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Building a $375k/month Digital Marketing Agency for Plumbing and HVAC Businesses

Learn how Josh built his seven-figure marketing agency from scratch.

1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?

My name is Josh Nelson. My business is Plumbing and HVAC SEO. We’re a digital marketing agency that specializes in working with plumbing and HVAC contractors. I help them increase their sales, maximize their lead flow by getting their internet marketing right, like their website SEO page search and the whole nine yards.

I started my first digital marketing agency back in 2000 right after I graduated from high school and it was going to be a web design and hosting company. I ran that for about 2 years working 40-60 hours every single week, doing the very best I could, but just never made any money, even to pay myself.

I was selling a website for $750-1000 and charging $9.95/month to host it. It was just my mindset – I didn’t know how to charge. What I was offering didn’t add much value. If I sold five clients any given month, I would make about $5,000. If I had no expenses of that, it might’ve been okay for a young guy, but I had to take out a large amount of expenses in order to market it: buying leads from lead services, participating in BNI and other networking groups etc.

I had a business partner and we had got an office (for whatever reason). We had all of these expenses and even if we had a great month and sold 9 websites, we still didn’t have much profit. So for the better part of 2 years, I ran around like a crazy person trying to make money in my agency and really would’ve made a lot more money if I had just worked at Starbucks. But I learned a lot. And that business ultimately failed. 

After I wrapped up college, I decided it was time to move on and make a career. I was about to get married, I was graduating college. I folded that business up and it was a tough thing to do because I had borrowed money from my dad in order to make the business work, only to realize it wasn’t going to work.

At the time I was really distressed about the situation. I started to believe I was not meant to be an entrepreneur, that I don’t have what it takes to run a business and so I should just get a job, do my best to make a good income for my family.

The reason I restarted the business was because I worked in B2B for several years. I worked for ADP and a couple big companies selling business to business-related services, and I did pretty well. I made decent money between $40,000 to as much as $90,000 per year in the various positions I was in.

I started researching and came across one of the big paper Coke management companies, reached local at the time. They had just made the Inc 500 list for however many years in a row. 

I thought, Oh my goodness, this is an internet marketing company serving local businesses and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try and get a job for this company

That way I can learn and do what I want to do, which is being in a marketing agency environment. I reached out to those guys. I found an opportunity at their local office and took a big pay cut. But I was all in and I worked there for a little over a year and did really well. I was one of the top sales guys in my local office.

It changed my mindset from my old agency. It was a great learning experience for me. 

After being there again for about a year and a half, learning and having success selling the services, I got a little disenchanted because I started to think it’d be great if I had my own company because I know I can do more for the clients to get them a better ROI. 

Armed with that, I decided to go back and start my own company. I started Clic Inc, an internet marketing company that was going to be focused on SEO, setting up websites and getting it ranked, helping them generate a tangible, measurable return on their investment. So that was where we started. 

We thought we were going to go after any local business in the area with vertical focus, like restaurants, eye doctors, plumbing, etc, but didn’t get a lot of traction in any except plumbing. 

We quickly decided that rather than trying to be a generalist agency serving everybody, it would be much easier to focus on one particular vertical plumbing and be the very best in that space. Use our case studies, user testimonials, develop real expertise or we know exactly how the plumbing business works, how to get them results and how to knock it out of the park for them on a consistent basis. 

Our minimum viable product was $997 per month. We would set up a website for them, we would do all the on-page optimization to get ranked for their most important keywords. For $1250 a month, we would also post their social profiles through Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus on a monthly basis. 

We were aggressively going after the plumbers across the country, using our one or two successful case studies. That was the starting point that blossomed the company’s growth since then. 

We do $375,000 per month in recurring revenue. We did about $4.3 million last year and we’re shooting for $5 million this year. We have a team of 28 full-time employees and various subcontractors. We do have a brick and mortar office in Miami, Florida where we’ve got a true team of account managers, web developers, content team, etc. 

