In a world of social media, short attention spans, and an ongoing pandemic that has many consumers still staying at home, having a basic website isn’t enough to grab a customer’s attention. That’s where marketing comes in. With a solid marketing system and structure, contractors can take their HVAC business to the next level — but where does one begin?
FIVE TIPS TO BOOST YOUR MARKETING
1. MIX OLD AND NEW TECHNIQUES
2. FOSTER THE CONNECTION
3. PROFESSIONALISM IS KEY
4. MAKE YOUR PRESENCE KNOWN
5. MARKET LOCALLY
Mix Old and New Techniques
New methods of marketing are constantly coming out, but sometimes sticking to the classics is the way to go. Whether that’s billboards or direct mail, these old methods can be effective if used with a plan in mind. Stephen Dale, director of training at Power Selling Pros, said many HVAC businesses will spend on marketing, but won’t know how to book the call that’s coming in.
“A lot of contractors just throw something at the wall and hope it sticks,” explained Dale.
Instead of spending money on things like outsourcing for SEO/SEM and Pay-Per-Clicks (PPC), Dale suggested strategizing the brand first: What should the customer be experiencing and how should they feel about the company? While being relevant in a Google world is important, Dale said word-of-mouth advertising is still among the most effective — and least expensive — strategies for HVAC companies.
“When people talk about Chick-fil-A, do they say it's the greatest chicken sandwich or do they say, ‘Oh my goodness, great customer service?’” explained Dale. “Are you the Chick-fil-A of heating and air?”
Becoming an interesting topic of conversation is key, which is where some of the newer techniques come in. Testimonials, online reviews, and even coming up with a YouTube campaign where HVAC contractors can educate their target audience on some of their products are all ways to develop a personal connection with consumers. That connection translates into trust, which can help create a loyal customer base.
Foster the Connection
Although large and small HVAC businesses might focus on a lot of the same things at their core, such as online reviews, their approach should be different. Rodney Koop, founder and CEO of The New Flat Rate, explained that while bigger companies have all kinds of marketing options, small businesses should be focusing on their strongest and safest bet: neighborhoods.
“Choose maybe 500-1,000 homes in neighborhoods that you want to work in, then all you're going to do is target those neighborhoods,” said Koop. “You're not targeting a market area, you're not targeting a zip code — you're targeting a street name.”
Smaller companies have the advantage of getting to know their customers personally and build trust. Koop said getting creative and adding a unique twist to basic methods is a great way to stand out and win a loyal customer base. Instead of knocking door to door, an HVAC company can leave a small package with a letter introducing their business and include branded magnets, stickers, coupons, and business cards. They can also add seasonal things, like a miniature recipe book with 4-6 recipes and a note that reads, “Here are some of our company’s favorite holiday recipes.”
Koop added that the key to successful marketing is not making decisions out of financial desperation — you have to sell what consumers are buying. Whether you’re a big or small business, spending a fortune on marketing will do nothing if it’s for a product or service that no one thinks they need.
Professionalism is Key
Ryan Farris, president and COO of AlphaGraphics, said when it comes to company presentation, service vehicles are a great start.
“Vehicle wraps are low investment, and at least as you're traveling to and from appointments, people recognize what business you're in and then maybe think, ‘Oh, I need that service too,’” explained Farris.
He added that even if it’s a one-truck, one-man show, vehicle wrapping is one of the easiest ways to enhance a company’s brand and add a level of professionalism. It’s not enough just to wrap it — the entire presentation of the vehicle is crucial. Technicians who are driving the vehicle should be in uniform, alert on the roads, and keep their truck pristine.
Making it easy to book services or buy products also contributes to the professionalism of a business. Farris said having a solid website that’s fully integrated with an appointment setting tool is definite plus. A website with a quick way to figure out availability and prices — like a “schedule now” button — is what customers look for when searching for an HVAC business because many service calls tend to be time sensitive. The tele-HVAC approach is also one to consider because making customers feel safe in their own homes remains important as the pandemic persists.
Make Your Presence Known
Out of all the social media applications and websites used in the virtual world, Tammy Vasquez, senior head coach at Business Development Resources, said Instagram is one of the top — and HVAC professionals should be taking advantage.
“Think about the pictures that you can post about your work, like a beautiful install,” explained Vasquez.
Instagram and photo-sharing sites can also be used to build relationships with customers. Vasquez gave the example of an October campaign where technicians can wear pink t-shirts and take photos with their clients on different jobs. These moments help a company stand out in the customer’s mind and if they repost or share these photos with their friends and family, it’s a way to improve the visibility of the business.
Text messaging is another way to keep an HVAC company relevant in the customer’s mind. Vaquez said a simple reminder that the technician is on their way can create little touch points of safety — businesses can even include links to educate their clients on a product or service as a softer selling method while they wait. Customers like to interact with other humans, not automated messages, so making sure there is a reassuring voice on the other end is key, especially during a crisis.
“We had a client one time that knew a storm was coming into their area, so they sent text messages and provided an emergency number that customers could call, should their heating and cooling system go out,” said Vasquez.
When any kind of business has marketing in mind, their end goal tends to be becoming the first result on Google — but keep in mind HVAC services are typically googled by those in the area who need a service done. Philip St. Jacques, agency principal at WorkWave, said the two main things business owners should be looking at are their Google My Business page and an app called Nextdoor.
“When people are searching for HVAC, they're not searching globally, nationally, or even statewide — they're searching in a 5- to 10-mile radius,” explained St. Jacques. “Nextdoor launched a kind of an advertising platform, and they only let local businesses market in their local area.”
According to St. Jacques, an HVAC business can buy a zip code on Nextdoor and post commercial messages for free, but they can also sponsor a neighborhood, which is more efficient.
Having a strong Google My Business page can also bring more awareness to an HVAC brand locally because when customers leave reviews, businesses can respond to them directly through their page. It’s not enough to receive hundreds of reviews — St. Jacques said responding to both the glowing reviews and the negative ones are equally as important.
“I always read if the business owner responds to the review, and I find responding to them to be really powerful,” noted St. Jacques.