By Erik Koglin
How does your company generate business and reach people who need solutions to water problems? You might be advertising in the local media, exhibiting at home shows or using direct mail to get your name in front of the community. Positive word of mouth, however, has always been the best kind of advertising and marketing you can get. When people talk about your services to family, friends and neighbors, you gain referrals, your customer base grows and your company’s reputation improves.
Social media has changed the way we communicate. It is the new word of mouth. When people have a problem they need solved or want a recommendation, they turn to sites like Facebook. If people have a positive or negative experience with a contractor or local business, they let their social network know all about it. As experts in water treatment, you can use social-media marketing to join these conversations, establish your company as a trusted resource and influence purchasing decisions.
I’ve talked with water treatment dealers all over the country and have heard plenty of objections and excuses about why there’s been a reluctance to focus on building a social presence online. Let’s start by addressing some of those concerns.
Is social-media marketing right for your business?
The first question you might ask is whether the people you want to reach are actually using social media on a regular basis and are they using it to research the equipment and services you provide. When it comes to a network like Facebook, it’s estimated there will be more than 207 million US users in 2018. That’s nearly two-thirds of the entire population. Studies show Americans spend more than a half-hour per day on Facebook, visiting eight times over 24 hours. While social-media sites like Facebook started as a way to share photos and keep in touch, they’ve evolved into much more. It’s become the way people get their news and entertainment, engage with brands and conduct research for major purchases.
This is especially true for the Millennial generation, which is three times more likely than older generations to rely on social media when making purchasing decisions. A study from Deloitte found 47 percent of Millennials say social media influences their purchases. Plus, 45 percent of Facebook users between the ages of 25 and 35 use social media for brand research. Millennials are at a point in life when many are buying homes and starting families. These are the potential customers you’ll need to reach if you want your business to grow because they’re the group that will need water softeners, RO systems, UV disinfection systems and other water-problem solutions.
What to post on social media
Another common objection to using social media is that water treatment just isn’t exciting enough. How are you supposed to grab the attention of local Facebook users when they are bombarded by baby photos, cat videos and political arguments? There’s some truth to this. Very few people will stop to check out photos of recently installed water treatment equipment or a muddy hole where a well is being drilled. That’s not going to do much to impress them. Yet, local water treatment companies, plumbers and well drillers commonly post these kinds of photos online.
This is where creative marketing comes into play. Sometimes, water treatment professionals get caught up in their own work and focus on technical details. What’s interesting to you probably won’t have the same impact on the typical homeowner. So, try putting yourself in their shoes. What homeowners want to see is someone who understands their frustration and can fix the problem. Your social-media marketing efforts should emphasize specific pain-points potential customers are having and the benefits they’ll enjoy after you provide a solution.
Residential water quality pain-points include ugly iron stains on sinks and toilets, water that smells like rotten eggs or health concerns about local drinking water. The benefits of residential water treatment are the ways your equipment makes life easier and more enjoyable for the consumer. Benefits reflect the positive results. Post photos on social media displaying how improved water quality can make people happier, healthier and less stressed.
You can also address water problems that are unique to your area of the country. There are a lot of companies that can tell you how a water softener works, but your experts are prepared to discuss more specific topics that relate to the people you serve and their local water quality concerns. There is a time and place for getting a bit more technical, too. After you grab their attention with interesting content, you’ll want to direct your social-media audience to your website for more in-depth information as they continue their investigation. Social media is often the first step in the research process.
Social media as a customer service tool
In addition to generating new business, social media is also an effective communication channel for current customers. Many small businesses, including water treatment dealerships, use sites like Facebook to provide customers with service. It’s common for consumers to reach out to local businesses with questions and concerns via social media before they pick up a phone and call. You can answer inquiries and resolve problems on a company Facebook page. Use social media to provide customer support that shows others for whom your company is responsive and helpful, even after the sale and installation of equipment.
A Facebook page can also be used to collect and respond to reviews from customers. Even if you receive some negative reviews, prospects will watch how you handle the situation and the feedback you get could give you ideas to improve your business. Social media isn’t just a platform for blasting out marketing messages. It’s about having conversations and is best used for listening and responding.
Targeted social media advertising
When you advertise with traditional methods, such as TV, radio, print or billboards, it’s not very targeted. The best you can do is choose a local media outlet with an approximate age demographic you hope to reach. Why waste advertising dollars on people who are unlikely to ever become your customer? With paid social-media advertising, your approach can become more targeted and strategic.
Facebook, for example, allows advertisers to target people in specific communities or zip codes, whereas a TV commercial would be broadcast to a much wider audience. You can also focus on demographics such as age and gender. But, where it gets really interesting is how you’re able to reach people based on interests and purchase behaviors. You can target homeowners as well as people who recently moved to a new home. You can target parents, people who are interested in sustainability or people who are health and fitness focused. Then create social-media campaigns with messages that are crafted for those audiences. For instance, you could target expectant mothers in rural zip codes (homeowners with private wells) with a Facebook post making them aware of the dangers of nitrates from agricultural runoff. I’m not suggesting you need to abandon traditional advertising methods but you will find that paid social ads generate more leads and are more cost-effective.
Where do you find the time?
For many in the residential water treatment industry, the biggest roadblocks to using social media are finding time to learn how and then finding time to actually do it. Spare moments are a luxury for small business owners. The fact you need to focus on day-to-day matters is understandable. The good news is social media doesn’t have to eat up a ton of time. This could be a responsibility you delegate to someone else in the company. There are some water treatment dealers who have their receptionist manage social media. If you have a sales team, they’ll likely have ideas for how to use social media to generate leads. You could even bring on a marketing intern to help.
While someone should be monitoring social media and receiving notifications about interactions with your accounts, there’s no need to make multiple posts every day. Posting one to three times per week is plenty. Not everything you post needs to be original content; look for other expert resources and share their insight. The company that manufactures the equipment you sell and install should also assist with your social-media efforts. Larger companies have more resources at their disposal. Find out whether there are social-media graphics or articles you can share with your audience. This will reduce the time you have to spend coming up with a social-media strategy.
Time is the biggest investment you’ll need to make in social-media marketing. If you want to reach today’s consumers, it’s an investment worth making.
About the author
Erik Koglin currently serves as the Clear Choice Water Group Field Manager at Water-Right Inc. He has spent his career in water, working hand-in-hand with water treatment OEMs, distributors and dealers during his time with Water-Right and with previous sales and product management positions with Pentair. Koglin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in business and marketing, as well as an Executive Certificate in professional sales. He can be reached at Erik.Koglin@water-right.com.