee to business owner myself and as a lifelong plumber and owner of Stine-Nichols Plumbing, a full-service plumbing company right here in Kansas City.

But no matter if you’re a plumber, electrician, landscaper, financial advisor, restaurant owner, maker or run some other kind of small business, you should heed an important piece of advice: to advance in any industry, you must be willing to adapt to change.

I learned this little nugget of knowledge, both through great gratitude and a little bit of failure, and I’ve got six ways your business can benefit right now from what I’ve learned.

> > > Looking for someone who can help give you some perspective on your business or wondering how to clear that next hurdle? Give us here at KCSourceLink a call at 816-235-6500 or tell us a bit about what you need here, and we’ll craft your personal action plan — that’s your next set of steps for your business — for free.

A smartphone lies on a laptop computer

You gotta go digital

“If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business.”

Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates called this one a while back. Being in an industrial business like plumbing, the average plumber doesn’t always think his day-to-day activities require the latest and greatest marketing. And to be completely honest, I didn’t think I needed this for the longest time. After all, you might think if your service or product is top-notch, you’ll always have business from referrals. Makes sense, right?

Simply put, there are two sides to every business’s lead-generation practices. First off, you have referrals. Unless you have a monopoly on the local market, referrals will never provide enough volume to properly scale your business. The second portion should come from new lead generation. These people will have no connection to your business and actually only know you from your digital image. If you’re business isn’t online, you’ll never tap into this market.

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Make your marketing fun (and relevant)

This idea goes hand-in-hand with the need to create a digital image. For me, personally, plumbing is fun. I’ve been doing it for over 40 years and have loved every last minute of it. But I think it’s safe to say my customers aren’t fascinated with how to trouble-shoot a water-main break.

This same mindset applies to those in a wide range of industries. People who follow a landscaper on social media probably couldn’t care less about the inner-physics of concrete. Users online who follow an electrician likely don’t care about the anatomy of a transformer box.

So, your marketing needs to be about the consumer. Transform your daily activities into guides that are going to interest your ideal customer. As opposed to describing how concrete reacts in different temperatures, show pictures of smiling families on their new patio. Let those people say some words on their experience and how this is going to affect their lives. Give them ideas on planning their next cookout on that patio.

In the end, build a story around the customer. The story shouldn’t be about your successes and failures in growing a small business. Your marketing should cast your customer in a leading role. As a result, all of your potential customers will realize they can resonate with that message and look to achieve the same in their lives.

Nothing happens overnight

For those looking to enhance their digital image, it’s critical to understand that none of this stuff produces results immediately. Obviously, if we’re paying someone $1,000 a month for “SEO optimization,” we expect to see some results right away.

Why isn’t this the case? Well, take a look at your top competitors. How many Google reviews do they have? How long have they been posting consistently on social media? All of these show potential customers that you have been involved in this industry for a long time. In turn, you likely know what you’re talking about, and they’ll be more likely to choose you for their project. Unless you’re in a brand new market, you’re going to have to put in your time to build up credibility on social media.

A person hands a credit card to another person

People buy from people they trust

Have you ever heard the saying that people buy from people they know, like and trust? Although it sounds cliché, it holds true. In basic terms, the idea of trusting a company can be boiled down to a few critical areas:

Social Presence

We’ve already hit this idea a few times, but here, we’re talking about engaging with your audience. It’s actually simpler than you think. Just replying to comments and reviews can go a long way.

Show Your Human Side

Posting random graphics on social media doesn’t do a lot for your audience. Those graphics might be interesting to you, but chances are, most of your audience doesn’t care. Post pictures of your team and show smiling customers. This will increase online engagement drastically.

Provide Credibility

If you provide an amazing service or product, don’t be afraid to let the public know of the kind words your clients share. Think back to the last time you bought something from Amazon. Did you check out the reviews to see which product was best? At the same time, take a look at the leaders in your industry. Do their reviews match the size of their company?

Don’t be afraid to delegate

As an entrepreneur, you’re used to solving all the problems. Starting out, you probably didn’t have the extra resources to hire extra help. It usually made more sense for you to toss up some job site pics on Facebook rather than pay a marketing agency. “Boost a post to reach 10,000 more people for only $50?” Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, unless you’ve seen the benefits of a properly targeted campaign, it probably does sound like an efficient use of marketing dollars.

Trust me, you’re not alone. I was once in your shoes. I struggled with the idea of paying for something that I could easily do on my own. But I realized I’m not a marketer. I’ve been a plumber for over 40 years, so it’s safe to assume that’s my profession. If you can pay someone who does a specific thing all day, every day, he or she can produce some amazing results. Whether that’s accounting, marketing or even management, you can’t be afraid to delegate. Hiring department heads was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Small business owners should always be learning

Always be learning

Change is never easy. If you ever want to reach out to discuss marketing, plumbing or small-business ideas, don’t hesitate to contact our team at Stine-Nichols Plumbing.

Having been in the business world my entire professional career, I’ve seen various markets change drastically. From innovations in plumbing technology to ever-evolving marketing tricks, it’s critical to stay ahead. Even if you’re at the top of the market now, there’s always someone new trying to chase you down. Don’t be afraid to keep learning. Make sure you hire the right people, and always be perfecting your systems and processes.

Doug Stine of Stine-Nichols Plumbing

Doug Stine has been in the plumbing world for over 45 years and is the owner of Stine-Nichols Plumbing. As a full-service plumbing contractor, Stine-Nichols does everything from commercial design-build projects to residential service calls. He served a five-year apprenticeship with Plumber's Local Union No. 8 and graduated in 1977 with a Building Trades Journeyman Plumbers License. He also holds a master plumber's license in Missouri and Kansas. He blogs weekly at StineNichols.com and is contributor to various plumbing blogs.


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