Charlie Mullins, founder and CEO of Pimlico Plumbers speaks to us about how branding is the integral to any business and how you can reach new heights with a strong brand.
When I set up Pimlico Plumbers I quickly realised what branding really means. Having a recognisable name is one thing, but your brand has to have a strong and positive reputation, which comes from everything you do in a business. Plumbing has been blighted by cowboys who dragged the name of our beloved industry through the mud. I made a conscious effort to change that and make plumbing a respectable trade.
The two best advocates for a business and its brand are its staff and its customers. Treating a customer well who then recommends the business to their friends is better than spending ten grand on advertising. That’s why the fundamentals of a business have to be right and that includes making sure every stage of a job is delivered correctly.
This was my aim from the very start to overcome the stereotype of the unreliable, unprofessional plumber. I created a handbook for all our staff that not only sets out working practices of the business, but what is expected of our people. Thanks to the ‘Pimlico Bible’ you’ll never see a builder’s bum on a Pimlico engineer or a dirty Pimlico van. It sounds like common sense, but trust me, it ain’t always that common!
So if the fundamentals are right, a business owner can be confident with their brand and make it stand out. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of eye-catching brands out there, but too many are style over substance and if they can’t back up the talk, then the business, and the brand, will be badly damaged.
At Pimlico we have built our brand on our expertise and ability to deliver what we promise. We have then embraced a wide range of ideas to market our offering to potential customers, which included some of the following.
Firstly, decide on a unique selling point. Work out what the organisation stands for and stick to that core ethos in business transactions. Business owners need to make it the aim of their marketing effort to get that message across to their customers – and that means anybody they can reach. The guy who never buys a bean from you might inadvertently refer your biggest ever order over lunch after liking something he read about the business.
Therefore, embrace social media and PR. More than anything else in the past decade the use of social media has changed the way companies put their names into the public consciousness.
Post on industry and consumer sites and understand that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are not just for kids. Perhaps hack out a niche for yourself by writing a blog and link it up to other social media channels to obtain the maximum penetration.
Any external PR has to be engaging so business owners shouldn’t be afraid to have strong opinions. Sure, they need to be careful what they say when the tape recorder is running, but sitting on the fence won’t get them in the papers or on TV and radio. People like interesting characters who are unafraid to say what they think, even when they don’t necessarily agree with them.
There are loads of free promotional opportunities for those that have the guts to get out there, so business owners shouldn’t be afraid of sticking their head above the parapet. Our 24/7 media culture requires experts and opinions on all manner of subjects and the majority of people are afraid to take the plunge.
Of course, there are extremely good opportunities available to businesses that embrace social media, but they shouldn’t become obsessed with it – not every customers is hooked on the digital world.
Memorable signage on your place of business, well-branded vehicles, and unique and memorable traditional media advertising are still invaluable. My collection of plumbing-based number plates and adverts in the local paper are still invaluable to the business.
Charlie Mullins is the founder and CEO of Pimlico Plumbers, the country’s most recognised plumbing and home services company.