3 Quirky Online Marketing Tips My Plumber Taught Me



It happened in the shower.

I was singing my heart out when I decided to turn the hot water up just a tad.

Bad idea.

As I turned the knob to adjust the temp… …the whole thing came off in my hand!

I just stood there for a minute, staring at the broken knob in my hand. All that was left of its connection to the wall was a tiny piece of metal that didn’t look very promising. And what was even worse – I had made the water too hot!

I couldn’t adjust the temperature or turn off the water.

I couldn’t even finish my shower. What the heck was I supposed to do now?

I bit the bullet, hopped out of the shower, and finished washing up with water from the sink. Then I called a plumber.

Barney showed up that afternoon. To be honest, we just didn’t click. It wasn’t anything in particular that he said or did – his visit just felt awkward and uncomfortable.

He got the job done for a reasonable price, which was awesome. But I knew I’d never call him again – our personalities just didn’t mesh.

Now that my shower was working, I didn’t think about Barney again…until the next week.

That’s when an email newsletter from him showed up in my inbox.

It wasn’t the most professional-looking thing in the world, but it had a certain kind of charm.

He included a few plumbing tips, a couple corny jokes, and even a recipe, along with a few updates about his plumbing business and a coupon.

I skimmed it quickly, chuckled once or twice, and then moved on, forgetting about Barney again.

Until the next week.

The next newsletter was just as charming, and this time, I realized that I didn’t feel so strongly about never calling Barney again anymore.

He seemed like a nice enough guy in these emails – maybe I had just been having a bad day.

As the emails continued coming every week, I actually began to look forward to them. I thought about Barney differently now – heck, I was almost starting to get fond of the guy!

Then one week, he used some of the space in his newsletter to recommend his good buddy, an electrician named Andrew.

And then I realized, I knew Andrew, too!

I had called him to come fix an outlet that had stopped working, and not only had he done a great job, we had hit it off right away.

It made me think, If Barney and Andrew are friends, then Barney must be a much cooler guy than I realized!

But here’s the really crazy thing.

About a month and a half after he had fixed my shower, there was a knock at my door.

It was Barney!

I was taken completely by surprise. I hadn’t called him, and wasn’t having any plumbing issues. What on earth was he doing at my place?

He explained that he had come to apologize. When he had originally fixed my shower, the new hot water knob he had installed actually didn’t match the working cold water knob already there. It was only a slight difference in shape, and he hadn’t noticed till the job was already done. hadn’t even noticed. But the fact that he hadn’t done his best work had weighed on him, so he had ordered the right knob and brought it by to install, free of charge, since he happened to be in the neighborhood anyway.

I was dumbfounded.

Who does that?!

Who goes out of their way to own up to a mistake when they could have gotten away with it? And then spends time and money making it right?

Barney, that’s who.

Needless to say, Barney is now my right-hand man when it comes to plumbing issues. I’ve had to call him a few times since then, and I’ve gotta say, I really like the guy.

This whole thing got me thinking, though. Barney got me to do a full 180˚ on the way I felt about hiring him again. How had some corny jokes in a newsletter and a new knob made me see him so differently?

So I did some research. And I found a few important takeaways from Barney’s actions.

See, Barney had used some common principles of psychology to make me like him – principles that anyone can incorporate into their own marketing plan.

These concepts have been proven through scientific research to make people like you more.

Here’s how you can use them to win over customers, as well.

First, hang out with them.

There’s a certain phenomenon psychologists have dubbed the propinquity effect. It’s defined as the simple fact that people like what they’re familiar with.

A study done back in 1950 demonstrated just how powerful this effect really is. Researchers randomly assigned 270 students to various rooms in a multi-building dorm at MIT. After a few months, the researchers polled them to find out who their three closest friends were.

Guess how many of the people they considered close friends were from the same building? A full 65%! And even more conclusive, 41% actually lived just one door down. Simply being exposed to a person on a regular basis made them more likeable.

I didn’t actually spend time with Barney, but those weekly newsletters made me feel like I was in contact with him on a regular basis. He was in my thoughts at least once a week, so I gradually got used to him.

Your business can tap into this powerful principle too, simply by staying in touch on a regular basis. Send those emails, hold webinars, post on social media – do anything that puts you in front of your audience again and again, until they’re used to you.

Because once they’re used to you – they’ll like you more.

The second principle? Make friends with their friends.

The next psychological principle Barney used was one called triadic closure. This one means that two people are more likely to be closer friends if they both share a third friend in common.

People like closing gaps in their social networks, and having a third friend in common gives them even more reason to trust each other. So it makes sense that Barney knowing Andrew made me feel better about Barney.

How can you use this principle to your advantage?

Connect with an influencer.

Choose a well-known figure in your industry, and develop a relationship with them.

It might start out with some social media banter, then morph into a guest blogging opportunity, and finally, evolve into a joint webinar. Or you might just agree to promote each other’s products in your own emails or social media posts.

Whatever course your friendship takes, it will benefit you both. Why? Because people in your audience who already liked that influencer will now like you even more, knowing that you two are connected – and vice versa.

And finally…spill your coffee.

Yep, you read that right – spill your coffee.

See, researchers did an experiment to see how making mistakes affected the way a person was perceived by others.

They told participants in a study to listen to a recording of a quiz show. In the recording played for one group, the quiz show host could be heard spilling his coffee, and then reacting to the mistake. In the recording played to the control group, everything was identical – except for the fact that the host didn’t spill his coffee.

Then participants were asked to rate the host’s likeability.

The host who spilled his coffee was perceived as significantly more likeable than the one who didn’t!

The results of this experiment led to the development of what’s now called the Pratfall Effect.

This principle states that someone seen as generally competent is made more likeable when he or she makes a mistake.

So, being a generally competent plumber who had done a good job, when Barney admitted his mistake to me, it made me like him more.

You can use this principle in your own marketing strategy, as well. Don’t be afraid to own up to missteps when they happen.

Instead, tell your audience what happened, and then make it right.

Not only will they be glad that the issue has been resolved, but they’ll like you more – just for being human.

Would you like help putting these psychological principles into practice for your business? Contact Zen Media today!


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