Most HVAC contractors I talk to lament the fact that it is difficult to stand out from the rest of the crowd. They do great work and run a professional operation, but it’s hard to distinguish that when sitting in front of a customer who does not know what HVAC stands for. Those same customers certainly do not know who the major HVAC companies in the community are as they purchase a new unit about once every 15-20 years.

To get the message out, contractors might be using antiquated methods such as billboards, Yellow Pages (the last book that got delivered did not even make it into my house), and television ads. Other contractors might be trying some of the newer marketing methods, including e-blasts, YouTube Videos, and social media. The truth is, contractors should be attempting to do as much as possible.

Another option gaining momentum from forward-thinking contractors is to create a mobile app. While most contractors use apps to help them do their jobs, not as many have thought about creating an app for their customers — although that is changing. The NEWS recently ran an article on contractors who have hired companies to create smartphone apps for existing and perspective customers.

With anything, the creation of this marketing tool requires an investment. But the contractors we talked to said the investment has paid off. A recent study by the mobile app directory Appolicious, (how great is that name?) estimated the cost of getting a small app up and running at around $6,500. With anything, that cost could get a lot higher, or you might be able to find a better deal.

Now, are people clamoring for an HVAC app to replace the joy they get out of Candy Crush or Angry Birds? Probably not. But, by the same token, I was not clamoring for a Papa John’s Pizza app, but there it sits on my iPhone. And when I inevitably want to buy a pie, it is the first button I click. Hence, the picture of the overweight editor you see on this page.

The app serves many purposes. Among them: It serves as a differentiator from the competition and another way to stay in contact with the customer. When a contractor is sitting across from the client at the kitchen table, mentioning the company has an app immediately changes the view of the company in the customer’s mind. They now see the company as both bigger and tech-savvy.

An app can help distance a bigger contractor from the one guy in the truck who may be next to knock on a customer’s door. For the smaller contracting firms, it can close the perception gap a bit by making them look a little bigger than they are.

This is one of the reasons The NEWS created an app. The most important reason was providing timely HVAC industry news to our audience, but we love the fact that we have an app and our competitors do not.

Mobile apps also offer another avenue for a contractor to connect with the customer. With push notifications, contractors are able to contact customers to remind them it’s time to change a filter or set up a maintenance appointment. Of course, contractors can include additional information in the app, such as product information, exclusive discounts, and social media contact links.

Contractors should decide what they want out of an app and hire a professional to develop it. Once the app has been completed and tested, it is time to market it. There is no use spending money to develop a product that nobody is using. A QR code directing people to a place where they can download the app should be on every marketing flyer, newspaper ad, and invoice a contractor sends out.

It is rare that something so simple can give a contractor a leg up on the competition. Contractors should not let this opportunity pass them by.

Publication date: 8/25/2014

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