ACHRNEWS

Contractors Marketing With YouTube

March 14, 2011

It only takes a visionary imagination and an inexpensive hand-held video camera to become a YouTube sensation. Just ask the many “ordinary” people (like teen sensation Justin Bieber) who have used the popular social network video website to promote themselves, their business, or an idea.

While videos on YouTube can become overnight hits with good marketing and originality, some businesses choose to market themselves by posting videos both on YouTube and on their own websites. “We have videos embedded in our website that we have created and posted on YouTube,” said Kevin Walsh of Schaafsma Heating & Cooling Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. “We started doing this about three years ago.”

Ricardo Matias of Four Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning, Chicago, said, “I think most people will tell you it was an easy call to use this type of marketing. [For us, it was] the popularity of YouTube and the fact that the commercials we had been running were really entertaining and funny. It seems that type of video would be funny no matter if you lived in Chicago or not.”

There are many other reasons - besides the entertainment value - to use videos in a public forum. If you want to promote your HVAC contracting business by video, there are some good examples already out there to follow.

Some contractors like National Furnace & Air Conditioning of Lincoln, Neb., post videos on YouTube to give customers tips on changing filters and routine maintenance. National’s Kathy Kroeker said her son is a web designer and has turned to YouTube for a lot of support. “Any time we have problems with anything, such as fixing an Xbox problem, there is always a YouTube video to help,” she said.

One contractor decided to use YouTube to look for employees - and expanded from there. “We started using videos to promote our business about four years ago,” said Rich Morgan of Magic Touch Mechanical Inc. of Mesa, Ariz. “The first one we made was an employment video we posted on jobing.com, which was well received, so we started making promotional videos shortly thereafter.

“It was a no-brainer to utilize YouTube as another marketing venue as we recognized the growth in YouTube users over a very short period of time, and it was acquired by Google a few years ago.”

Jeff Lee of Mechanical Heating & Cooling, Dearborn Heights, Mich., has become a YouTube “star” - with several videos posted online - and agrees that marketing through YouTube is a smart decision. “I’ve been using YouTube for the past 10 years with two different companies,” he said. “It’s like Google, the No. 1 video place and most recognized.”

Another contractor has used YouTube to educate consumers about the pitfalls of having work done by rip-off HVAC contractors. “We did an undercover scam operation with the Better Business Bureau and caught this company in the act of ripping off the elderly,” said Greg McAfee of McAfee Heating & Air Conditioning Co., Kettering, Ohio. “It was a two-part series and we put in on YouTube. It has had thousands of views.”

These are some of the reasons HVAC contractors use YouTube in their overall business marketing plan. Let’s look at some of the costs - time and money - involved in producing a video.

PRODUCING A VIDEO FROM SCRATCH

There are a few different approaches to producing a video for use as a marketing tool, whether the video is posted online at YouTube or embedded into a business website. The simplest and most cost-effective method is to make the video in-house, with nothing more than a $149 Flip™ camera and some good lighting. This camera is part of a family of cameras that can shoot videos up to four hours in length and in high definition ($239). Users can download the video directly to a computer and edit it using Flip software. The completed product can then be uploaded to YouTube and the process is complete. A one-minute video can become a finished YouTube product in less than an hour.

Some contractors, like National, prefer to use their own people to produce their videos. “At this time we want to use our own employees,” said Kroeker. “This will give the customer a personal touch. If they have seen this person in their home and see them on the video, it just builds that bridge of trust.”

Morgan said, “We do both, although there is no doubt that the professionally produced videos are much more effective. On average it costs around $1,800 to professionally produce a one-minute video.”

It is all about image for Thompson Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, Cincinnati. “A professional look is much more impressive and more clearly illustrates the quality you receive from Thompson,” said owner Wesley Holm. “My advice is to make the videos unique and professional.”

Matias said his company uploads various types of videos, such as when they were consulted for television interviews, news reports in which their company has been featured, as well as their own commercials, which have been produced by a production company they hired. “We’ve worked with several companies to produce our commercials and the key is to create your own message and let them add the creativity and production values,” he said. “Production costs would generally range from $1,500 to $3,000 for a 30- to 60-second video.”

Lee said he uses a professional company or TV station to produce 99 percent of his company’s videos, “unless I’m doing a ‘for fun’ project,” he added. “Quality is the main reason. I’d estimate that a 30-second commercial costs me about $575 to have produced.”

McAfee has two criteria to whether the video is produced in-house or professionally. “If we make a special production, we do our own, but if it’s a media news story, we use theirs,” he said. “It probably costs $700 to $2,500 to produce a 30- to 60-second video. “Just do it right, make it professional looking in high resolution, and you’ll be fine.”

Morgan also offered advice on producing a professional video. “Try to create videos that showcase something unique about your company or product that you are promoting,” he said. “You need to keep the viewer engaged, and a professional company can usually help in creating something that people are interested in watching.

“It’s OK to have a little fun with it and even make it a little cheesy. Our most viewed video to date (almost 15,000 views in two years) was intentionally corny and not only has it done well for us, it was a lot of fun to make.”

If HVAC contractors decide to make their own videos, Kroeker has simple advice. “Make sure lighting and sound are good and that your company name is visible,” she said.

Using search engine optimization (SEO) keywords in YouTube videos is important, too. The right words can help a video gain better exposure in Internet search engines. “Use the most pertinent keyword tags when uploading the video,” said Lee. “The video title is extremely important, too.”

Matias said HVAC contractors should have some patience if they expect to see immediate results from YouTube marketing. “You have to be patient when it comes to gauging YouTube results and the amount of views,” he said. “It will take some time before you see significant results. Make sure you have links to your videos on your website to help build traffic, and make visitors aware of your videos.”

BRAND AWARENESS

The goal of any good marketing plan is to generate positive brand awareness and name recognition. YouTube videos are certainly one way to accomplish that.

“Videos are just another opportunity to build brand recognition and raise top-of-mind awareness for your company,” said Morgan. “I definitely feel we benefit from using YouTube in our social media campaign. At the end of the day, when it comes time for a consumer to utilize our products and services, this adds another chance for them to think of us.”

McAfee agreed. “It’s all part of our branding package,” he said. “We’ve got to be there.

“The feedback from customers has been all good. They like the educational information we post.”

“For us, even though we do a lot of advertising, it’s always helpful to reinforce and promote the company brand by having other avenues to reach people,” said Matias. “You’re not just a name in the phone book, you can help customers identify with your company and get to see the people who work for you or your company’s message.”

Kroeker gave an example of the positive feedback her company got from a customer. “I e-mailed a link to our YouTube [video] to an older customer,” she said. “This was her response: ‘Kathy, thanks to you all for an effective video. I had no problems following all the steps. I needed that level of detailed instruction. Well done!’”

Matias said he is impressed by the growing number of views his company’s videos are getting. “We can see the number of views has grown from month to month with views ranging from the hundreds to the thousands,” he said. “Because we share the links to our videos on our website, we will get customers who let our techs know that the videos helped them decide on a certain service or they thought a particular video was interesting.”

Holm said people have reacted positively to his company’s educational videos but added, “It’s hard to quantify how much they have helped our business. But they have helped generate interest in some of our products. We plan to continue to use YouTube.”

Lee likes the additional exposure the videos get and plans to continue offering how-to videos in the coming years. He jokingly added, “I am a TV star, you know.”

Publication date: 03/14/2011