Summer in most areas of the country means a/c systems working in overdrive. For HVAC contractors, this leads to completely full schedules, emergency calls on the weekends, and dog-tired technicians crawling through blazing hot attics. During the peak seasons, there’s plenty of work to go around, so staying busy almost comes by default without having to do a whole lot other than be open and available.
Depending on the size of staff and capabilities, some contractors are booking weeks out or even turning away work by mid-summer. It’s a great problem to have, and life is good when you’re in the black and the schedule is full, but I want to ask a question here. Have you ever been through a peak season where it seemed like you worked just as hard as all the other years, maybe even more so, but came out on the other side with less money year over year? How does this happen?
Have you ever stopped to wonder how some smaller companies with smaller crews can be considerably more profitable than larger ones with more resources? It’s not just about overhead or cracking the whip to drive their techs twice as hard. It’s about higher average tickets, fewer headaches and windshield time to slow them down, and above all, better strategy. At a time of the year where everyone is busy, some contractors are busy making money while others are running themselves ragged on low-value jobs.
A common mistake is thinking that marketing is only for when you need leads, but good marketing is just as important in the busy times as the slow. When the leads are coming relatively easily and you can be selective, it’s time to do some pruning. If you aren’t happy with the type of customer your company is attracting, you may just find you have an image problem, and that’s where good marketing can change everything.
Following are three ways to use marketing to influence your lead quality.
Work on Your Price Position
The largest and most profitable brands in the world demand a higher price point based mostly off image and status. An economy car will get you from point A to B the same as a Mercedes, but the Mercedes likely has triple the price tag. There are not as many people shopping for $80,000 cars, so the “leads” are fewer, but the profit in each car is higher, the salespeople have a higher closing ratio, and there is much less price haggling taking place on a Mercedes lot.
Apple, Rolex, Nike, and — fill in the blank with any top-of-the-line brand — have built reputations for themselves among a higher clientele through promised service, quality, and most importantly, perception. Their marketing is directed at people who are not making their decisions based on the price tag alone. The companies have made a conscious decision that lead quality is worth more than lead quantity. Top-quality leads are out there for you too, I promise, and surprisingly, they’re often up for grabs. The race to the bottom is often much more competitive.
Business truth you need to hear: It’s okay to price higher for quality work.
This might seem completely counterintuitive, and many marketing “experts” will tell you that you must cut price to get market share and attention. But do you know what discount pricing mostly attracts? Discount shoppers … and you can never go low enough to satisfy the bottom of that barrel. Your quality is not on par with the guy who has his phone number sloppily spray painted on the side of his truck, right? So why should you be expected to price on his level?
Remember, people naturally make judgements of worth based on price, and our human nature leaves us skeptical. “This one is THAT much cheaper? There must be something wrong with it.” But that works in reverse as well. Warranted or not, people tend to give more intrinsic value to a product or service when the price is higher.
Many name-brand groceries and store brands are the exact same product from the same factories, but shoppers will swear the higher priced brands taste better. It’s perception built on better packaging and brand recognition. So, how is your product packaged? Are you at a price point that seems trustworthy and maybe a little bit exclusive? Or does it raise red flags? If you want your company to be perceived as the high-quality choice, every part has to reflect that professionalism — from the look of your website to your trucks rolling around town. If you want a higher value clientele in homes with multiple systems and you want to group your calls in areas less likely to argue price, then you have to leave the bargain bin behind when it comes to all facets of your image.
Invest More in Existing Customers
The next thing that good marketing does is improve your ongoing relationship with your existing customers. This one builds off of No. 1, because when you’re more profitable, you have more money to invest back into your customer base to keep them active and referring. Do this without fear. The numbers prove that while discount pricing generally leads to only a single visit in a home, repeat customers are easier to sell, have larger average tickets, and are more likely to enroll on service agreements. A higher level of customer is willing to pay a premium, and they’ll also be your best salesperson after they feel you’ve delivered on your promises. Never let them feel forgotten, and they won’t forget about you either.
The Better Business Bureau recommends a healthy customer contact ratio should be five touches of helpful/educational information to build the relationship to each one time you ask them to buy something. Finding ways to add value to being an “appreciated customer of XYZ Air” through regular, friendly communication like customer newsletters, birthday cards, and stacked customer benefits will have people raving about you. When people have found something trusted and special, they talk. And you’ll quickly become the preferred vendor for neighborhood associations and will be discussed in the right circles. Soon, your trucks will be able to camp out in the most profitable areas.
You Image Influences More Than Just Homeowners
I think we’re all aware of the staffing problems this industry has dealt with for months now, and it just seems to be getting worse. Many contractors are absolutely handcuffed because they can’t hire enough techs to service all their calls or enough quality techs to keep from causing more problems.
I want to introduce a thought to you. Imagine a quality HVAC tech sitting at a computer right now and planning their next career move. They’re comparing you to your competition (who’s probably hiring, too) based on your website and perceived company image. Self-evaluation time: Who do you think he/she would reach out to first about job openings, and why? Quality employees want to work for professionally run, stable companies. They want to be assured they’ll have job security — especially the salespeople who work on commission — and they want a place where they can be successful. And as said above, you probably aren’t going to keep them happy with a stack of low-quality leads. In many ways, they’re shopping you the same way homeowners are.
Marketing is about getting eyes on you and finding the best way to get your message out to the world. Now, the question is, what are they seeing and hearing from you when you get them looking and listening? Is your marketing attracting higher-quality leads, employees, and opportunities? Or are you happy with anything you can get in the door?
You can become known as the “Mercedes of Contractors” in your area, but it might take a mindset change and some investments made in the right spots to improve your image. When the average ticket values go up and the headaches go down, you’ll wish you had begun setting yourself apart long ago.