Consumers and HVACR contractors alike are ready for the pandemic to end, and with states reopening and infection counts dwindling, hopes for a return to normal are rising. The HVAC industry weathered the past year relatively well and even saw boosted sales as a result of consumers investing in their home comfort and safety. As life slowly shifts back to normal, how should contractors handle their marketing strategy?
“Everyone wants to return to a sense of normalcy and in-home contractors are a part of that, but people also want to be assured that we’ve all learned from the process — as to not repeat it or have a relapse of any kind,” said Justin Jacobs, marketing coach for Hudson Ink. He explained that while the time to drop COVD-focused messaging is coming soon, contractors should explain what practices they will continue to integrate into their company, such as an emphasis on safety and reduced intrusive contact.
The market features a spectrum of consumers, including those who have zero concern regarding COVID-19 and those who are still actively wearing masks and avoiding crowds. Contractor marketing verbiage should appeal to both, discussing the company’s general health considerations as well as services to improve IAQ.
“People are finally experiencing a little freedom, and many are tired of hearing about COVID, so if you continue to bring it up, it could be met with rolled eyes and a perception of unnecessary fear-mongering,” said Jacobs. “Use it maybe just as a sidenote for a few more weeks in more highly populated areas, then you can revert back to regular system replacement pushes for the summer.”
Chris Smith, CEO of All Contractor Marketing, pointed out that with states reopening, contractors will see a return to the pre-pandemic busy lifestyle. Homeowners will be traveling again, and heightened competition for their disposable income will return. Contractors could benefit from refocusing messaging on offering financing options and affordable monthly payments, even for emergency repairs. With recent price increases and the inflation effects of the stimulus money, more customers are getting multiple quotes and price shopping.
“You have to weigh price versus availability,” Smith said. “While a customer might look for a $29 diagnostic fee, which are booked out two weeks, they may stomach a $79 diagnostic fee if you can get there in two days.”
Because of the competition for consumer’s disposable income and rising supply costs, Smith recommends that contractors lean into direct mail, social media, and pay-per-click advertising, as these tend to offer a high yield of leads and sales for a relatively low cost.
Jacobs pointed out that many contractors took advantage of direct mail advertising during the pandemic, as many people were quarantined or working from home, meaning that direct mail got read. Typically, shifts like the one between email advertising and direct mail emphasis occur over months or years, but COVID accelerated the switch for many contractors.
“I think we will see an ongoing surge in direct mail, as many contractors have renewed their confidence in it,” said Jacobs. “ROI has proven to hugely outweigh the added expense versus email.”
Plus, many contractors have expanded into pay-per-click advertising and social media in the past year already, largely out of necessity. Some overhauled their websites. Much of that digital advertisement will continue, and the pandemic showed many contractors the importance of diversifying their marketing strategy. Technical challenges could mean pay-per-click ads don’t work properly, or postage prices could surge, so contractors need multiple successful avenues to convert leads. Even a couple of weeks without leads in the middle of peak season could cut deeply into sales.
As communities reopen, local events are an important way contractors can become visible to potential customers, appearing at and sponsoring events like Little League baseball games, park days, and concerts.
“People are ready to start living life again, so be there to greet them,” said Jacobs. “Stay in close link with your Chamber of Commerce, and there are always great ways to get some fantastic or even free advertising. Even consider hosting an event yourself if you have the ability to plan and the budget.”
Jacobs explained that a contractor-hosted event doesn’t need to be a massive, expensive operation. An actively like a golf tournament, grilling competition, or day at the park can offer larger swaths of publicity, especially when paired with campaigns to spread the news on local news stations.
“Any time you can put a face and a personality on your company, making the homeowner feel like you’re a part of their community rather than some business only after their money, you win,” said Jacobs.