For me, the two toughest things in life are playing the long game and taking the high road. It is so much easier to play the short game and so much more fun to take the low road. My wife constantly lectures me on the latter.

I assume it is the same for HVAC contractors. It is no doubt hard to take the high road and bite your tongue when the customer you would like to fire is blowing you up on every review site they can think of, just because they are never happy with a job. However, you cannot respond the way you want to, as it will certainly affect your company’s reputation. You have to take the high road.

Also, it is undoubtedly tough to play the long game and make investments in your business when you know for a fact that you will not immediately see a return. Or worse yet, when you cannot draw a direct line from investment to payoff.

This especially comes into play when we are discussing marketing and advertising. Nevertheless, it is exactly what HVAC contractors need to be doing. Not with their entire marketing budget, of course, but certainly with a percentage of it.

When most contractors think of marketing and advertising, items that produce a direct response is what gets their focus. An air conditioner breaks at a residential home, the homeowner turns to a Google search, they see an ad for your company, and they make a call.

That, of course, is great. What HVAC contractor does not want that? However, brand awareness is a real thing, and a portion of your marketing budget should be spent on it.

I find Ben Landers, the CEO of Blue Corona, one of the sharpest minds when it comes to HVAC digital marketing. He really drove this point home for me during a recent NEWSmakers podcast he did with us.

Landers talked about advertising that differentiates your brand from the competition and does not necessarily make the phone ring that day. You want your company name to rise above everyone else’s in your market. It is up to you to make sure that happens

We are talking print ads in the local newspaper, televisions commercials, and social media posts. Anything where you can show the community who you are and what you stand for.

“What we see is that company's cost per lead from the direct response stuff goes down and down as they build that differentiation of the brand,” Landers said.

Successful contractors are allocating some portion of their budget to building and differentiating their brands. Landers was quick to point out that there is no magic number on what percentage should be used for branding. It is simply a case-by-case basis — although he does recommend smaller companies spend more on direct response. As they grow the business, they can shift more resources to branding.

“Yeah, obviously you can’t spend all your money on this and stay in business. You will have a great brand but you will go broke,” Landers said. “But like I said, if you don’t invest in branding, your cost per lead is going to stay the same.”

Contractors know cost per lead is an important statistic.

For contractors, this does not need to be paid media either. When you help out the community, the community tends to remember. A homeowner might remember how you gave out free water heaters after a flood or the fact that you help disadvantaged youth attend a professional sporting game in your region. When their air conditioner breaks, they will call you. Then it is up to you to turn that lead into a sale.

What better time for HVAC contractors to try this practice than the summer? Odds are as the temperatures rise, a lot of HVAC contractors will have more work than they can handle. If there was ever a time to invest in brand marketing that may pay off at a later date, it is when the phone is already ringing off the hook.

“I realize this is long game stuff, and it is hard as a small business owner to play the long game,” Landers said. “I would just say that the companies that are doing it are happy they did.”