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Make the Most of Your Seasonal Downtime

Originally published
Originally published: 10/3/2017

As an entrepreneur, I’m aware that seasonal fluctuations can certainly wreak havoc on a business.

Nearly every industry has its ebbs and flows based on such issues as weather, holidays and other factors that are often out of our control.

In the HVACR industry, once temperatures cool down, business tends to dry up, and that can leave many contractors scrambling to fill the void. Instead of hoping for a few repairs or simply waiting for winter to arrive, why not make the most of this down time by increasing your marketing efforts?

When sales decline, businesses tend to cut expenses and marketing budgets are often the first thing to get slashed.

But the slow season is exactly when you should be ramping up your marketing campaigns not only to drive immediate sales, but to fuel long-term growth.

Here are some marketing strategies to consider this fall to breathe new life into your business and set a strong foundation for many seasons to come.

Focus on Maintenance

Let’s face it, when it’s too cool to use air conditioning, but too warm to turn on the heat, customers aren’t thinking about their HVACR systems.

This is the perfect time to remind them it makes more sense to uncover a problem now than when the temperature dips below zero.

To get the phone ringing and make it worth the customer’s time, offer free inspections and discounted tune-ups. Free service calls are also a great way to get consumers to address an issue they’ve been putting off.

Your job is to train the customer to look for deals during the off-season, the same way they do when they buy camping gear in January or skis in July.

Make Retention a Priority

Yours is a business based on relationships, and the off-season is a great time to cultivate loyalty with existing customers. Strengthening those bonds also makes economic sense: It costs five times more to retain a current customer than attract a new one.

If you have service contracts, set aside time in the coming months to remind those customers that you’re available to perform their annual inspection. More than likely, they’ll appreciate the call and your effort to honor the agreement.

It’s also wise to provide “exclusive” deals to existing customers that aren’t available on your website. For example, for customers with older systems, offer higher-level discounts or rebates on new systems. Providing discounted service or service credits for referrals is also great way to reward loyalty.

Go Old School

Marketers talk a lot about the power of digital marketing these days, but sometimes an old-fashioned approach can garner more attention. Though clearly low on glitz and glamour, direct mail is one way to cut through the clutter.

When your inbox is jam-packed with sales pitches, getting something delivered in your actual mailbox can almost feel special in contrast. Of course, you’ll still need to distinguish yourself from the junk mail most people receive. One good option is to include a magnet that can be easily torn out and placed on the fridge as a reminder.

Another tactic is to position yourself as a resource by formatting your offers in a piece that looks like a newsletter and includes informational tips and articles. This approach can help remind existing customers in particular, about the value you provide.

Create a Referral Program

Offering a Visa gift card for customers who provide referrals is a small price to pay to drum up business in the off-season. Another option is to provide a significant discount for any new referral.

Remember, the cost of acquiring a new customer on your own is likely going to be more than what you’ll pay a current customer for a referral, so be generous with your reward. You may consider making it a limited-time to incentivize customers to specifically spread the word during your slow periods.

Develop a Win-back Campaign

You likely have a database full of customers who are due for a new unit or repairs that they previously declined. Start tracking those interactions if you don’t already, so you can follow-up when things slow down.

Send those customers postcards reminding them about your last visit and offer 10 percent off a new unit or large repairs of a certain amount to motivate them to take action before the problem gets worse.

Community Involvement

Staying top of mind in your area is essential year-round, to ensure that locals think of you first when an issue arises. Consider sponsoring local festivals or community events, such as fun runs, car shows and outdoor film screenings and local recreational sports leagues to raise awareness of your brand.

These efforts may not generate immediate calls, but they will increase your exposure and build goodwill for your business in the community.

The off-season shouldn’t be a period of gloom and doom. Instead, embrace this slower time and use it to try out new marketing techniques that can keep you busy year-round.



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