Issue: November/December 2011
Social Media Survival Guide: Mike McKenna Plumbing
Using the simple Twitter handle @itstheplumber, Tim McKenna has built a following by providing advice and building relationships that have translated into new customers for his plumbing business.
Tim McKenna readily admits: “My name’s Tim, and I’m a tweetaholic.”
In fact, McKenna has taken a step few tradesman have — he’s emblazoned his Twitter handle on his truck and uses it as his only form of marketing.
“A lot of folks who do what we do don’t get it,” says McKenna, who runs the Olmsted Township-based company his father started 40 years ago.
McKenna formerly advertised in the Yellow Pages and newspapers, but since the early 2000s, he’s relied solely on word of mouth. “Then, as the economy got worse, I had to find a different way to reach people,” he says.
Twitter filled that need. He got started three years ago, gradually getting the knack of building relationships with it.
“When I first started, I tried to sell, and that didn’t work,” says McKenna. Although he goes by the no-nonsense handle @itstheplumber, his approach is more subtle now. “I don’t tell people I’m a plumber,” he says. “Now I say, ‘I’m Tim, and I like motorsports.’ ”
By taking off his sales hat, McKenna has developed friendly online relationships with people who think of @itstheplumber when they have a plumbing problem. Like his Florida-based follower @McMedia, who came to McKenna on Twitter when her kitchen sink lost water pressure. He talked through the problem with her by phone, then scored an instant Twitter testimonial.
That approach has earned McKenna more than 3,300 followers. He’s picked up 38 new jobs over the past 18 months via Twitter, when normally he sees about 100 new clients in a typical year.
“Forget about [the number of] followers,” he says. “It’s most important to connect with the people who do follow you.”
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