No blockages in this plumbing business

Andrew Durrans, Yellow customer and print marketing advocate. Photo / Included.

Print marketing with Yellow outperforms Google advertising.

Andrew Durrans was interviewed by ZB’s Heather Du Plessis-Allan on plumbing issues. A few days later he was called by other plumbers wanting to know if he was really advertising in print like he had said on the radio.

After all, print is dead, right? The whole world is going digital. At least, Durrans discovered that many of its competitors think so.

“I happened to mention that our Yellow print ads are getting a lot of attention,” says Durrans, director of the Auckland Plumbers Group. “Over the next three or four days, other plumbers called me and asked if it was true.”

The leverage is the Yellow Directory, which after many years is still very much present and is seen by Durrans as essential to its business. It’s not the only marketing the group does with Yellow, but, he explains, it’s the most effective.

“We have been with Yellow for years and in the last 5 years they have transformed into a marketing agency specializing in digital, print and other forms of innovation. I strongly believe in good relationships with customers and suppliers – we also work very closely with Yellow on our marketing.”

Head of Yellow Sales, Franc van Staden and Andrew from Auckland Plumbers Group.  Photo / Included.Head of Yellow Sales, Franc van Staden and Andrew from Auckland Plumbers Group. Photo / Included.

What started as a fairly simple print ad campaign with Yellow a few years ago has now evolved to encompass many aspects of marketing – print, Google Ads, GDN, SEO, website blogs, landing page optimization, etc. Durrans meets the Yellow team on a monthly basis and oversees their marketing efforts in an ever-changing marketplace.

“We use unique phone numbers when listing in the yellow directory,” he says. “So if we get a call on one of those numbers, we know where it’s coming from. Because we can track everything, I can tell you that we get fewer calls per dollar from Google Ads than we do from Yellow. We are undoubtedly where we get our best return on investment.”

Auckland Plumbers Group has Auckland Central, North, East, West and South as its geographic market. Their services include all types of everyday and emergency plumbing, gas plumbing, plumbing, plumbing, plumbing, hot water and roofing, with a focus on the maintenance rather than the new construction side.

“As a result, many of our customers are homeowners,” he says, “and are more likely to use the Yellow List – and they do. Obviously younger people are more likely to use more modern methods, but homeowners are, by definition, older people – and I want them to see our brand in that.

“Of course we also use digital; but I think there are a lot of people who feel a bit bombarded by digital advertising. Just the other day I decided to turn off my email for half a day. When I turned it back on, I had 67 emails waiting for me — and half of them were ads for things I didn’t need or want.”

Durrans has owned the Auckland Plumbers Group for nine years and has grown the business significantly in that time. When he took over, the company had four installers on the road serving customers: “Now we have 13 on the road and one support team in the office (in Onehunga).

Andrew Durrans of the Auckland Plumbers Group.  Photo / Included. Andrew Durrans of the Auckland Plumbers Group. Photo / Included.

“When people ask where our offices are, I say we have 13 of them – and they’re always in different locations. Plumbers just don’t need to be in the office, all the information they need that comes from their job is transmitted digitally, so we embraced the digital age that way too.”

Yellow focuses on SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises), the powerhouses of our economy; 97 per cent of all New Zealand businesses have 20 employees or fewer and these 480,000 SMEs employ around a third of all Kiwis and account for around 29 per cent of our GDP.

They are also among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis – and according to Durrans, Auckland Plumbers Group has endured a drop in its business to 25 per cent of normal volume.

“It was a really, really tough time but we got through it by pulling the team together and making all the sacrifices; everyone gave at least a little – and we came out with this strong commitment to each other and to the company on the other side.”

With only “essential” jobs being able to run during the lockdown, the company had a long list of jobs for the doors to reopen and has been busy with Yellow’s input ever since.

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