The most common complaint I hear as a marketing consultant is about the roller-coaster ride the HVAC industry forces everyone to endure. The constant ebb and flow of being associated with a largely weather-driven service can drive you crazy. Even armed with everything from NOAA satellites to grandpa’s old Farmer’s Almanac, Mother Nature is largely unpredictable. We might not know exactly when the weather will shift, making emergency calls become less frequent, but we do know that it will happen eventually, right? And it could happen suddenly. However, does it always have to be feast or famine? Well, what you do during the feast will determine if you’ll still be eating in a few weeks.
When things are good, there’s a temptation for any business owner to rein in what seems to be unnecessary spending, but is marketing really unnecessary during the good times with no impact from a stop-and-go approach? There are also many contractors who pull the plug on their marketing because they’re already running at capacity due to equipment or employee shortages. Are there ways good marketing could still help you grow even when it seems like you’re maxed out?
Marketing is about finding the right strategy to get the right people thinking about you consistently. So when you think your hands are tied, the answer is to shift your focus from the immediate to the long-term effects.
Three Steps for Smart Marketing During the Peak Seasons
1. Don’t Disappear.
The first one is easy: Don’t just stop your marketing. Yes, having more business than you can handle and turning people away to your competitor is a bad thing, but if you go silent, you’re sending more their way than you realize.
Have you ever wondered why big brands continue to market themselves? Why do we still see Coke commercials and advertisements for McDonald’s? They’ve spent decades and billions of dollars building themselves into icons, and you’d think they could save money by not spending on everything from billboards in your hometown to multi-million-dollar super bowl ads. Can’t they just assume everyone knows who they are by now?
Well, those giants are not willing to take that gamble, and neither should you. Even the largest brands realize that people will forget about you and move on quickly if you don’t keep your message in front of them. Marketing is not all about immediate lead flow, but more about brand awareness and overall perception. Be careful with the temptation to cut off your marketing spend just because you don’t need leads right now. You could lose valuable brand power that you’ve already fought and paid for by disappearing, even for a few weeks.
2. Focus on the Messaging.
If you’re all set on immediate business, shift your focus and marketing messages in a different direction, toward long-term growth and health of your base. The peak season is an excellent time to push maintenance agreements and overall customer relationships. By using this time to focus more on your existing customer base without the pressure of immediate dollars in, you can learn about what opportunities you might be missing in your market. Ask what services they might like to see added or for suggestions to improve their customer experience.
Also, a company that engages with their customers through the right mix of “soft touches” instead of just hard-driven sales pieces is much more likely to hold their long-term business. Use this time to build a fan base who will help your offseason valley be much less extreme. According to the BBB, a prospect should hear from you four to six times with friendly “value add” content for every hard sales pitch you make. If this metric gets out of balance and the only time homeowners hear from you you’re asking for something, quickly it doesn’t feel like a partnership anymore and the relationship feels one-sided and predatory.
Simple engagements can be customer newsletters, social posts, emails, or mailers that show your appreciation for their business and that you value their voice. These can also be excellent vehicles for cross sales if you offer multiple services: “We appreciate that you’ve chosen us for your cooling needs for the last two years. Did you know we do plumbing also?”
Customers who feel appreciated buy larger, buy more often, and complain less. So, you’re maxed out on leads. What if you could raise the average ticket on all those maxed out leads by $50 or even $100 just by keeping the right customers engaged with you?
3. “Stop-and-Go” is a No-Go.
Here’s the cardinal sin: You’re hot and tired, worn out because business has been so strong, and the last thing you want to think about is marketing. You hope it’ll last forever, but then the first cold snap comes through, the phone stops ringing, and you’re caught completely unprepared. Feast or famine, remember? You’ve ridden this ride before, but have you learned from it?
Unfortunately, I will get covered with calls from desperate contractors in a month or two begging me to fix their lead flow, and marketing is just not a simple switch you can flip on and off without consequences. Google strategies, printing and mailing, website changes, etc. all take time to get into place, build momentum, and start producing results. Smart marketers are carving out time now to make sure they have a plan in place for the fall.
Are you taking a “shoot, ready, aim” approach to your marketing, or do you have a yearlong strategy in place for healthy growth? Marketing is important and can help you grow steadily and healthily year-round, but there are many factors at play in each business’ unique marketing situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, just like there’s not one a/c unit that’ll serve the needs of every single house. You take measurements and talk to the family about their needs, and then you can offer an expert solution that meets their specific demands. When the leads are strong during peak season and you feel the desire to pull the marketing plug, resist. Instead, it’s time to have a conversation with an expert who can fine-tune your efforts and keep you going strong longer.