How Acquira Combined Digital Marketing and Effective Management to Grow a New Plumbing Company Acquisition in the First 3 Months - Acquira

How Acquira Combined Digital Marketing and Effective Management to Grow a New Plumbing Company Acquisition in the First 3 Months

Background

In today’s case study, we’ll analyze a recent home service business acquisition.

We bought Plumb-Tech in September 2020. Almost immediately after revamping its online presence, we saw great improvements in traffic and appointment bookings.

In fact, the demand became so overwhelming we actually had to scale back our efforts and shift attention to recruiting new employees.

We thought this would be an interesting case study on Acquira’s unique ability to balance operational concerns with digital marketing, two areas that are often disconnected from one another.

Who is Plumb-Tech?

Plumb-Tech is a plumbing and heating company in Missoula, Montana. It has been servicing residential and commercial clients since 2000, offering plumbing and heating products and services.

Many factors prompted us to purchase Plumb-Tech in 2020, including:

  • Consistent growth in Missoula’s plumbing industry
  • The company’s competitive stronghold and reputation
  • Prior success expanding operations

The Risks

Purchasing a business is never without risks. Those associated with the Plumb-Tech purchase included:

  1. The difficulty of finding licensed technicians to fill the ever-increasing demand. Even before we overhauled Plumb-Tech’s marketing strategy, the company struggled to keep up with demand. This was exacerbated by the difficulty of finding available and licensed technicians in Missoula. Many professionals work in their own family businesses, making recruitment via competitors difficult.
  2. The inability to employ more aggressive marketing strategies, given Plumb-Tech’s existing difficulty keeping up with demand. During our due diligence, we recognized it would be impractical to leverage sites like Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor since Plumb-Tech lacked the capability to comfortably handle additional leads. As a result, our efforts were more constrained than usual yet still produced jaw-dropping results.
  3. Certification requirements for the company’s owner. To own a plumbing company in Montana, you need a Master’s license or the ability to employ someone with one. This was an additional consideration when finding the ideal buyer to partner with.
  4. Outdated management strategies. Before we purchased Plumb-Tech, the company’s management processes were quite inefficient. For example, appointment scheduling was handled via Excel spreadsheets. We knew going in that any change would require additional investments, including in training.

The Opportunities

While conducting our due diligence, we identified several relatively simple actions we could take to achieve growth within a few months of purchasing Plumb-Tech.

I. Website Redesign and Conversion Rate Optimization

Plumb-Tech’s original website was quite clunky compared to those of its competitors like Thomas Plumbing and Hellgate Plumbing.

More important than the design being outdated, however, was the fact that it did not effectively communicate Plumb-Tech’s services.

This lack of clarity prompted an excessive number of phone calls seeking information about Plumb-Tech’s services. In other words, it directly exacerbated the first major risk we identified with Plumb-Tech.

As such, redesigning the website became about much more than just branding.

Revamping the Homepage

Once we acquired Plumb-Tech, we very quickly got to work revising its website’s homepage.

Increasing Clarity

The lowest-hanging fruit in terms of upgrades involved adding text that very clearly communicates what Plumb-Tech does and what their value proposition is.

Compare this to the original homepage:

While the page made some attempt at communicating Plumb-Tech’s services, the phrasing was quite disjointed. It highlighted a few granular services, which left many questions unanswered.

For example, the page mentioned faucet repair, pool plumbing, solar water heaters, and radiant floor heating systems.

But what about more common services like fixing toilets and leaks? Further, does Plumb-Tech only deal with solar water heaters?

This lack of clarity existed throughout the entire homepage. For example, this section talks about kitchen plumbing.

But what about bathroom plumbing?

These are questions prospective customers often had as well. This would prompt them to either bounce from the website and check out a competitor or call for clarification. Either outcome was undesirable.

Other clarity issues we addressed during the homepage redesign included:

  • Providing a very clear synopsis of the business (specifically describing it as a plumbing and heating company in Missoula, which was missing from the original page)
  • Neatly listing each service Plumb-Tech provides right beside the contact form so visitors know exactly what services we offer
Improving Social Proof

Man is a social being; it’s not surprising we love social proofs, it sells brands fast.

Bernard Kelvin Clive

Another improvement we made to the homepage involved the inclusion of customer reviews. 

Plumb-Tech’s previous owners never saw the need for this given that the company was already extremely busy just servicing the calls they received from their previous customers and their referrals. However, social proof is a well-established driver of success in digital marketing when you’re actively looking to reach new people that have never interacted with your brand in the past. If customers are going to be inviting you into their homes, they need absolute confidence in your abilities. Reviews make that confidence possible.

