Will Housh
Will Housh

As a business owner, you’ve likely heard and even tried all the traditional marketing techniques to reach new customers, retain current customers, and increase your brand awareness.

These traditional approaches are necessary to keep the business afloat, but what about the things that will help your company grow? Over the years, I’ve tried many out-of-the-box marketing techniques to take my business to the next level and found some to be great successes and others total flops.

Here are four non-traditional marketing techniques that worked for me, as well as some lessons I learned about them along the way.

Daily Deal Services

Daily coupon services like Groupon and LivingSocial have become very common marketing strategies for small businesses. Within the heating and cooling industry, I have found offering simple services like duct cleaning, tune-ups, and energy audits work well in daily deal programs. It’s also a good idea to run multiple campaigns that are fun and appeal to a wide audience.

While these services present a great opportunity to introduce your company and brand to new customers, if you are not careful you could end up with only coupon customers that never become repeat, profitable customers.

Don’t be afraid of a loss leader like Groupon. View it and utilize it for what it is: a customer acquisition tool. Appropriately budget for the cost and compare it to the cost of other customer acquisition methods you use to see if it’s a worthwhile investment for your company.

Training your customer-facing team how to introduce additional services to new customers gained through these coupon services is a must if you want a strong return on investment (ROI). It’s also important to be prepared for the massive influx of customers you’ll inevitably receive. The first time my company sent out a Groupon deal, we did not fully anticipate and prepare for the more than 300 new customers. Additionally, our technicians weren’t prepared to upsell and convert discount coupon customers into profitable customers, so we lost out on a lot of potential business.

Pay-for-Performance Advertising

This type of advertising goes beyond the ads you see in the local paper — it is measurable, real-time advertising that can be carefully targeted to specific customer demographics. It is commonly referred to as direct-response advertising, where the cost varies with the results.

A very effective version of pay-for-performance advertising is pay-per-click, or PPC. You can reach a large number of new customers on the Web while only paying when they come to your website or call your phone number. In essence, more clicks equals more ad spend. This is much more measurable than general brand advertising that can’t be directly linked to results. Both types of advertising — traditional and digital — have their place, but if you have a limited budget, it’s best to start with performance-based, direct-response advertising.

To do this, open up a Google Adwords account, determine the best target keywords that your customers are searching for, and bid on them. It is best to find someone who has experience doing this when initially starting out, or you run the risk of spending a lot of money on clicks that don’t get results.

Facebook ads are another great option. Setting up an advertising campaign in Facebook can allow you to target your ads based on location, age, gender and will provide you with a comprehensive chart of data-based feedback to continually improve your campaign.

Utilize Local and Industry Media

Media outreach is another great marketing technique that a lot of HVAC business owners don’t think about. While it won’t necessarily bring a lot of immediate phone calls, it is very inexpensive when compared to the number of brand impressions you can get if done right.  Plus, your company website rankings should improve as digital press releases and articles link to your site.

There are two basic ways to approach media outreach:

1. Share news about your company. Drafting relevant and newsworthy press releases about your company is a common form of media outreach. Stay away from national and local wires, though. Instead, develop relationships with the local and industry media in order to get company news shared on their sites. Keep in mind company news needs to be something that directly affects the readers, or it won’t be considered a worthy piece to publish.

2. Contribute to the conversation. Investing ongoing time to developing media relationships will allow you to share story ideas with the media and even give you the opportunity to contribute pieces that demonstrate your thought leadership in the space. This is key to building credibility in the industry so consumers and peers see you as a trusted source.

Complementary Services

Using additional services that complement the core HVAC business can be a great marketing technique. In the past, we offered energy audits, duct cleaning, and indoor air quality systems as a lead-in for other services that required a larger investment. When considering this marketing technique, try to broaden your service offerings and blend the lower margin services with higher ones.

This technique proved very successful and helped us increase our average price per ticket dramatically. In the end, all of these complementary services resulted in additional new customers, more sales leads, and most importantly more equipment replacement jobs that we would not have gotten otherwise.

Whatever marketing techniques you choose, you should aim to reach the largest number of people within your target geography or demographic for the lowest price per impression, and always be focused on retaining the customers you have through savvy techniques that prove to cultivate loyalty.

Measuring, tracking, and driving business insights from your marketing efforts is a key component to sustained business success. Keep an eye out for part two on this topic when we explore the most important measurements to improve your overall marketing ROI.

Publication date: 12/8/2014