The Two Types of Plumbers and How to Market to Each

During my days working directly on the ground in plumbing installation and maintenance, I have quickly noticed a difference between two types of plumbers.

The difference isn’t in what they wear or even how they talk. It was in how they think about the job, what incentives they have, what they buy, and, most importantly, why they buy.

In fact, you will even find these plumbers buying the same products for vastly different reasons. Sometimes the differences are subtle but including that subtlety in your marketing can help you zero in on exactly who will want your products.

So here they are, the two different types of plumbers…

  1. Owner Plumbers
  2. Employee Plumbers

Now I know what you are thinking, that obvious distinction is obvious. But I am not really talking about their job titles, I am talking about their mindset. It is their mindset that guides how they think about making purchases, how they decide between different products, and how they decide where to buy things.

An Owner Plumber is someone who takes ownership of his work. Someone who is responsible for how much time and money are spent on a job or project. Someone who has to look at the numbers and be responsible for them. Their pay is determined by how well and how quickly they work. Sometimes the incentive structure is in place so that even employees have this kind of mindset. And some employees have this mindset because they know it is better for their career.

Employee Plumbers are more task-oriented. They want jobs to go smoothly. They don’t want to have to do more work than is necessary. They don’t want to get dirtier than necessary. (Owner Plumbers have these same motivations, but they are not on the same level as the motivations listed above.) Employee Plumbers want to be responsible for their part of a job and not responsible for anyone else’s. Their pay is generally determined by how much they work and not necessarily how well or quickly they work.

How then should I sell?

Great question. Here are a few guidelines with examples to help you refine your sales messages depending on who you are selling to.

Owner Plumbers:

As with any sales message, you will want to pitch the emotional solution your product provides first and then help your prospects justify their decision rationally. Remember what Owner Plumbers have going on in their minds…low-profit calculations, awkward interactions with customers that are frustrated with the price, employees not working quickly and effectively.

Owners primarily want solutions to these problems. They are more interested in profit margins than whether or not a job is easy. They want to deliver top-notch work AND get paid for it on time with no haggling on price. They want their employees to work as hard as they do and make every job profitable.

If you were marketing a toilet to an owner, you would want to lead off by describing the time saving, profit-boosting power of your specific toilet. Highlight how it can make the emotional problems in the previous paragraph go away.

Then, once they have the emotional solution in their mind, give them the facts and figures that show how all this can be possible. Highlight how it installs easier, faster, simpler than any other toilet on the market, how it’s manufacturing cost savings are passed along, how it will justify the price to customers.

Employee Plumbers:

Employee plumbers are more concerned with the little frustrations that affect them in their everyday work. They want to keep their boss happy, have something impressive to show the customer, and not have to expend all their energy on one project.

If you were marketing that same toilet to employee plumbers, you would want to lead off with how your toilet doesn’t require the same tedious installation procedure other toilets do, how it will make their jobs go smoother with less frustration, and how they will be able to get back into their truck quicker.

Then, with the emotional solution in mind, offer the mechanisms that make your toilet install smoother, that keep them off their knees as long, and that help make the whole job go off without surprises.


 This all may seem kind of nebulous. But that is because it is hard to narrow down a person’s mind to a list of bullet points. It is an entire mindset and worldview that has been shaped by 40-50 hour weeks of plumbing. This brings up a broader point about marketing: the best marketing doesn’t happen when we have the customer persona characteristics memorized. The best marketing happens when we understand how the characteristics work together to form an entire view of the world.

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