Adding Calls-to-Action

Another major issue with the original homepage was that it lacked any clear call for readers to get in touch. Take another look at the top section:

While the highlighted elements provide options for users to get in touch, they are very small and hard to see and these in and of themselves don’t constitute calls-to-action.

Think about it this way. What would motivate someone to click the “Contact” menu option or dial the number at the top of the website? What would their expectation be?

To many home service business owners without marketing backgrounds, it seems obvious enough. Someone would get in touch to book a service call, right?

Well, our experience indicates customers don’t actually think that way. They don’t know what’s going to happen when they get in touch. Are you going to upsell them? Collect payment? Pressure them into booking an appointment?

To address this uncertainty, we incorporated very clear and concise calls-to-action.

Users now know exactly what’s going to happen when they get in touch; they’ll receive a quote.

This gives them more incentive to get in touch. It also reduces friction, which is an essential consideration in the MECLABS Heuristic we incorporate into all of our website design and copy decisions.

Revamping the Product Pages

Another key aspect of the redesign involved revamping the individual service pages so they did a better job of communicating Plumb-Tech’s capabilities and getting customers to book appointments online.

Take the heating page, for example. This is what it originally looked like:

It shared many of the original homepage’s weaknesses, including:

  • No clear call-to-action
  • A lack of clarity regarding what Plumb-Tech’s heating services actually are (for example, the page mentioned snowmelt systems, which are actually a completely separate offering)

Here is the revised page we created:

An important clarity-increasing feature was the addition of a section describing exactly what heating services Plumb-Tech offers: installation, repair, and maintenance.

We also improved the page by including pointed calls-to-action in line with those on the homepage.

II. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is an essential part of revamping any home service company’s website. Appearing in search results above competitors for valuable phrases – which typically take the form of “{service} in {city}” – can lead to immediate increases in revenue.

Our research indicated a serious lack of effort among Plumb-Tech’s competitors regarding SEO. Thomas Plumbing, for example, appeared in search results for just 82 keywords:

Because SEO is such an integral part of what we do online, we knew even a modest attempt to improve Plumb-Tech’s rankings would yield tremendous results.

Keyword Research

Every effective SEO campaign starts with research. We took the following steps:

  1. Identifying Plumb-Tech’s core services
  2. Looking for the pages competitors created promoting those specific services
  3. Identifying what phrases those competing pages appear in search results (aka “rank”) for
  4. Determining why the competing pages are successful in ranking for those keywords
  5. Ensuring we do an even better job of optimizing for those keywords

This is our home service business adaptation of Brian Dean’s famous skyscraper technique. Instead of building tremendous resources that generate tons of backlinks, though, our goal is to wow prospective customers with pages that satisfy their reason for heading to Google in the first place so much more effectively than our competitors.

SEO Implementation

The new “Radiant Heating Systems in Missoula, MT” page we crafted demonstrates our SEO practices in action.

The keywords we identified as being valuable targets for this page included:

  • radiant floor heat missoula
  • radiant floor heating missoula
  • radiant heating systems missoula
  • radiant heat installation missoula
  • radiant heat flooring missoula

Here’s how we incorporated them naturally into the page copy:

By specifying the location (Missoula) throughout the page, we also ensure Google properly contextualizes it and shows it to those seeking radiant heating systems in Missoula specifically. If we kept the page more generic (as was the case with many of the original site’s service pages, which did not mention the location “Missoula” in the H1 headings) we’d run the risk of Google showing the page to people from random locations, which would negatively impact the site’s conversion rate.

By including a detailed explanation of radiant heating on the page, we also took the opportunity to include phrases that would help Google understand the page was, indeed, about radiant heating. Examples of such keywords and phrases we used include:

  • “uniform heating”
  • “fluid pumped through pipes”
  • “heating your entire floor”

While these are not phrases someone would type into Google to find radiant heat installation services in Missoula, they are phrases we identified as commonly existing on pages about radiant heating. As such, including them offers tremendous benefits as far as helping the page in question rank highly in Google for relevant queries.

III. Modernization of Management Practices

As mentioned in the section on risks, Plumb-Tech’s management processes were quite archaic pre-acquisition.

This is very common in the home services sector. Companies typically spend most of their time putting out fires (or plugging leaks, to use a more apt adaptation of Stephen Covey’s metaphor). As a result, they’re forced to rely on whatever tools are readily available.

In Plumb-Tech’s case, those tools were non-specialized applications like Excel.

Based on our prior experiences acquiring home service businesses, we recognized improvements in this department would have immediate and tremendous benefits in terms of profitability and productivity.

