During the course of my job here at The NEWS, I’ve visited thousands of HVAC contracting websites from all corners of the country.

Whether it’s in the course of searching for a contractor to speak with for a story, or looking for the best of the best for our monthly Net Results feature, I’m constantly in awe of what I see.

Because it’s that bad.

Now, I don’t want to paint all websites with the same brush, but, time and time again, I’ve been amazed at what I’ve seen. You know what they say, and it’s true: You only get one chance to make a first impression, and more often than not these days, your website is what’s going to make that first impression.

That’s why I’m consistently dumbfounded when I come across websites that appear to not have been updated or redesigned since George W. Bush was in his first term as president, or are amazingly tone-deaf to the wants and needs of the modern consumer.

Think of your website this way: Would you ever hire someone who came in for an interview with their belly hanging out, wearing flip-flips, their hair all amiss, and a big mustard stain right down the middle of their shirt? No, you wouldn’t. They could be the best in the world at what they do, but that’s not who you want representing your company. Your website is the same way. You could do by far the best work in your area, but if your website is a low-rent piece of garbage, guess what, prospective buyers are going to think your company is a low-rent piece of garbage.

I recently came across a website for a rather large company with multiple locations and a large advertising budget. This slice of cyberspace looked worse than websites I hand-coded with HTML back in 1998 — I was 12 years old.

I was at a meeting recently and someone there said it best: People want to deal with people. When I go to these websites, I’m amazed by how many are completely anonymous. No personal touch; nothing to let you know who works at the company or the services they offer. People want to deal with people. It’s not vain to post your picture and a personalized message. It’s why sponsoring little league teams can be so effective. It connects you with your community; it begins a relationship with your customers. More than anything, people hate doing business with nameless, faceless corporations. They want to know who they’re dealing with; they want to see pictures of you and your staff; they want to be able to make a personal connection. You’d be shocked at how many websites fail to mention who owns the company.

Your website is “free” advertising. It’s your chance to get your company over with the consumer. You have a preciously small amount of time to gain a consumer’s trust; to hook them as a client. You have to captivate the surfer’s interest immediately and get him to click around — rather than immediately backing up to Google in search of an adequate solution to his comfort problem.

As a quality contractor, you wouldn’t hire an unprofessional employee. It’s amazing how many think it’s OK to publish a second- or third-rate website. Invest appropriately, as your homepage is very likely the only first impression you’ll get to extend to today’s Web-savvy shopper.

Publication date: 5/5/2014

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