Digital marketing grows more important each year. HVAC contractors remain challenged for best practices in a medium that changes constantly. Several speakers at this years’ Service World Expo presented ways for HVAC contractors to best invest their marketing dollars online and how to protect those investments.
Chris Yano, CEO of Ryno Strategic Strategies, told HVAC contractors that they need to measure the results from online marketing. They need to know where customers are coming from. They need to know if they are coming in through pay-per-click ads or through SEO.
Not every inquiry is a lead, Yano said. Most sales still come from repeat and referral business. An existing customer could use a search engine to find an HVAC contractor’s information and contact the business from there.
HVAC contractors need to scrub their leads to make sure they are new business, Yano said. They also need to make sure they know the source and what business customers are looking to them for, especially if they offer multiple trades.
The best way to track leads is the old-fashioned way: listening to phone calls. Yano said the contractor or another high-level manager need to listen to all the incoming calls.
“It’s an awful job, but it has so much value to it,” Yano said.
Facebook Wants Engagement
One area where HVAC contractors attempt to generate leads online is social media. McKenna Harless, social media manager for Daffan Cooling and Heating in Granbury, Texas, said that creates a conflict with the basic purpose of social media.
FACEBOOK FACTS: McKenna Harless told Service World Expo attendees that their goals for Facebook need to focus on engagement rather than sales.
Social media is designed to build relationships and create trust, Harless said. HVAC contractors view it as another venue to place ads.
“Your purpose for Facebook isn’t the purpose Facebook has,” Harless said.
Facebook, the focus of her presentation, changed its algorithm to make ads less prevalent. The company needs to balance the wants of its users and the needs of its advertisers. HVAC contractors need to make posts that match other posts on Facebook.
Harless said an ad that shows a piece of equipment and offers $50 off won’t work on Facebook. A better ad shows technicians and talks about helping with people with their a/c needs. Never use stock photos, she said, of either people or equipment. Even better are pictures of babies in onesies with the firm’s logo or pets on bring your dog to work day. It’s a good practice to get waivers from employees to use their images, Harless said.
Posts don’t have to focus on an HVAC contractor’s business. They can cover silly topics, such as whether or not pineapple belongs on a pizza. Harless said HVAC contractors need to respond when users interact with a post, regardless of the topic. Facebook monitors each post’s activity and promotes them based on this metric.
Frequency matters on Facebook, Harless said. This matters even more than the content of posts. She recommends posting at least three times a week. HVAC contractors should research what time their post have the farthest reach via Facebook Insights and post accordingly, Harless said.
Video Makes Up More Online Content
One of the best types of posts is video, Harless said. By 2021, 82 percent of all online content will be video, she predicted. Harless recommends creating one- or two-minute-long videos to post on Facebook. She said all videos need to be shot in landscape, meaning the recording device is held horizontally.
When posting the video to Facebook, HVAC contractors need to include a thumbnail with a short and enticing caption of two or three sentences. Harless said to make sure to check the caption’s grammar before posting. Also, avoid traditional advertising techniques, such as putting phone numbers in the caption.
“We’re not posting to get their money,” Harless said. “We’re posting to get to know them.”
The best ideas for content come from monitoring what people are saying on social media. Harless shared a video she made that featured Daffan employees beating up on a condenser labeled “That Dang Coronavirus.”
HVAC contractors can make a small investment to improve their videos if they choose to, Harless said. She uses Videoshop to edit her videos. This tool costs $3.99 a month. She also uses Canva to create graphics. The pro edition of that costs $12.95 a month.
Facebook offers a feature, Facebook Live, that allows user to upload a live video feed. Harless said that helps create a sense of urgency and gets more attention. She also said some HVAC contractors create separate accounts for Instagram, but this takes up more time.
I Don’t Like Spam
With all the effort and money HVAC contractors invest in digital marketing, the worst outcome is to finish second to someone who uses unethical practices. That happens more and more, said Colleen Keyworth, director of sales and marketing for Contractor’s Online-Access. The growing problem of spam listings makes it harder for consumers to find contractors and harder for search engines to rank them
ONLINE VIGILANTE: Colleen Keyworth told Service World Expo attendees they need to track spammers in their service areas.
“When people are abusing this, they are hurting you,” Keyworth said.
Fighting spam is worth the effort, she said, but very few people actually do it. So far, Google offers little help since the company makes no money from spam removal. It all costs Google nothing. The company isn’t liable for this fraud, and it rarely hurts consumers. The purpose of most spam listings is to generate leads for lower-end contractors, Keyworth said.
Keyworth said if anything, Google has a financial incentive to ignore the spam. Legitimate businesses are more likely to buy ad if they can’t fight through spam.
There are some common and obvious signs of a spam listing. One is keyword stuffing. This might be a business name that includes a location and marketing copy, such as “Miami Air Conditioning Repair Replacement Specials.”
Other signs of a spam listing take a little more research. Fake addresses are common, since consumers rarely visit an HVAC contractor’s actual place of business. Keyworth said her investigations have turned up parking lots and storage sheds used as business addresses. She said doing a search on Google Earth usually reveals a business’ true location.
What takes even more work is posting a fake review for a suspected spammer. Keyworth recommends doing this, but creating a separate account to do so. Log all this evidence in a Google Sheets file and submit it to the search engine company.
Google may change its approach to spam, Keyworth said. The company is considering a verification product it will sell to legitimate businesses.