Making a Splash with Summer Marketing
Contractors aim to increase summer business and community visibility
Sweet, sweet summertime. The heat is in full swing and so are the HVACR trucks and vans. Now’s a good time to spread the word about your company, but what’s the best way to accomplish that?
Seasonal marketing offers up an opportunity to increase visibility throughout the community via promotions, sponsorships, special deals, and more. We asked a number of residential and commercial HVACR contractors how they were planning on marketing their businesses during the summer of 2017. Their answers ran the gamut of possibilities.
PROMOTIONS ARE PRIME
Consumers are much more apt to invest in large purchases, such as new air conditioners, when they feel they’re receiving a great deal. That’s why many residential contractors offer exclusive sales and promotions during the summer. These offers help get contractors in the door and tend to increase the likelihood of a sale.
Additionally, exclusive summer promotions and deals boost company visibility when community members are most active.
According to Vimala Ingram, communications director, American Residential Services (ARS), headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, summertime allows the company to offer deals that remind customers to service their a/c units to ensure they are running properly throughout the hot season.
“The ARS network often runs HVAC tuneup offers well into the summer because most customers delay scheduling tuneups until the first heat wave hits,” said Ingram. “However, if the systems haven’t been maintained properly, or if they are older than 10 years, often a repair or replacement is needed, not just a tuneup. Therefore, we also run certain amounts off of repair offers because our customers like the flexibility of having a versatile discount that can be used for a variety of HVAC issues.”
Summer promotions may make a desirable service more affordable, which helps to attract customers willing to purchase solely on price.
“We offer a lower diagnostic rate or a cost-savings service call coupon during the summer peak months,” said Eric Tessel, brand manager, CroppMetcalfe, Fairfax, Virginia. “We feel this approach works because once we have technicians in homes, they are able to build a rapport with customers, which helps build trust in our technicians, their recommendations, and the company overall.”
Technicians tend to be quite busy in the peak summer months as they are dispatched to an ongoing stream of service calls. Despite the full schedule, some contractors tend to push their limits in hopes of growing the company when the going is good.
“We’re focused on growth this summer,” said Steve Moon, president, Moon Air Inc., Elkton, Maryland. “Right now, we are waiving the response fee for a customer if they complete a repair. This has been a big hit for us, and people seem to be receptive to this idea. Also, we’re offering ‘Saturday Service Same Price.’ We have limited appointments in the summer, but customers can book a Saturday service for no overtime charge.
“Also, we created something called ‘Moon Money,’” he continued. “It’s like Kohl’s cash. You get 5 percent Moon Money back for each purchase you make. We just had a customer purchase a two-year service contract with a stack of Moon Money.”
While summer is a time when technicians tend to shine, raking in tons of service opportunities, some companies, such as CroppMetcalfe, spend the summer months focusing on its other departments.
“While the summer months keep our HVAC technicians busy, sometimes other departments need more attention,” Tessel said. “Last year, we partnered with the White House Historical Association for a ‘Christmas in July’ promotion. If a customer purchased one of the qualifying products or services, they received a 2016 White House Christmas ornament for free. These ornaments are very popular in our area, and the campaign was quite a success. We plan on doing something similar this year, as well.”
ALLOCATING ADVERTISING DOLLARS
Every company is different. Some go all out when it comes to summer advertising while others hold back because they can’t meet the existing demand.
Regardless, most owners will continue to market their companies to some degree in June, July, and August, but where exactly is the focus? Many contractors target online advertising, because it is malleable and easy to change.
“Online pay-per-click is a major driver of our summer leads,” Ingram said. “If online is paired with some broadcast media, it makes for a very successful integrated marketing campaign. It’s important to have multiple touch points throughout the customer journey. Online advertising can be adjusted in real time while direct mail requires a longer lead time and becomes a sunk cost after it’s printed and distributed,” said Ingram.
Moon recognizes that his customer demographic doesn’t have a huge online presence; therefore, this summer, he’s investing in other media and expects a sizable return on investment.
“I believe TV and radio are going to be big hits for us this summer,” he said. “We’ve made a big investment there and are stepping up our game. I don’t receive or look for services off of Facebook and neither do my customers — they’re older people, like me. So, my advice is to identify your customers and communicate to them on the platforms they use.”
Some HVAC companies tend to scale back on advertising during the summer because there isn’t a need to do so. It’s hot, people need air conditioning, and technicians are booked as a result.
“There are times during the summer peak months where we actually turn off advertising because we are simply too busy,” Tessel said. “So, the majority of our summer advertising is aimed at the types of marketing we can easily shut off and turn on based on availability.”
Ingram identified June and July as peak season for ARS’s HVAC service centers.
“We get a majority of our calls organically based on need,” she said. “However, it’s important to not be complacent with summer marketing spending because other HVAC providers are competing for their share of business, too. It’s also important we stay nimble with spending in case our service centers face staffing issues and don’t have enough people to handle leads. That is why we may cut back on direct mail expenditures and tweak online paid search advertising, as needed.”
In contrast, ColonialWebb, a Comfort Systems USA company and commercial (B2B) mechanical contractor, focuses its summer advertising budget on recruiting rather than promotions or sales.
