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How much does it cost to clear a blocked drain in Sydney in 2024?

A brief look at the nonsense that plays out on google search for blocked drain advertising in Sydney

How much to clear a blocked drain in Sydney

If you have ever searched for “blocked drain [insert your city]” you have probably seen a few ads like the ones above.

Wow! what a great deal, for less than $100 you can get your drains unblocked, too good to be true almost…
spoiler alert… it is, let me explain why.

Let’s do the math…

I want to see if we can make these numbers add up. Let’s invent a hypothetical company, we shall name it “Dodgy Brothers Plumbing Pty. Ltd.” or DBP for short. Let’s assume that DBP pay their plumbers the lowest wage they can legally get away with & have 0 operating costs (office, insurances, admin staff, servicing of equipment etc.)

Lowest legal wage for plumber in NSW – $35 p/h (Any decent plumber is earning more than this, but lets go with the award rate).

Cost for labour on travel time – 30 minutes each way = 1hr @ $35

Cost for petrol – Ute/van with a load – 18L per 100km of urban driving @ avg. 22kms (round trip) x $2.05 per litre = $8.11

Avg. toll cost – 2 ways @ $6.05 = $12.10

Avg. time to do the job – 1 hr @ $35 p/h = $35

So far total out of pocket costs for DBP = $90.21

So we’re already losing money…and Google surely didn’t give that lead for free, so how did the job lead come about?

We are testing Google Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads so let’s take a look at Google’s keyword planner to get a rough idea how much the boys owe for that lead.

Holy smokes batman! An average of $40.41 per click!

That’s right, every time you ‘google’ & click any of these search terms, DBP credit card gets debited ~$40.41 all whilst Google’s balance sheet income column appreciates by the same amount.

We’re based in Sydney, so let’s use this as an example. Sydney is a little crazy with pay-per-click advertising for plumbers, a tuned landing page, with good copy and compelling ad headlines, will attract a conversion rate of between 10-17% – that’s 10-17 phone calls for every 100 clicks or in money terms:

$4,041.0 in ad spend / ~17 phone calls =  $237.71 per phone call (what a bargain)

Assume 75% of those phone calls (or every 1.35 calls) convert into paying customers :

Total actual cost for a conversion = $320.90

Now where does that leave us?

Labour / tolls / petrol = $90.21
Advertising = $320.90
Total DBP Pty. Ltd. out of pocked expenses to unblock a blocked drain= $411.11

Wow! so you mean to they charge me $69 for something that costs them $411.11?

Are your spidey senses tingling yet? They should be…

And that’s not the half of it….

Let’s not forget, we still haven’t added in general overheads such as plant & equipment repayments & maintenance or servicing / office rent (or mortgage) / admin staff / public liability / workers compensation insurance / employee entitlements / GST / accounting costs / equipm ent maintenance & depreciation… I can keep going, but I think you get the idea by now, i.e.

  •  A  plumbing business advertising on PPC will need to recoup operating & advertising expenses whilst still turning a profit (making those “$69 unblocked drain special” ads appear pretty doubtful)

 

There’s one of 3 things going on here:


1. Sydney plumbing companies are the most charitable businesses on the planet
2. Sydney plumbers cant read the ROI section of their marketing reports and are losing thousands every day

3. Our industry is in a race to the bottom of dodgy “bait and switch” pricing tactics and everyone is copying each other

I’ll let you make your own mind up about which of the 3 is going on here.

How does the “Bait and Switch” pricing work?

There are two ways these generally play out:

  1. Advertising the price to unblock a toilet with a plunger:
    "the toilets fine, its your drain you want unblocked silly billy, that's not $90 that's $800...card or cash?"
    
     -  DBPS employee
     

    At best this practice is misleading, at worst it’s just plain old false advertising.

    or

  2. The price excludes lots of (non optional) extra costs which will be added later:
    "yeah so that $90 covers the costs for me to wish the blockage away whilst driving here, using (lots of) actual equipment is extra sorry"
    
     -  DBP employee
     

    A customer in this scenario will be expected to pay for “extras” like: travel costs (e.g. $120) / use of drain cleaning machine (e.g. $400) / drain camera (e.g. $250) / “it’s a two man job” (e.g. $180)  / obtaining footage (e.g. $75) etc. misleading at best, potentially drip pricing at worst.

Both these strategies have the same simple goal. To get ‘a foot in the customers door’ then deliver the well rehearsed sales pitch on a more expensive service – or –  wait to explain the full costs once on-site (got to get those advertising dollars back somehow, right?).

So, what should someone who needs a blocked drain plumber be looking for?

Rather than continue to call out other companies for what they’re doing wrong (note – I purposefully not mentioned specific company names etc. in this article). Instead, let’s discuss what the good plumbing companies out there are doing right:

– Realistic about costs (and preferably display them on their website)

– Include as many costs as they practically can in their price (e.g. call out costs, use of drain camera etc.)

– Plumbers are happy (must be dispiriting having to deliver the bad news about the real costs on every job)

– Don’t force their staff to deliver pushy and rehearsed sales pitches

– No history of bulk online reviews from people who have only ever written 1 review (for obvious reasons)

– Not targeting overly competitive PPC keywords (I’m a big fan of Google & I love PPC, but the numbers simply don’t work in Sydney unless you plan on charging $600 to unblock a drain – no thanks, I like seeing my customers in public without having to cross the road).

It’s simple, right?

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