HVAC companies generally make their money in one of two broad ways: new installations and service, the latter of which includes maintenance and repair. While most companies fuel their maintenance revenue largely with existing customers, generating new leads for each service type (installs, tune-ups, repairs) is important to maintain company growth. Additionally, tracking and nurturing those leads can lead to more loyal customers and better usage of your budget.
As a rapidly growing company here at Fire & Ice, we’ve had to create and refine numerous different processes for generating new leads and maintaining a pipeline of incoming leads. Your sales teams can’t do it all through referrals and higher close rates. The company needs to be able to support them with its efforts.
Experimenting and Finding What Works
The strategies for generating more leads are myriad, and no company can canvas each of them. But every company can benefit from one or more.
But first, you should ask yourself a couple of important questions:
- Where are our customers looking for HVAC service?
- How can we stand out in a sea of similar companies?
Answering these questions can lead to some tough questions, introspection, and researching both competitors and the types of resources people are using in your market. Should you send out print mailers or an e-newsletter? Add your company to an online lead-generating service, or improve your website’s SEO? There aren’t perfect answers, because it will depend on your situation.
So what are these strategies? The list below is far from comprehensive, but it includes some options:
- Community partnerships
- Paid online advertising (social media, Google, etc.)
- Print mailers, or those part of larger coupon packets (Valpak, etc.)
- Manufacturer partnerships funneling leads from their sites
- Local events (home shows, etc.)
- Paid online lead gen services
- Creating referral incentives
- Email sends
- Optimizing your site for search engine optimization (SEO)
- Training for service technicians on lead generation techniques (add-ons, referrals, etc.)
For clarity, Fire & Ice isn’t doing each of the above right now. And neither should many companies. But we’ve tried each one at some point to discover what works for us. And sometimes, that answer changes. A communications channel that worked five years ago might be stagnant in 2021. You need to be willing to adapt to these realities.
Also in full transparency, each one of those strategies deserves its own article. There are no shortcuts with good lead generation, and something as seemingly simple as “improve the website” can be a large-scale project with long-term implications.
You can’t manage what you can’t track.
I live by that statement, and I push my team to produce relevant data that allows us to make informed decisions. Your marketing budget isn’t infinite, and for many companies, it’s likely quite small. You need to make every dollar count.
Everything can be tracked these days. Online leads can be tracked through a variety of methods, and things like unique phone numbers can be tracked and linked to a particular initiative. For example, we use a different phone number on our company trucks than we do for television commercials.
So if a coupon pack produced 20 leads per month five years ago, and now only produces five per month, I adjust my spending accordingly. If you’re set up properly with your CRM and revenue data, you can also tie this directly to revenue to see exactly what’s working, what isn’t, and therefore what you can afford to cut. Your time, and the time of your team, isn’t infinite. Cutting bad lead generation channels is as important as adding new ones.
For example: Home shows used to be a big part of our business, but our leads from them took a dive when they went online during the pandemic. And they’ve been slow to recover even as they transition back to in-person events. Will they be a solid lead generator for us again? Potentially. And will it be a bad look for us to miss ones we’ve traditionally attended? Maybe. But until we can justify the investment again, the amount we spend on them will reflect the new reality.
The numbers can also change seasonally, which necessitates adjustments throughout the year. We’re always running TV commercials, for example, but the number we run changes dramatically throughout the year.
Creating Ongoing Relationships
“Nurturing” is a term I learned through my marketing department, but it’s something I’ve grown to appreciate. Very few leads will sell the moment you get them. Often, they might not become a customer for months or even years. Therefore, it’s important to create an ongoing relationship with them.
If you have a functional email list of customers, this can be a great way to touch base with them periodically so that you’re top of mind when it comes time for a new HVAC project.
If a lead is generated, then simply sits in your database, it’s worthless 99% of the time. You can’t expect customers to be proactive when other companies are actively reaching out to the same people. If it’s easier to call, email, or otherwise contact someone else, they’ll do so.
Nothing trumps one-to-one, personal communication from a representative on your team. There’s a reason we all love personal referrals, and it’s because there’s a deeper connection than with something like an online ad. But you can't personally connect with everyone who needs HVAC services, so creating a lead generation pipeline that is as personalized as possible without becoming overwhelming is crucial to both the success and growth of any HVAC company.