Preparing For Your Debut

Originally published
Originally published: 10/1/2009

HVACR contractors should be able to answer three important questions before making a broadcast ad.

Many hvacr contractors are in the process of planning marketing and advertising budgets for 2010. Some will be renewing contracts and creating new radio and television ads; but for others, broadcast advertising may be unfamiliar territory.

Ideally, broadcast advertising is part of every contractor’s marketing plan because it supports lead generation and brand building, two important components of growing sales. To be effective, though, the ads must be built upon a solid understanding of your business capabilities, customer demographics, and targeted markets. This means that companies new to using radio and T.V. ads have a lot of internal work to do before approaching production companies or media salespeople. Specifically, they need to have detailed and documented answers to these three questions:

1) What are our business capabilities?

Radio and television advertising is good for brand building. But in order to take full advantage of this form of advertising, you, as the business leader, need to know what your brand position is and how you want to present it to your audience.

Your brand is more than logos and graphics. It’s really everything your customer thinks and feels about your product, your service, or your company. It’s the total experience that customers and prospects have with your company. Often, your brand is what sets you apart from your competitors — all those things that differentiate you and your business and add value in the eyes of existing and potential customers.

Does your service level set you apart? How about pricing? Or is it the product mix you offer? Whatever it is, you need to identify your brand, protect it, and begin to articulate it with consistent messaging — in your company brochure, on service trucks, in conversations with customers, on your Web site, and in your advertising — including print, broadcast, online, billboards, and direct mail. Even the sponsorships you choose to support can send a message about your business and the people who work there.

Consistency is critical, so be certain the message you want to convey is, in fact, the message you do convey. Just as important is to be certain it’s a message you’re able to convey. If you can’t, you risk confusing potential customers by saying one thing and doing something else. Objections arise when the message is inconsistent and/or conflicted. Your message should be simple to express, easy to understand, and consistent, wherever it appears.

2) Who is our customer?

As you identify your brand and articulate a consistent message, it’s also important to identify your customer and the audience who will experience your advertising. Who is the person most likely to buy your product or use your service? How old is he/she? Is your customer more likely to be a male or a female? What is his/her income level? What is the age of your typical customer’s home? What are his/her hot buttons when it comes to a home comfort system? Is your customer most interested in efficiency and sustainability, or is price top of mind?

These are just a few of the questions you need to answer before you begin to think about an advertisement. With answers to these and other questions, you will be better equipped to craft a message that will capture the attention of the customers you’re hoping to reach, appeal to their needs, and entice them to contact you.

Also, it is important to understand who typically makes the purchasing decision when it comes to a home comfort system. Again, with this information in hand, you will be better positioned to target your message to the persons most likely to respond to it. 

These demographics will serve another useful purpose when you are ready to place a radio or television ad. As you consider the broadcast stations that will best meet your needs, compare the demographics of the customers you hope to attract to those of the radio and/ or television station’s audience. A station sales representative should be able to provide you with rate information as well as the demographics of his/her particular station — who is listening to them, when they are listening, and where they are located — geographically as well as physically. Are they driving, sitting at home, or working in an office?

In addition to radio and T.V. station demographics, it’s also a good idea to ask what differentiates the station from other stations in your viewing or broadcast area. How does that differentiation work to your advantage? For example, if the station’s programming is unique, does it appeal to the customers you want to attract? Do they participate in community events, or are they owned by a syndicate that pulls in listeners from outside your local market?

Pay attention to the station’s branding, too. It’s important that the stations you choose to affiliate with portray an image and offer an experience that is consistent with your brand and advertising message.

3) What market do we serve?

As you identify your customer, you should identify your market as well — not only its geographic boundaries and the number of people who live and work there, but also the conditions that characterize it. Examine U.S. Census data, but also determine what type of hvacr system your market can afford. This is especially useful information if you’re considering offering a discount, either through a sale, a manufacturer’s rebate, or a coupon — which, by the way, can be a good lead-generation tool.

Carefully consider your surroundings. Are you located in a coastal setting where microchannel technology would offer important benefits to homeowners? What are the weather conditions in your market, and how do they impact your product mix and sales approach?

Is your market primarily urban or suburban, and does it feature new construction or established neighborhoods? Would you consider your market a high-traffic area where people spend large amounts of time in their cars? If so, radio advertising will most likely serve you well. On the other hand, if your business operates in a primarily rural area, television advertising may be more effective.

Finally, when you look at your market, consider the types of electronic media that serve it. A local station, whether it be radio or television, provides an efficient and often economical way to deliver your message. Cable television can be another especially effective media outlet, specifically directed at your market.

As you learn more about the market you serve, it becomes easier to put together a marketing program that delivers a consistent message to your potential customers. You know what you want to say. You know whom you hope to reach. And now you know something about the area in which both you and your customers (existing and potential) operate. Collecting this information and understanding how it works together is the first step in creating professional radio and television advertising that meets your marketing objectives and contributes to your business success.

Michael Wayde is an account supervisor and Stacy Whisel is vice president of strategic media programs at Godfrey, a full-service, integrated business-to-business branding and marketing communications company headquartered in Lancaster, Pa. For more information about Godfrey, visit

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