This past October, a select group of social media influencers that represent small or mid-sized, light commercial plumbing contractors attended a Watts two-day “Social Media Summit” at the company’s North Andover, Mass. and Franklin, N.H. locations. Guests included Mechanical Hub’s very own Eric Aune @mechanicalhub; Paige Knowles @plumber_paige; Travis Abaire @t.a.p.plumbingandheating; Matt Fleming @allstarplumbinginc; Evan Berns; and Chris Sbrocco @chris_sbrocco.
The purpose of the summit was to develop Watts’ own “rolodex” of online influencers who could help build Watts product excitement and awareness. Hosting a social media influencer summit provided the potential to deepen Watts’ social media influencer connections, assist in digital marketing, and gain contractor-level voice of customer. “Watts welcomed the group plumbers to discuss how social media can play a role in learning and collaborating within the plumbing and piping industry,” said Aune.
Guests were initially greeted to a hearty welcome from Watts CEO, President, and Chairperson of the Board, Bob Pagano. “We were greeted warmly by members of the Watts social media and marketing team, and heard a message from CEO Pagano about his vision for what’s coming next at Watts,” said Berns.
Following the opening remarks from Pagano, by an open dialogue on influencer benefits was held hosted by Ryan Kiscaden, Manager, Sales Enablement, with a quick breakdown of the Watts family of products from Shashwat Nath of the Watts Product Team. “After touring their state-of-the-art facility, we were able to ask questions and get our hands on products in their training room,” said Berns.
Abaire continued, “I’ve always liked the products that Watts put out, but to see firsthand the level of care, precision, and pride that actually goes into making their products gave me a whole new level of respect and trust in the Watts brand.”
In the afternoon of that first day, the group toured the mechanical rooms and learning center and met with Greg Gyorda, Director of Training, and members of the Watts training team, including Kari Stocks, Training Campaign Manager. “Watts has built a world-class training facility at their headquarters where hands-on technical training is a main focus,” said Aune.
Moreover, “I was impressed with the training facility, as I didn’t realize how many brands are under the Watts umbrella. They had a bit of everything at the training facility to check out and with which to get hands-on,” said Fleming.
Day one concluded with some authentic Boston flavor. “The Watts team showed us some of what Boston has to offer with a tour of Sam Adams brewery and a Boston Bruins game,” said Berns.
On the second day, the group took a one-hour trip to Watts’ Franklin Manufacturing Facility in Franklin, N.H. This facility is a center of excellence in manufacturing Watts’ specialty products that require some level of fabrication. This includes Watts-branded plumbing flow control products. The products that are manufactured at this state-of-the-art, lean facility are used worldwide in various residential and commercial applications. “We were able to tour their incredible manufacturing facilities, and got a look at the many steps that the Watts products go through before we see them on the shelf. It was great to see some of the smiling faces behind the products that we all know and love,” said Berns.
Tour guide Pete Bertagna captivated the group with some of the foundry’s processes, including how the world-renowned backflow preventers are made. “The Franklin factory tour gave us the opportunity to assemble our own backflow preventer from the parts manufactured on site; it was so cool to see the whole process from start to finish,” said Aune.
Fleming concurred, “The factory was also cool seeing all the backflow preventers that I’ve installed for years actually come to life.”
There is a need to continue to simplify plumbing systems and experiences over time. Online social media influencers are a “cog in the wheel” to positively influence the next generation and change perceptions. The Social Media Summit and those content creators that participated are cogs on the Watts messaging wheel. There is a growing need for training programs and education and Watts is taking training very seriously and believe it is key to its success.
Overall impressions from the Social Media Summit:
- Eric Aune @mechanicalhub:
“Watts has been present in the industry for decades longer than my 25-year plumbing and heating career. Connecting with people who make, design and distribute the products was a special experience of which I’m thankful to have taken part.”
- Matt Fleming @ allstarplumbinginc:
“At the end of the day, it was great to get to hang out with all my plumbing peers from across the country. I definitely value the friendships I’ve made through social media, and I always look for to an opportunity to hang with everyone.”
- Evan Berns @re.plumb
“The trip was a great opportunity to connect with some of the plumbing and heating industries leading professionals. Overall, it was a great event for Watts to get more involved with the online community and develop their social media presence.”
- Travis Abaire @t.a.p.plumbingandheating
“It was really a great and educational experience, and I’m thrilled I was asked to be a part of it.”
- Paige Knowles @plumber_paige
“I learned a lot about their environment and training opportunities. Seeing how backflow preventers were made, and being able to make one, was awesome!”