Many HVACR contractors may not have the financial resources to create a glossy custom magazine, but all companies can initiate an effective content-marketing program that works to acquire and retain customers.
The most important part of the content-creation process is developing a strategy that makes sense. Some contractors rush into creating a newsletter, or basic Web content without understanding how it works to ultimately drive the business. Before you waste time or money on content initiatives, HVACR contractors need to review the following four steps that will ultimately help you create a relationship with your prospects and customers.
1. Determine which goals will be affected by the content program.
To be successful, an effective content marketing program must directly tie to your organization’s overall objectives. In other words, create content because it truly helps your customers and, in turn, your business. Here are some reasons we’ve heard before from HVACR contractors who want to create their content:
• We want to drive more traffic to our website
• Our competitors are doing it, so we need to do it too
• We have tons of great information in this company — we need to tell the world about all the wonderful things we’re doing
Certainly, there are reasonable reasons for creating content. However, they are not all measurable and don’t all consider the customer. Ask yourself - Does driving more traffic to your website accomplish your organizational goals? Additionally – Will telling your company’s story, bring in more revenue? Remember, the ultimate goal here is a behavior change. Once you get folks to your site, you must have them do something.
Organizational goals must be two things: specific and customer-focused. Here are a few examples of organizational goals:
• Increase our number of service customers by 20%
• Sell service agreements to 100 new customers in 2023
So, before you launch your program, be sure to list your key organizational goals. Once that is complete, understand which ones you are trying to affect with the online or offline content program.
2. Determine the information needs of the buyer.
Businesses create specific content so that customers react in very specific ways. Without a clear understanding of the customer’s information needs, any reaction that is close to the end goal is pure dumb luck.
Successful HVACR contractors already have a fairly good understanding of their core buyers. To create an effective content program, you need to take it a step further. Contractors with content-marketing programs create content that is supposed to do several very specific things. Just think how pointless this would be if you didn’t know what information customers need, to make better buying decisions—buying decisions that ultimately lead back to the organization’s overall goals.
Understand your customers by doing comprehensive research. Comprehensive research does not necessarily mean expensive. Think of your research as including the following:
• Phone calls and in-person meetings with customers — include people that you think should be customers
• Send e-mail surveys to customers and prospects. Google Forms are free and great for surveying customers
• Discussions with your customer service and sales personnel
By doing all of the above, you’ll be able to create a buyer persona – a vision of who your target customer is – and a true understanding of what information they need. This will effectively get you to your goals.
3. Determine what you want your customer to do and why.
Before you create the content for your content marketing plan, make sure:
• The content plan specifically drives your organization’s goals
• The actions you want the customer to take are in some way measurable
• The content is based on your research about the buyers’ informational needs
If you have each of these components, you can create very specific goals for your content program. Some of these goals will be easy to link to your overall goals (e.g., achieving a business transaction). Others will just be pieces of the overall pie that keep you going in the right direction.
Examples of these may be:
• Downloading a report to extract more customer information
• Signing up for a newsletter to begin creating a relationship with a prospect
• Trial offer or service that begins a conversation between you and the customer
Most organizations call the above, examples of customer conversions. Whatever you call them, make them specific and measurable.
4. Determine the product and content mix.
There are many content products to choose from — and the list grows longer every day with the spread of technology. By mixing your knowledge of the customer, your organizational objectives, and, frankly, your budget, you should be able to determine an appropriate content mix of products. Remember, even though there are leading content products (for example, a print or electronic newsletter may take the primary role), your content-marketing program should be well-integrated with your website, ancillary content initiatives, and other collateral. Make sure all touchpoints speak to each other.
By following these four steps, you will give yourself the best opportunity for marketing success. Remember, this doesn’t have to take a lot of time but must happen before you launch any kind of content marketing initiative.
Whatever you decide, make sure your newsletter is valuable to the user and delivered consistently. If you can’t deliver consistently, it’s best not to do it at all.
Now that you have the strategy part complete, our next article will talk about how to create content that your customers love, and is measurable, as part of an overall business growth strategy.
Joe Pulizzi, a veteran HVACR marketing expert, is the founder of The Tilt (for content creators) and Creator Economy Expo, the in-person event for serious content creators. Joe’s seventh book, Content Inc.: Start a Content-First Business, Build a Massive Audience, and Become Radically Successful (with little to no money) is available now in all forms.