Involving Employees

When taking ownership of a company, we always want to sit down and get input from existing employees before making drastic changes.

In our conversations with Plumb-Tech’s employees, we identified a few practical changes, including:

  • new tool allowance
  • increased benefits
  • enhanced open door policy

We knew these changes would improve satisfaction among our current workforce and help attract new employees.

Improving Recruiting Efforts

As highlighted in the risks section, attracting new employees has been a major challenge for Plumb-Tech given the reality of Missoula’s plumbing industry.

In addition to introducing new incentives such as tool allowances and increased benefits, we started a program aimed at encouraging plumbers in surrounding states to relocate in exchange for training and assistance with housing costs.

Implementing ServiceTitan [Planned]

After four months of owning and operating Plumb-Tech, we’ve identified ServiceTitan as the most appropriate application for managing its appointment scheduling.

ServiceTitan will allow us to eliminate Excel spreadsheets as Plumb-Tech’s scheduling tool, dramatically simplifying the appointment booking process.

ServiceTitan will also let us monitor workforce data and identify inefficiencies with greater ease.

This is a change we will be implementing in the coming months.

IV. Rethinking Plumb-Tech’s Pricing

As we dug deeper into Plumb-Tech’s business model, we noticed its pricing was far too low. In addition to impacting profitability, this largely explained why Plumb-Tech’s phone was ringing off the hook.

We responded to this by strategically increasing our pricing to be more in line with typical industry rates. The phone is still ringing off the hook and we remain booked solid three weeks in advance but the flow is more manageable.

The Results

Our initial results with Plumb-Tech have been even better than we expected. Here’s a breakdown.

Traffic

Immediately after taking the new website live, we saw improvements in several traffic-related areas, including:

  • 17% increase in month-over-month total traffic
  • 16% increase in the number of new users
  • 27% decrease in bounce rate
  • 134% increase in average website session duration

In other words, we immediately began seeing not only more traffic but also better retention of that traffic.

This indicates our efforts to improve the website’s clarity were successful. Customers are no longer arriving on the website and promptly leaving because they can’t figure out what exactly we offer.

SEO

Our average keyword position since launching the new website has increased by 23.6 points. That means our pages are, on average, appearing in roughly the sixth search position. In turn, this gives us much greater visibility among prospective customers.

Additionally:

  • Plumb-Tech now ranks in the top three positions for 27 primary target keywords
  • an additional 20 primary target keywords appear elsewhere on the first page

Here are some of the valuable keywords we’ve increased rankings for:

Daily Operations

While improvements in marketing-related metrics are nice, they don’t mean much unless they deliver real-world results for a service business.

Plumb-Tech has seen a tremendous increase in relevant phone calls from new customers. These calls no longer tie up exorbitant resources addressing simple questions regarding Plumb-Tech’s service offerings. Rather, callers are now substantially further along in the purchase process, often being prepared to book appointments.

Employee retention and recruitment has also seen tremendous improvements. Plumb-Tech is now swiftly moving towards getting its workforce where it needs to be in order to capitalize fully on Missoula’s demand for its services.

Key Takeaways

As a result of our efforts revitalizing Plumb-Tech’s digital marketing and management processes, the company is now receiving a greater quantity of qualified leads.

We continue to fill appointments with ease and have drastically reduced the amount of time wasted responding to questions that should be answered via our website.

Workers are now less stressed and more productive, which will only increase as we continue our recruitment and systematization efforts.

Bottom Line

We bought Plumb-Tech in September 2020 and managed to achieve the following within three months:

  • 17% increase in monthly traffic
  • 16% increase in new customers arriving on the website
  • 27% decrease in users getting frustrated and leaving the site prematurely
  • top three rankings for primary target keywords directly associated with the business
  • improved management processes that have led to a more acceptable flow of relevant leads

Here’s what we did to achieve that:

  • Dramatically overhauled Plumb-Tech’s website design to improve clarity
  • Added clear calls-to-action throughout the website
  • Optimized the website for SEO
  • Modernized management processes by improving retention and recruitment efforts
  • Revitalized Plumb-Tech’s pricing strategy

Our immediate goal is to hire more workers to further capitalize on Plumb-Tech’s ability to meet demand.

Want to See Even Further Under the Hood?

If you’d like to learn more about our strategies for delivering tremendous results like these, check out our Acceleration Gauntlet! In it, we’ll tell you all about the logic behind the marketing and management strategies we shared in this case study.

The gauntlet walks prospective acquisition entrepreneurs through our step-by-step approach to finding businesses like Plumb-Tech, evaluating and acquiring them, then implementing proven growth strategies.

If you have any questions about this specific case study, feel free to leave a comment below!

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