“We are strategizing the best way to recruit new talent to our industry,” said Wendy Pike, sales and marketing development, ColonialWebb. “Whether it be social media, internal advertising, or having a strong presence at local schools and colleges, a large part of our target marketing budget this summer will be on recruiting.”
Summertime is a busy time for young families. Little league games dominate parks, parades stomp through the streets, and communities are connecting via various social events.
Many HVAC companies have identified these events as marketing goldmines and pledge their marketing monies accordingly.
For Moon Air, the summer season is packed full of opportunities to give back while gaining community awareness.
“We do a lot of different support marketing,” Moon said. “We built a float for the local special needs Challenger baseball league’s opening day festivities. This program pairs special needs children with mentors who help teach them the game of baseball. Because of their disabilities, the team had historically been unable to march with everyone else. So, we had them make signs, and we all put together a float for the team to ride on.”
In addition, Moon Air supports many other community organizations and institutions, such as the Union Hospital Breast Health Center in Elkton, Maryland. Each summer, Moon participates in the Pink Ribbon Race, a grand prix race throughout downtown Elkton. All the proceeds are donated to the hospital’s new cancer center.
Many local children have grown fond of Moon Air’s mascot, the Moonman. Moon’s daughter often dresses up in the costume and, along with a “circus of inflatables,” visits children’s birthday parties.
“If someone calls, the Moonman arrives,” Moon said. “And the Moonman comes complete with a ground crew that hands out presents and special gifts to the birthday boy or girl. Kids enjoy taking pictures with the Moonman, and while the party is still going on, we quickly develop these photos at our office and return to give them to the kids to take home in a magnetic frame with a coupon to put on their fridges. We also hand out temporary Moonman tattoos, which are a hot commodity. At every event we do, people are begging for the Moonman tattoos.”
In lieu of his previous success, Moon is determined to accelerate his marketing even further this summer.
“We’re expanding our budget by 200 percent this summer,” Moon said. “When the fish are biting, why pull in your hooks?”
Summer parades are a summertime tradition and favorite for community members and service companies.
“A few of our service centers have participated in parades throughout the summer,” Ingram said. “Parades, especially around the Fourth of July, are something many of our employees enjoy and like to be involved in.”
Moon likes to take the opportunity to get involved in many different parades. If he’s not sponsoring a little league float, he’s decorating a vehicle to ride in the parade, complete with the Moonman, of course.
“During the Fourth of July, we outfitted a convertible PT Cruiser and wrapped it up like the Moonman’s rocket, and the Moonman rode in the back. We roll out the Moonman’s rocket all the time and are able to use it for all different parades such as Christmas or Halloween, too.”
Many companies have found success expanding their brand awareness by sponsoring a summer sports team.
For CroppMetcalfe, giving back to the community by getting involved with local sports teams is a huge part of its summer marketing initiative and overall success as a company.
“We’ve partnered with several professional sports teams in the area, and we are also heavily involved with local youth athletics, as well,” Tessel said. “In our area, sports transcend demographics, as everyone has a favorite team and/or a child involved in athletics.
“The main summer team we sponsor would probably be the Washington Nationals,” Tessel continued. “We’ve been with them for about six years total, and while our marketing program includes stadium signage and digital media, the most valuable perk may be the large ticket bank we get to use throughout the year. We use the tickets to reward coworkers, as giveaways for customers, and for other promotions during the year.
“The chances of someone booking a service call at a game because they saw our billboard at Nationals Park behind Bryce Harper are pretty slim; however, the more they see our logo, the more familiar they are with us when they do have a service need,” Tessel continued. “We try to be as involved as we can to give back to the community that has contributed so much to the success of CroppMetcalfe.”
American Residential Services Columbia in South Carolina believes sports team sponsorships are part of the company’s core values. They have found the sponsorship to be a great way to remind hot baseball fans about air conditioners when they advertise with the Columbia Fireflies baseball team.
“Sports sponsorships encapsulate one of our three pillars for community outreach,” said Ingram. “One example is our sponsorship of the Columbia Fireflies. Due to the team’s association with Tim Tebow, who is also a celebrity endorser of ARS’s corporate headquarters, ARS Columbia partnered up to fund the sponsorship. Sports, in general, have a universal appeal. It’s smart to associate the local ARS service center with a local team or organization that has a loyal fan following.
“Particularly in the summer, outdoor sports, like baseball, provide great opportunities to remind fans and prospective customers about staying cool because the warm weather is already on everyone’s minds,” Ingram continued. “Our ARS service centers also find creative ways to engage fans by handing out fans with our branding and contact information or setting up ‘cool zones’ where fans can cool off under misters on hot days.”
In addition, ARS utilizes its mascot, “Dandy,” who Ingram said represents ARS’s team of front-line superheroes.
“We have a Dandy suit that some our employees will wear at local community events,” Ingram said. “It gets attention and always brings a smile to people’s faces. We also have Dandy dolls that we hand out to children at community events.”
Whether you’re zipping into your company mascot suit for the local Fourth of July parade or offering up an irresistible summer promotion, you may want to consider all the various marketing prospects available before the sun sets and October arrives. This summer is sure to be a busy one, and opportunities to advertise your HVAC services are around every corner.
Publication date: 5/29/2017