10 effective marketing habits of the most successful HVACR contractors, and how to implement them in your business
Remember when you could take out an ad in the yellow pages, slap a logo on the side of your truck and call it a day?
Today there are so many different marketing channels — and so much competition — it can make your head spin. Where do you even start marketing your business?
After working with more than 1,300 HVACR companies on their marketing, I’ve narrowed down the most effective strategies to a handful of points. Here are the 10 marketing habits of the most successful HVACR business owners.
They Know Their Competition.
Several factors go into deciding how (and how much) to market your business, the main one being: How much competition do you have, and how much marketing do they do?
This research is one of the easiest and most helpful things you can do for your own business. Here’s what you do:
- Check out your competition’s website.
- Google them. See what other people are saying about them online.
- Get on their mailing list or sign up for their newsletter.
- Blind shop them. Call pretending to be a prospect and see how they handle their customers.
See what they’re doing and how they’re doing it — and do it better.
They Know Who Their Best Customers Are.
One of the fastest ways to waste money is to blindly market your business to anyone and everyone.
Not everyone needs your services. Figure out who your ideal prospects are and get your message to those people.
But first, you need to find out who your best customers are. If you don’t already know, figuring it out is relatively easy: Look back through your invoices from the last year and pull the most profitable accounts. Notice what they have in common.
- Are they businesses or consumers?
- Where do they live?
- What kind of home do they live in?
- Are they married?
- Do they have children?
Once you have pinpointed your best customers, you can create a targeted mailing list to reach people just like them.
They Build Relationships — Not Just Sales.
Speaking of your customers … Always remember that your current customers are your target market. They’ve used you once, so they are the people most likely to use you again.
Nurture that relationship. Offer them discounts and rewards for being loyal customers. Talk to them. Find out what their needs are and learn how you can meet them.
This helps your business in more ways than one:
Not only will you increase that customer’s affinity for you and your business, but having that information will help you better serve ALL of your customers.
Not convinced? Check out the results of recent research by NewVoiceMedia:
- 44 percent of consumers will switch businesses as a result of inadequate service.
- 53 percent of those say it’s because they feel unappreciated.
- 69 percent will recommend a business to others after a positive customer experience.
They Develop And Maintain A Brand.
I’m sure you’ve heard that branding is important. Do you know why? Well, lots of reasons:
- It sets you apart from your competitors.
- It gives people a (hopefully good) “feeling” about your business.
- It creates a sense of familiarity, which creates trust.
All of these things add up to more customers. Your branding stretches across every aspect of your business, from your logo (which should go on everything) to your vehicles to your marketing to your reception process.
They Market Their Business Consistently.
Successful HVACR business owners understand that marketing is an investment, not an expense.
When revenues are down and you’re looking to cut expenses, cut something else. Anything else. Because if you cut your marketing budget, your revenue will suffer even more.
If revenue is down, you should be marketing more, not less.
Let me share a quick story: My company was having a great year in 2013. We thought, “Hey, we’re doing so well, we can probably cut back our marketing budget a bit.” (Not my idea, for the record — but I foolishly agreed to it.)
So we reduced our weekly postcard mailings from 140,000 to 125,000. Guess what happened?
Our revenue, which had been steadily climbing, dropped. So we pushed it back up even higher — to 160,000 pieces per week — and ended up having our most profitable year ever.
The bottom line: Regular, consistent marketing is the best way to create big, predictable results.
They Diligently Track Their Marketing Results.
I am shocked by how many business owners don’t do this.
When you track your marketing results, you can see what’s working to bring in the most (and most qualified) leads. Then you can put more into those channels and stop wasting money on marketing that isn’t generating revenue for your business.
And here’s the good news: Tracking your marketing is easier than ever.
You can do something as simple as include a marketing code on your postcards or ads, and when a lead calls in, ask them to read you the code. You can (and most definitely should) also train everyone who answers your phone to ask every single caller how he or she heard about you.
Or you can use today’s technology to make it foolproof. Include a unique call-tracking phone number on each campaign that will show you exactly how many calls that piece of marketing generated.
A call tracking number can be local or toll-free, and it rings directly into your business, but gets tracked and recorded. You can see:
- How many calls came in
- How many of those calls were from unique numbers
- What phone numbers people called from
- When they called
You can even listen to the calls to ensure your staff is handling leads properly.
They Measure Their Return On Investment, Not Their Response Rate.
I can’t tell you how many small business owners have asked me, “What’s my response rate going to be?”
I understand why they’re asking, but it’s the wrong question. What they should be asking is: What’s my return on investment (ROI) going to be?
Say you send out 5,000 postcards at a cost of $2,000, and you generate 10 new customers.
Ten out of 5,000 doesn’t sound very good, does it? But if those new customers, on average, spend $1,000 with you — that’s $10,000. Subtract the $2,000 you spent on the campaign and you’ve earned $8,000.
That’s a 400 percent ROI.
They Systematically Follow Up With Their Leads.
Someone who has reached for your business is much more valuable — and MUCH easier to close — than someone who hasn’t. That person already has some level of interest in you. That makes them a lead.
How many times do you follow up with them before deciding they are uncloseable? Once? Twice? Never?
A figure often quoted by sales professionals is: 80 percent of sales take place on or after the fifth contact.
With that number in mind, how many leads have you let slip away?
Put a follow-up system into place (also called a “funnel”) to warm up leads with emails, phone calls and postcards until they become your customers. Of course, this means you need to get the contact information of every person who calls your business — a new caller checklist will help you with this.
They Integrate Their Marketing.
There are so many marketing options available to business owners today — use them.
- Direct mail
- Social media
- Pay per click
- Email newsletters
Try them all. If you’re tracking, you’ll soon learn what works best, and you can focus your energy there. And if that all sounds overwhelming …
They Know When To Ask For Help.
You know all the ins and outs of your HVACR business, and as the owner, you have to wear a lot of hats. But one person can only do so much.
I am a small business owner who is also a marketer. But I realized that I couldn’t always wear the marketing hat. That’s why I have a chief marketing officer who calls the day-to-day shots.
It is well worth the expense to hire someone — whether it’s an outside agency or someone on your staff — to handle your marketing because it’s just too important to let it fall by the wayside.
Joy is the founder and CEO of PostcardMania, a marketing firm in Clearwater, Fla. specializing in lead generation and direct mail. Using only postcards, Joy grew her business from the ground up, from a one-woman startup with just a phone and a computer, into a company generating more than $21 million in annual revenue and employing more than 200 people. To download a free report with successful HVACR campaigns and designs, visit postcardmania.com/go/hvacsuccess.