We even made the Inc 5,000 on the fastest-growing companies in the United States the last 4 years in a row, which was a fun accomplishment. 

In terms of structure, my co-founder and I initially wanted to work from home, but we realized we’re going to provide world-class service. We needed to get an office and a team in front of us to manage the service we were providing. We don’t have a full virtual team. We’ve got an office with 8,000 square feet with 28 full time employees so our margins are not as thick as your typical virtual office company. But I feel really proud about what we do and the service we provide. In a net margin, we’re shooting for 30% total or account owner compensation.

2. How do you attract and retain your customers?

I reached out to people I’ve worked with in the past and said: 

Hey, you know, I’m starting a new business. I really think we can help you love to chat again, meeting kind of took them through a consultant sales process. Here’s where you’re at today. Here’s where I think you could improve. Here’s what we could bring to the table. Here’s what we would charge. How does it sound? 

And I’m signed up right on the spot. Today we’ve got a pretty comprehensive marketing strategy: 

  • We published our book, The Complete Guide to Internet Marketing for our plumbing and HVAC contractors. 
  • We do informational webinars on a monthly basis that we can send out to the database.
  • We joined the various associations and the plumbing and HPAC trade, so we’ve got access to their database, and their meetings.
  • We email them, invite them to webinars, and send out case studies. 
  • We run Facebook Ads and pay-per-click advertising, targeting the plumbing and HVAC contractors. 
  • Association involvement drives the best clients. Putting out content on a consistent basis that positions us as the go-to experts, speaking at their events, and getting our book in their hands has worked exceptionally well as far as retention is concerned. 

3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?

The biggest lesson we had to learn was realizing that results alone don’t cause the client to stay. 

You have to have good results, have a good client-service relationship, and you have to be proactive with showing them results and continue to help them see that what you’re doing is productive, show them what’s happening and why it’s working. 

I feel like the number one reason a client leaves is perceived in difference. Beyond that, it’s the sense that there’s something better. Someone’s always knocking on their door trying to get their attention, so you have to constantly be showing them your value. Put a client relationship team in place, make sure your clients are getting monthly review calls that you can talk about some wins and what’s coming next.

4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?

I’m a massive believer in learning and I engage in a lot of different masterminds and different training programs. Some of the best books that have really had the biggest impact: 

  • The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. Amazing book on how to position yourself and how to get clients coming in. 
  • Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. The entrepreneurial operating system has been a massive part of our leadership team as we went from 2 million to 4 million and beyond. It’s about having leaders on your team that can step in and take accountability for areas within the business. 
  • Traction by Gino Wickman outlines the entrepreneur operating system, commonly referred to as EOS. 

I also listened to audiobooks over the years. I listened to Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind and The E-Myth Revisited. All of them were telling me that to be successful and to have the kind of life that you want, you have to be in your own business, you have to create assets. I needed to figure out how to be a business owner. 

In The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T. Harv Eker talked about it in depth. One of the things he honed on was you don’t necessarily have to start your own business right out of the gates.

5. What is your advice for those who are starting productized services?

See Question 3!

6. What are your plans for the future?

To continue to grow the company. 

We want to be at 5 million by the end of this year. Our goal is to be at 10 million in the next three years, so we’re rolling out some new, innovative, things for the plumbing and HVAC space; not only just to land more clients, but to serve our existing clients better and help them drive even more revenue and profits in their businesses. 

7. Where can we learn more about you?

If you want to learn more about me, Plumber SEO is my company. I also run a training organization called Seven Figure Agency where I train other digital marketing agencies how to grow and scale, how to choose a niche, position themselves as the expert and get clients to come to them pre-positioned to buy.

Twitter handle @joshnelsonimc

The best place to go would be SevenFigureAgency. There you got all my contact details, some training that I’ve put together, as well as my book. 

Feel free to reach out to me. You can look me up on Facebook. You can find me at sevenfigureagency.com and we’d love to answer any other questions that you might have.

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