- THE MAGAZINE
(Editor’s Note: ICS contributor John Braun witnesses first-hand the devastation of the torrential rain and flooding from a few weeks ago in Pensacola, FL. Here’s his personal story on how the weather impacted him, as well as how he used this unfortunate situation to market his company’s water damage restoration services.)
Floods can come at any time. When they come, will your company be ready? If you've ever had your city devastated by heavy rain, you know the importance of preparedness. Here's my story of a recent flood catastrophe in Pensacola, FL I personally experienced and how my cleaning company handled it:
It started when my wife, four kids and I turned off the television to marvel at the beautiful lightning dancing through the sky. Being from Florida, we're used to lightning, but this lightning storm was epic. And it almost made me forget about the threat of rain. My home isn't in a flood zone, so my concern was making sure my company was ready to do water restoration in the morning.
After hearing about the record rainfall, my first plan of action included making a post on my company Facebook page with an infographic that gave tips on what to do if your home got flooded. Between friends and Facebook fans, this post was passed around to over 6,000 people. The same information was scheduled to broadcast via e-mail to my clients the next morning.
My next course of action was to place "Flood Service Clean-up! Call 474-1133" at the top of the home page of my website. I wanted to make sure it was known that we could help those who had flood emergencies. Once this was set, I placed a small Google Adwords campaign to target keywords like "water damage,” “water restoration,” “flood clean-up” and “water extraction." Our company website ranks naturally for these terms, but a small pay-per-click campaign can help boost exposure.
I did all of this in less than 30 minutes before I knew how bad it was about to get. As we were watching the lightning, my wife thought she saw water in our back yard. I shrugged her off and said it was just rain. Later, we went downstairs to put the kids in bed. Our main level is on the second floor, while the first floor is where two bedrooms, a den and my office are located.
To my horror, I opened the back door to find rising water about 8 feet away from my house. I couldn't believe this was happening. We quickly began putting items up on beds and bringing a few important items upstairs. Ten minutes later, I opened the back door again. As I opened the door, water immediately rushed into my house.
This was it. We were flooded. We quickly grabbed the kids and other items we wanted to save. Within minutes, the entire downstairs was covered in a couple inches of water. From there, it took less than an hour for 3 feet of water to rise into my home.
What caused the flood? Twenty-five inches of rain within 24 hours, which set a record for Pensacola, FL. The small creek, a few hundred yards downhill from my home, had a dam break several miles upstream at the local paper mill. Once the dam broke, the tiny creek became a raging river. The water quickly subsided within a few hours, but not before causing millions of dollars in damage to the neighbors below.
Homes and businesses that were never at risk of flooding were now flooded. Roads were washed out. Some of my neighbors climbed in their attics to escape the rising water. At least three people drowned on roadways. We were fortunate enough to seek refuge on our second floor, all the while praying the water wouldn't continue to rise.
By early the next morning, the water was receding and restoration began. We immediately began removing wet books, beds and other saturated items. Next was the carpet and pad removal. That night I made a call to my friend and member of my Ad Coaching Club, Jorge Villalobos, who owns The Best Restoration in Gainesville, FL. He arrived at my home the following day with a crew who, over the coming week, did quite a bit of restoration work.
Jorge's crew immediately removed all the drywall 4 feet from the floor. After cleaning up the debris, they applied an antimicrobial all over the concrete floor and exposed studs. And last, two generators were set up to run four low grain dehumidifiers and five air movers. We had no electricity for five days following the flood.
A neighbor asked if we could do the restoration project at his home, so we began immediately. The scenario was similar, except he had 7 feet of water. When water raises this high, there is risk for sewage backup, so we took extra precautions. A thorough application of antimicrobial was used as we initially entered the building. Gloves and masks were also used to reduce exposure.
In this home, we removed all the walls, but left the ceiling in place. Kitchen cabinets were removed, bathroom cabinets, a hot water heater and some of the air ducts that hung lower than the ceiling. Repeated applications of antimicrobial and disinfectant were put down to reduce mold and health risks. Four large low grain dehumidifiers and four air movers were brought in for drying. Later, a small desiccant dehumidifier was brought in to dry the area under the staircase. And as you may have guessed, we needed to use generators to power this equipment.
After these projects were underway, we started responding to all the calls we were getting from our already established marketing efforts. Our schedule was filled with work and our shop was filled with wet area rugs. We had rugs covering every inch of our 2,100 square foot facility. I literally had rugs hanging over my desk for a few days.
My FREE Offer
Being that many homeowners in my own neighborhood had flooding, I wanted to offer something special. So a week after the flood, I created a flyer that offered them a FREE thermal image moisture inspection. Along with this, I included a card that explained the benefits of thermal image inspections. We also mentioned this offer on a community Facebook page. This got our phone ringing off the hook once again for water restoration work.
In addition, when we went out to a home, we would always give the homeowner a brochure called "How to Handle a Water Damage Emergency." This brochure helped to educate and set us apart from all the handymen who thought they were water restoration "professionals."
In the coming weeks, we'll mail out an Every Door Direct Mail piece and client newsletter that further educates about water damage. Consumers these days are much more sophisticated in educating themselves. They look for educational information, especially during a crisis like this.
Be ready! When heavy rain comes, you don't want to fumble around wondering how to get work. Have your brochures, mailers and cards ready to go. And have a marketing plan on how you'll communicate with your prospects and clients who really need you during this time. For me, it was tough to go through this. But business must go on! I hope you never have a flood of this proportion in your city, but I advise you to create a plan now. It's better to prepare for something that never happens than to not prepare for something that does.