According to the National Association of Realtor’s survey, the average age of first-time homebuyers is 33. So when it comes to marketing to them, odds are they’ll be looking for things that cater to their lifestyle. They’ll want to book HVAC services using a website that portrays a company’s brand and is easy to navigate. They’ll want someone they can trust, that takes the time to educate them on the things they don’t know. And once they have someone they can trust, they may just want to hold onto them and their services.
President, Coscia Communications, Inc.
Educate, Educate, Educate
Everything is new to first-time homebuyers, said Crystal Williams, owner and strategist for Lemon Seed Marketing.
“So now it’s about educating them and building authority as far as who you are, or what you want to be known to them as,” Williams said.
Heather Ripley, CEO of Ripley PR, said that a PR team can step in and help educate.
They can provide educational resources through blogs or social media posts that provide tips specifically for the first-time homebuyer. These tips can include things like service schedule recommendations and filter change reminders, Ripley said.
“Help your team build their credibility by shaping campaigns that show your company offers advice, options, and educational material if homeowners call for a quote,” Ripley said.
Steve Coscia, president of Coscia Communications Inc., said that with first-time homebuyers, there needs to be a program that can educate them up front.
“Explain how the system works, both in the summer and winter seasons; ways to optimize things that show them the value of an energy-efficient system and how much time it saves them,” Coscia said.
“An educated customer is a customer that will likely stay with you for life, once they understand the value,” Coscia said.
Something Colleen Keyworth, sales and marketing director for Contractor’s Online-Access, recommends is to educate them on maintenance and water heaters. Things such as how the water heater works, what’s going on with the water that you drink, or doing a camera inspection of the water heater so the home buyer can see for themselves what it looks like.
Yet, she feels like a lot of first-time homebuyers are doing their own research. They’re just looking for the services of someone they can trust.
The Eyes of the Young
With young homebuyers, Keyworth said, a company needs to be prepared to be paperless.
“They want to have everything laid out very clearly, and they want it digitally,” Keyworth said — things like online booking, texting, offering apps that allow them to control their homes’ HVAC systems.
Ripley said HVAC companies have an opportunity to ease the homebuyers into wanting their services by using the technologies they are used to.
Therefore, it’s vital that companies have updated, optimized websites that think about what a first-time homebuyer is looking for.
“Younger buyers, especially, will research your home service company online before they will pick up the phone. If your website is out of date or you don’t have any reviews, they will move on to a company they can find out more about online,” Ripley said.
They may be attracted to contractors who can align themselves with their technological savvy-ness.
“Someone who’s selling to first-time homebuyers might espouse the benefits of not having to call but instead using your smartphone to schedule the next maintenance or share information about their system,” Coscia said.
But ultimately, they’re looking for responsiveness, someone that gains their trust and appears accountable, Williams said.
“They want to look at someone that appears professional and that they’ve seen bits and pieces of in the market,” Williams said.
Williams said that in today’s time, it's important that companies have multiple opportunities for first-time homebuyers and existing homeowners alike to be able to reach out to a company at their comfort level.
“Just making sure that you're reachable through multiple avenues really goes a long way with a client because their comfort level is seen and appreciated,” Williams said.
First-time homebuyers won’t be impressed by the technical jargon that technicians can spit out at them. They’re more interested in what’s going to be valuable to them, Coscia said.
Keyworth said those guerilla marketing tactics — stickers, billboards, signs throughout the community highlighting a brand — are just as important when marketing to first-time homebuyers. They want someone trusted and respected in their community.
Ways to build a brand’s trustworthiness is in part education, but it also involves an online presence, good reviews, experience, and teamwork, Ripley said. By positioning an HVAC company as the leaders in the community, it’ll inspire confidence within new homeowners.
“You can build loyalty by providing new buyers a partnership. Offer a move-in special for an HVAC tune-up. This will not only acclimate them to the idea of yearly maintenance service but will build your trustworthiness as you explain your methodology for tune-ups and break-down prevention,” Ripley said.
What Not To Do
When it comes to things that may turn a first-time homebuyer away, Williams said to avoid being too sales-orientated, and instead to focus on building relationships with them.
“Building a relationship is where they experience the best parts of your brand,” Williams said.
Maybe it's an availability statement: letting the homeowner know the business hours.
“Start working on getting that information into the client's head so that when they do need you, you are top of the mind. Awareness is a long game approach,” Williams said.
Coscia said to avoid editorializing about the other companies in town.
“Speak well about your own company and what you do without having to disparage other companies,” Coscia said.
He also said to approach potential customers honestly, by putting the best foot forward.
“Those first impressions are going to be about 80% of your likeability within the first 10 seconds,” Coscia said.
Ripley said to avoid any sort of dishonesty. They won’t take well to seeing reviews about a company that went back on its word or overcharged a customer. So if a company does have bad reviews, it’s important to address them immediately and honestly.
Keyworth said often a mistake contractors make is not realizing that women make the final decision for about 90% of household expenses.
“Make sure that any of your offerings or pitches or sales is completely appropriate for women and that you're appealing to that,” Keyworth said
Keyworth has heard many a story from women who were treated like they weren’t the decision-maker.
“Don’t assume that you’re waiting for the guy. Treat everybody equally and give them the full information,” Keyworth said.
Coscia said being too aggressive will cause a first-time homebuyer to put their guard up.
Ripley said not to upsell.
“Most people don’t want to have to replace their HVAC system if they don’t have to, so trying to upsell them can create bad blood. It’s better to give them your opinion backed by solid reasoning than trying to sell them on something they don’t need or want,” Ripley said.
CEO, Ripley PR
Keyworth noted that she recommends to her customers to get involved with local realtors. Contractors can also look into getting homeowner lists and send information about their company that way, or offer discounts on inspections for first-time homebuyers.
Williams said marketing to first-time homebuyers is a great opportunity to build a brand.
“Remember why your marketing to them is a long-term approach. It’s like training for a marathon,” Williams said.
Coscia said that while some may complain about the younger generation and how they prefer to do business or communicate, they are the future customers.
Ripley said that first-time homebuyers most likely know other first-time homebuyers.
“Treat them right and you may not only have a forever client in that homebuyer, but gain the business of their friends, family, and neighbors,” Ripley said.