I Survive Solely by Word of Mouth

I recently got a call from a lady (Donna) who got my name from her air conditioning man.  I can’t remember how he originally got my name.  I recognized Donna’s street on the map, but nothing else rang a bell.  When I arrived, she recognized me as the plumber she’d used seven years ago.  She had lost my card and forgotten me.  Luckily her a.c. guy put her back on the right track.

Seven years ago she had gotten my name from her friend Gina.  Gina had learned about me from Amy.  Amy met me because her real estate agent sold her a house with a problem and he heard about me just in time to save thousands of dollars that another company was about to charge Amy for an unnecessary sewer replacement.  That real estate agent was involved in his church’s governing board and, knowing I was a reliable service tech, sent me to his pastor’s house one evening for an emergency.  Since then I’ve probably picked up ten customers from that congregation and referrals.

There was a time when I remembered everyone’s pedigree, sort of like those lists in the Old Testament of who begat whom.  The web has become far too complex now; I can’t keep track of the genealogies any more.  Today I got a call from a student at the college where I taught ten years ago.  He remembered thinking back then that I was a reliable person and today he sent me to an emergency at his parents’ house.  I couldn’t count the jobs and customers and referrals that have proceeded from the people I met at CBU.

This has all been done without “advertising” in the ordinary sense of the word.  On July 31st, 2001, I sent out about 300 letters to potential customers, announcing the opening of my business and including a refrigerator magnet with my portrait on it.  That was, indeed, direct mail advertising.  It was also the last money I spent on advertising.  The phone began ringing the next day and it has continued to ring ever since.

I don’t ask people to call me; I’m too busy already.  But when they call, I try to fit them in somehow.  Often I have to give them the number of some other plumber because I can’t get to them anytime soon.

I always dread leaving town now.  Most people look forward to a vacation when they can “get away from it all.”  Well, I’d like to do that, too, but I worry about my customers.  If I’m not here, they’ll have to call someone else and they’re liable to get robbed.  They rely on me and they trust me enough to send their friends and loved ones to me.  Not letting them down is a matter of conscience with me.  Maybe that’s why they call.