Historically, HVACR contractors have relied on referrals and traditional marketing efforts, such as direct mail and advertising to grow their businesses. Although those efforts may continue to pay some dividends, online content is where the true opportunity lies.
Consumers looking to purchase heating and cooling equipment and services are starting their search on the Web. According to a 2021 Forrester study, over 90% of consumers begin a search for any product on the Web. With stats like that, not having a Web presence can crush any new business opportunities, even for HVACR contractors.
Creating Content for The Web
More and more successful businesses are employing something called “content marketing.” Content marketing is the practice of creating relevant, valuable, and compelling content for customers and prospects (instead of sales information). This type of “un-marketing” is now a great option to target consumers who are tuning out advertising messages across the board.
To attract the attention of consumers, contractors must first understand search engines— where most consumers start their search. Search engines, like Google and YouTube, love content, especially valuable and relevant content that generates links from outside, reputable Web sites. Unfortunately, creating valuable and compelling content is not easy to do.
Even though most contractors may agree with the move to the Web, most are still using traditional marketing strategies they have used for decades. There are several reasons for this:
• Most contractors are set up to sell products and services, not to provide relevant and valuable information to customers and prospects. Moving to content marketing means contractors need to start thinking about educational newsletters, blogs, podcasts, video series, and free reports. These are just a few types of initiatives that contractors could consistently produce. It’s as simple as this: If the information you are sending out to customers doesn’t help them make better choices, don’t send it.
• Most contractors have well-worn marketing paths that are easy to follow. Going off the beaten path into uncharted territory is intimidating.
• Most contractors aren’t measuring their marketing, so they aren’t even sure what is and what is not effective.
As customer behavior continues to move to the Web, taking a new approach is the option that will add one more arrow in the quiver. By implementing a new content strategy program, contractors can see positive results through search engines and referrals in as little as nine months (although a long-term strategy will be the true payoff).
The B.E.S.T. Formula
A Structured Approach for Creating a Content Marketing Roadmap
To grow your business, you must think like a publisher by delivering relevant content that will have intrinsic value to your targeted customers. Providing information about your services and having a Web presence isn’t enough. To get found on the first page of search engines, you need to feed content into your site all the time. Although some contractors offer learning centers and helpful tips, most add these elements to their Web sites and then stop. Search engines don’t like sites that aren’t regularly updated with more content.
Even contractors who are willing and eager to move toward a content-marketing strategy could find development and implementation difficult. Because there are few roadmaps to steer organizations safely through this marketing frontier, too few are willing to make the trek.
The B.E.S.T. formula for content marketing is a simple guide that you can use to develop and deploy a successful strategy. It also lets you take a critical look at what you’re doing now, to determine whether you are mired in the swamp of traditional marketing malaise.
In a nutshell, the B.E.S.T. formula simplifies a complicated process. Apply it so that your marketing is:
Behavioral – Everything you communicate with your customers has a purpose. What do you want them to do? Do you want them to contact you, complete a form, sign up for a newsletter, or take a quiz? Make sure there is an action that needs to be taken by the customer.
Essential – Deliver information that prospects need to succeed at work or in life. If it’s summer, what tips do your customers need now? How do energy prices affect their heating and cooling choices? Tell them and show them.
Strategic – Your content marketing efforts must be an integral part of your overall business strategy.
Targeted – You must target your content precisely so that it is truly relevant to your buyers. What kind of customer is in your sweet spot? Who is your model customer? How much do they make? Where do they live? What’s relevant to those people? What other media do those people come in contact with so you can reach them?
First Understand, Then Be Understood
You cannot hope to implement a successful content marketing strategy without understanding exactly what outcome you require. Equally important is an in-depth understanding of your targeted prospects. Only then can you craft a content marketing approach that will deliver more sales, more customers, and more measurable results.
The answers to these questions will guide you to a profitable content-marketing strategy. With this process, you can become the trusted heating and cooling source that persuades prospects and buyers to become loyal, long-term customers.
• How do we want the customer to feel?
• What effect must we achieve with them?
• What action do we want them to take?
• How will we measure their behavior?
• How will we put them on the path to purchase?
• What do our buyers need to know?
• What will provide the most benefit personally or professionally?
• How can we present the content for maximum positive impact?
• What media types must we include?
• Does this content marketing effort help us achieve our strategic goals?
• Does it integrate with our other strategic initiatives?
• Have we precisely identified the prospects we want to target?
• Do we understand what motivates them?
• Do we understand how they view the product or service we offer?
By taking the time and committing the resources to answer these questions, you will have the necessary information to create a content marketing plan that works. Integrating the B.E.S.T. formula within your organization isn’t easy, but it is imperative to growing and sustaining a profitable HVACR contracting business.
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.