Sterling Craft Plumbing & Bath went from husband and wife team to employer almost overnight with Thumbtack. Upon joining the site, owner Shane Wolcansek was flooded with requests for quality plumbing and remodels, doubling the company’s workflow. He now runs two service trucks to support demand in and around Boiling Springs, South Carolina. Read on to learn his secrets for success.
How long have you been using Thumbtack?
We began using Thumbtack within the first six months of starting our business in 2014. It took some time to get established, but Thumbtack has become a steady and reliable source of new customers for us. I created profiles anywhere and everywhere I could once I was ready to hang out my shingle — and nothing has been as productive as the time I spend on Thumbtack.
How much of your work comes from Thumbtack?
We get about 15 to 20 percent of new customers from Thumbtack each month, among them some of our most loyal and vocal supporters. Many of the requests we choose to respond to are more complex so when you break it down, Thumbtack accounts for about half of our higher revenue calls. Most Thumbtack customers leave us a review, which is immensely helpful towards securing future customers. Thumbtack customers also tend to refer their friends and family at a higher frequency than our organic Google search customers do.
What are your top tips for expanding your business on Thumbtack?
Be sure to ask for reviews. Let your customer know why they are important for your business and make it as easy as you can for them to leave one. Thumbtack does an excellent job of reminding the customer on your behalf, but you can set the tone early by letting them know how much you would appreciate the feedback while wrapping up the job.
You can also expand your request categories. We find a lot of handyman requests that are really a plumbing or remodel request that we otherwise might have missed out on. Sometimes a customer doesn’t really know who they should be looking for.
Any success strategies for using the mobile app?
I receive all our job alerts on the app. I have about five templates that only require slight changes for the majority of our requests. I can respond to any request within five minutes most of the time. Being quick to reply when a customer has an immediate need can be the difference in getting the job or not, even if you can’t get to them right away. Making contact is the biggest challenge, so the faster you get your information in front of them, the better your odds in booking a call.
What’s your approach to writing quotes?
We keep it simple. Due to the nature of most plumbing work we don’t actually quote prices upfront.
We do, however, make it crystal clear what will happen if they give us a call. We assure them we can handle the issue, offer to diagnose the problem in person, and provide an upfront quote when we meet. We let them know it’s entirely up to them if we proceed from there and complete the work. We highlight our status as a Top Pro and Best Of winner, as well as the fact that we’re licensed, insured, and background checked and encourage them to read some of our many reviews.
How did you get your first reviews on Thumbtack?
Our first couple reviews actually came from our existing customer base outside of Thumbtack. I felt it was important to establish credibility as quickly as possible since there is a monetary investment when reaching out to potential customers. Most of our Thumbtack customers respond to the request through Thumbtack to leave feedback so the reviews rolled in once we got hired a few times.
Any tips or secrets when it comes to asking for reviews?
We always ask for reviews in person when wrapping up the call. We tell the customer how helpful the reviews are towards helping us grow and in turn help others. Our customers seem to root for our success. Once they know how useful reviews are, they are more likely to leave them — particularly when they have had a really great experience. Our receipts are digital and include a link directing customers to our online profiles. The links automatically open the appropriate review forms to make things as easy as possible.
Are there any remarkable Thumbtack jobs you’d like to share?
One of the first jobs I landed through Thumbtack was over $6,000. The company was less than three months old and we had no working capital at the time. The job helped us get through the December and January, which tend to be a slow time for most plumbers. I was sold on Thumbtack then and there.
Another standout Thumbtack job was when we had to take over a bathroom remodel after the previous contractor disappeared on the customer, leaving them without a functional bathroom. The customer was desperate and understandably afraid to put their faith in someone else. She chose us based solely on our reviews. By the time we finished the job later that week she was baking us snacks and making us lunches everyday.
Any wisdom to share with fellow plumbers?
Give Thumbtack all your information so they can verify it. If you are advertising as a plumber, you should be licensed. Make sure clients know it. You should also take advantage of the background check. People are inviting us into their homes, so anything you can do to make them more comfortable is worth the cost.
Any general advice for pros just getting started on Thumbtack?
You have to be patient and realize that Thumbtack, like any other form of advertising, is an investment. You have to keep at it. Make a thorough and complete profile and get as many reviews as you possibly can. Potential customers don’t know anything about you or they wouldn’t be using Thumbtack to begin with. Your reviews and profile are instant credibility. The stronger they are, the better you look amongst the competition. Look at the top competitors from your competitive report and see what their profiles look like. If yours isn’t every bit as good, spend some time to get it up to par. These are the peers you want to emulate.
What role has Thumbtack played in your company’s growth?
Thumbtack has been key to our growth. When I started taking on bathroom remodels it quickly forced us to add a second truck. I couldn’t be on a remodel all week and still get to that running toilet call.
We went from a husband and wife team to a true employer almost overnight. Over half of our remodel quotes come directly from Thumbtack. Without that consistent stream of remodel calls I would still be out in the field by myself. We doubled our work capacity because we could find enough work from Thumbtack every month to support it.
How else does Sterling Craft Plumbing & Bath advertise?
We used two Google Adwords Express campaigns during our first year. It was money well spent, but the ads went down for about two weeks because of a glitch. We noticed the calls had continued to come in without the ads being active so we discontinued them. We had accidentally realized that once we had enough reviews on Google+ we started to appear organically in local searches for plumbers and have remained highly ranked ever since. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get reviews and have customers post them wherever you can get them to.
How can other plumbers achieve Top Pro ranking?
Be consistent in your approach. You might reply to 5 requests and be unsuccessful in contacting any of them, but you can’t let that deter you. The next call could make up for it. I’ve had stretches where it seems like nobody is replying back, or a request is closed 30 seconds after they open your quote. You have to take the good with the bad, and I have yet to find anything that comes close to delivering the returns that Thumbtack has.
[Photo via Sean Wolcansek]