When I was studying journalism in the mid-1990s, I was learning about a simple publishing business model. It did not seem simple then, but it certainly does now that I look back.

The internet was around but not nearly the force we see today. I would use my dial-up service to check email while knowing that, during that time, nobody would be able to use the phone for calling. Moreover, if a web page today loaded at the same speed I was dealing with back then, I would be beyond frustrated.

So while getting online was new and fun, nobody was looking towards the internet as an important news gathering form of communication. Nope, it was print, print, and more print from my journalism professors. The fact that my work would one day be posted online a few minutes after I wrote it was not even a consideration.

Obviously, times have changed. For The ACHR NEWS, the print product is still a huge part of what we offer. Many contractors have told me how much they still enjoy sitting down with the print product. I am not nearing retirement age, but I feel the same way.

Despite that feedback, myself — and the company I work for — had to adapt with the times. Therefore, we started adding more products to provide information to the end user. We have a constantly updating website, a digital edition, podcasts, videos, etc. to get information in front of contractors. Since different people want to consume information in different formats, we have to do it all.

This might be a similar story for HVAC contractors if they substitute homeowners for readers. I am assuming your advertising plan from 30 years ago did not involve e-blasts or Google keywords.

HVAC contractors should adjust, and they are adjusting. When there is a new way to market to your customer, contractors should take full advantage. Social media, search engine optimization, and pay per click are all items that might be able to help your business grow.

However, these items are not like significant others. Just because you meet someone new you want to hang with, that does not mean you need to break up with the individual that has been with you for a while. Some forms of marketing are tried and true. No reason to get rid of what is working for you.

We are still producing a print product while also providing many digital options. Contractors should take the same approach.

I was recently a presenter on a marketing webinar hosted by Borrell Associates where this topic was discussed in the segment after mine. Truth be told, that segment was probably better than what I talked about. They shared a typical advertising budget for an HVAC company with 40 employees.

The advertising budget for such a company was $364,000. These companies spent 44% of that budget on digital marketing. Of course, digital marketing can mean a lot of different things. Of the $161,000 they averaged on digital, approximately $66,000 went to general paid search, $45,000 went to targeted display/social, and $28,000 was spent on listings paid search. Only $2,000 went to email.

Simple math tells us that digital marketing was in the slight minority. The average contractor budgeted 56% to other forms of marketing. The breakdown looked like this: $68,000 for newspaper/magazine, $37,000 for direct mail, $36,000 for television/cable, $34,000 on radio, $15,000 on outdoor, with $13,000 left over for other.

I, for one, was a bit surprised by these numbers. I would not have guessed that print (newspapers/magazines) was still the biggest segment of an HVAC contractor’s marketing budget. But this is the formula that is producing the greatest results.

So as 2020 ends and budgeting for 2021 begins, consider this when the topic turns to marketing. Digital is the sparkling new toy, but some of the old ideas still have staying power.

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