The HVAC Marketing Masters Reveal All
Learn how to bring more value to your marketing campaign by investing a properly balanced plan
Human beings are inundated with different forms of marketing and advertising on a daily basis. Whether it’s hearing an ad on a morning talk radio station, watching a commercial during a television broadcast, or viewing an ad to move forward a level in an app, marketing is everywhere.
Incessantly, the notion is that digital marketing has superseded print media or that traditional advertising is dead, but many marketing firms disagree, stating instead that there needs to be a healthy balance of both in order for a marketing campaign to reach its full potential.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI’s) 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report for North America, the top five paid advertising methods used by B2B marketers are search engine marketing (SEM), 66 percent; print or other offline promotion, 57 percent; traditional online banner ads, 55 percent; promoted posts, 52 percent; and social ads, 51 percent.
The NEWS spoke to some marketing experts and asked for their opinions on how contractors should be marketing and why it is important to formulate a balance between print and digital.
GOALS, BUDGET, LAUNCH
Before a campaign is determined, a marketing firm will generally sit down with a client first to outline the goals and marketing needs of the business.
Justin Jacobs, marketing coach, Hudson, Ink, said Hudson, Ink initially discusses a contractor’s goals with the client and identifies their importance. Then, a marketing coach determines the contractor’s level of risk versus reward using a simple 10-question determinant.
“Some people want champagne results on a beer budget, and we need to have an honest conversation about that,” Jacobs said. “Managed expectations are valuable to both sides.”
Drew Cameron, president, HVAC Sellutions and Energy Design Systems Inc., looks at the entire business and determines objectives for the marketing for all of the departments within the company.
Then, he looks at what current efforts are yielding in the way of opportunities and revenue before building a plan, budget, and calendar of events.
Melanie Tauring, marketing coach, Nexstar Network, said Nexstar’s process starts with what she simply calls “discovery” and then dives into a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis.
“The SWOT analysis helps clients identify key issues they might be having trouble with,” she said. “After that, we establish benchmarks and defined financial and marketing goals.”
Once goals are established, it’s time to establish a budget and campaign. Every company is different, which demonstrates the value of creating an individualized plan with a marketing firm.
Cameron said a contractor’s budget likely depends on a variety of factors — how long the company has been in business, its current revenue, its desired revenue, the size of its service agreement base, the number of customers, the frequency of customer usage, the company’s location, the number of vehicles it has, whether its seeking low- or no-cost guerilla marketing tactics, and what previous marketing the company has completed that has proven effective.
Cameron budgets 3.5-5.9 percent of sales for all departments for conservative, well-established companies with a service agreement base; 6-8 percent for a moderate, established company that wants to grow consistently; and 8.1-14 percent for a company looking for an aggressive marketing plan and wanting to grow 20 percent or more.
FIND YOUR BALANCE
While an online marketing presence is necessary, it doesn’t end there. Although online advertising is everywhere, it may prove to be ineffective if that is where your sole marketing dollars are going. That’s why many marketing firms recommend having a balance with the media utilized in a marketing strategy.
According to the 2017 Data and Marketing Association (DMA) Fact Book, following the deployment of a multi-tiered marketing campaign, customer response rates increased year-over-year by 43 percent, and prospect response rates more than doubled.
Jacobs said contractors are getting the impression there is a battle of “old” marketing versus “new” marketing, and you must pick a side. Old being more traditional media types, and new being all things digital. But, he feels it’s becoming harder and harder to get a digital message across online.
“Yes, you must have a web presence and a stylish and functional website,” he said. “Good search engine optimization [SEO] and search engine marketing [SEM] are vitally important, but if you try to live in the digital world alone, which many contractors are now trying to do, soon you will find yourself alone, devoid of customers.”
Jacobs also noted that the same goes for offline media. While a contractor can have ads all over town, if a customer visits the business’s website, and it looks dated — the sale is suddenly in jeopardy.
Therefore, the true key is what he calls message integration or funneling one media type into another.
Tauring agrees a balance is necessary and should be based on a number of factors unique to the company. She doesn’t think one company’s plan is going to be exactly like anyone else’s because a good marketing mix is dictated by a company’s size, budget, goals, etc.
On the other hand, there’s a number of things she feels every company in this industry should be doing.
“For example, every company should have a strong online presence. They should be well-branded, and every company should also have a solid direct-response program, which is critical for staying in touch with current customers,” she said.
And although each company will differ slightly, Hudson, Ink created an average mix ratio that works for most companies interested in a moderately aggressive marketing plan.
“Our most commonly used marketing profile, one that is moderately aggressive with their marketing spending, calls for 67 percent offline media and 33 percent online media,” Jacobs said. “After determining the right percentage of sales to invest in marketing, we then split that over the message types, such as a percentage in lead generation, image and branding, and retention. Overall, this is blended into online, 36 percent, and offline, 64 percent, media. Both the offline and online worlds are equally important and work in beautiful harmony when the tools are used correctly. No matter what anyone tries to tell you is the wave of the future, don’t load your wagon too heavily on either side.”
WHAT TO DO
So, you’ve established goals, created a budget, and now it’s time to select the right marketing campaign. Every marketing firm offers different packages, and many provide a marketing coach to help contractors during the process.
All Nexstar members are assigned a team of two marketing coaches who work closely with them to provide recommendations based on their specific needs.
The first is a general marketing coach who focuses on overall marketing strategy and best practices and provides guidance on planning, branding, direct response, and more.
The second is an internet marketing coach who provides expertise on websites, SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, mobile, email marketing, social media, and more.
“Because each Nexstar member has different needs, we offer whatever types of coaching they need, whether it’s a quick phone call or a private, on-site visit,” said Tauring. “We also offer marketing planning and internet marketing workshops. In the former, they develop their company’s 12-month, customized marketing plan, and in the latter, they emerge with a customized to-do list to strengthen their internet presence.”
Similarly, Hudson, Ink has two specified programs built to address both new and returning customers — the Retention Plan and PowerSuite packages.
The Retention Plan is designed to make what they call “quality touches” with a contractor’s existing database of customers throughout the year.
“Quality touches are not in-your-face sales pieces,” said Jacobs. “They are a message that says, ‘We don’t look at you as just a dollar sign, thank you for your business, and we appreciate you and your family.’”
The Retention Plan includes physical, print newsletters mailed to homes either twice a year or quarterly, a fully maintained newsletter page that may be linked to a website, and a monthly email.
The PowerSuite is designed for the customer acquisition side and is a full, comprehensive ad agency in a box for local contractors. Inside, there are complete campaigns, training manuals, marketing tools, and professionally written and designed email sequences that are ready to be used.
Hudson, Ink also has marketing coaches that work one-on-one with contractors to customize the program and ensure its running efficiently.
Most marketing firms suggest hiring an expert who is willing to work with the team.
“An in-house marketing person can’t do it all,” said Tauring. “That’s where a marketing agency comes in. An agency should be used to augment the strengths of an in-house team, not the other way around. Two brains are always better than one, so continue to do as much in-house as possible and find an agency that is willing to support that.”
Publication date: 3/5/2018