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Sales & Marketing

Are You Marketing to Your Existing Customer Base?

Capitalize on Your Established Relationship

Originally published
Originally published: 11/2/2023

Are you capitalizing on your established customer relationships? If you are not, you should be. Your HVACR business has already established a level of trust with your customers. You can leverage that existing relationship. Given that you are their chosen service provider to keep their family or business comfortable, that indicates a level of ongoing trust and loyalty. And people love to share with others what works. The key is to stay “top of mind” with them. How do you do that? Well, I’ve had contractors tell me stories that you might think could never happen. Most would consider these “far-fetched”. But they are real.

An example: The contractor comes out for the homeowner’s semi-annual maintenance only to discover that the customer has replaced one of their systems!  How could this happen? Why would they not call their existing HVAC company? But it happens!  This is why you must stay in touch with your customers regularly. Remember the homeowner, “your customer”, is not thinking about you unless you work to maintain the relationship. Just like any other relationship, it must be handled with care. In the following sections, I will explain how you stay in the first position. If you follow the tips, not only will you be top of mind when repairs are needed, but when others ask for referrals, your name will come up.

Stay “Top of Mind” With Your Customer

How to stay top of mind with your customers?  You must be very consistent with your overall marketing and messaging.  This can include everything from your company’s website, TV commercials, company branding messaging, mail, direct marketing, and fleet advertising.  Keep your message consistent everywhere so there is no way anyone can confuse you with another service provider or worse, forget your name.  An occasional in-touch message from your business is a good thing. 

Email Marketing

Marketing to your customer base through email is a great way to stay in touch with your customers.  Did you know the United States is the only country where you do not have to get permission to email without their consent?  Other countries around the world require you to give an opt-in or permission when sending out email blasts, so that is a distinct advantage in our country.  A  “just because” email with a holiday message or a recent discount is always a nice touch. Remember they chose your company as their HVACR service provider. The bottom line, the messaging must be the same everywhere, or you will risk competing with yourself. Email marketing is always a great way to passively touch your customer especially if there is an occasion to do so – i.e., an announcement, a sale, or a holiday greeting.

Let’s look at the overall messaging, frequency, and content of your email marketing.

Messaging: Best Practices

So, what is your message to your customer? We recommend that less is more in the form of content and frequency.  Don’t go overboard with too much content on your email blast, people’s attention spans are short these days. If you are sending company newsletters via email, we recommend not more than once a month or quarterly.

Remember, your HVACR company already has an established relationship with the people you’re emailing. So, you want to treat them as such, a current customer or friend. We recommend not to lead with sales offers, rather view your email marketing in a more holistic approach. 

1. Thank them for being a loyal customer of your HVACR company
2. Educate them on industry changes, SEER 2, or upcoming refrigerant changes
3. Tell them about your company:
             - Charities or community involvement
             - Company milestones, such as, “Years in Business”
             - New employees, promotions, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements
             - Added services such as plumbing, duct cleaning, IAQ testing
4. Time to schedule your fall maintenance
5. Offers: Financing or Rebates
6. Wish them a Happy Birthday or Happy Holiday
7. Celebrate their equipment anniversaries 

Review Blasts

Review blasts via email is a great way to drive reviews. I know many of you use services such as Birdeye or Podium and we have employed both.  Sending a follow-up email to all the customers that you did business with the prior week works great as a backup.  Sometimes they forget to leave you a review, even though your technician asked at the end of the service or maintenance call. Send out the review blast on Tuesday nights with a direct link to Google, you’ll be surprised how many reviews you will capture. 

Finally, if you do nothing else, be consistent with your list of customers and subscribers. At least remind them that you are still serving the area and let them know how well you are doing. Send them updates, testimonials, and recent reviews. They will be happy you did when their systems fail and you will be happy when they send you new business. 

Newsletters

Newsletters are exactly what the name implies, it is news delivered in letter form. Today we have options for company newsletters. Yes, we can go the traditional route and mail our customers a paper newsletter, or we can do the same thing via email. Just like email blasts, company newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with your customers.

As we mentioned earlier; the frequency of your mailings or emails is critical. Don’t we all get annoyed, when we get too many emails from a company? They are trying to sell us something every time they communicate with you?  It’s annoying. So, less is more. Newsletters unless they are dedicated and specific, should not go out any more than once per month, but ideally, we recommend once per quarter.

Keep it Light!

Your goal here is simply to remain relevant with your customers. Here are some ideas for content:

1. A letter from the president’s or owner’s desk, thanking them for being a loyal customer
2. Let them know about news at your organization, recognition, expansion, or a heartfelt testimonial.
3. If you sponsor local teams or participate in any charity races, share team wins or post pictures from the race.
4. Educational updates on industry changes, such as the recent SEER2 requirement or the 2025 refrigerant change – these are always a good share.
5. Employee spotlight (Ex: Employee of the Month.)
6. For a family-run legacy business, recipes are a nice touch, especially around the holidays! But make sure to relate it to the company i.e., share pictures of the staff eating cookies baked from a family holiday recipe.

Surveys

Surveys can be a great source of feedback from your customers. It can be difficult to hear true feedback from your customers especially if it’s more negative, but would you rather not know?  You may already get a lot from online customer reviews, but surveys can take it to the next level. You can ask more probing questions and gain insight into how our customers truly feel about our services.

How to get Started with Surveys

1. Make It Easy

Make it easy for your customer.  We recommend you let them know that you will be sending them a survey.  You should convey how important they are to your business, and how much it will mean to you if they take the time to fill it out.  

2. The Best Time to Send

The best time to send out a survey to your customers is right after they’ve had service from your HVACR company.  Have your office contact them or have your service technician let them know at the end of their service or maintenance visit.  Again, thank them and let them know how important the survey is to your company.

3. Length of the Survey

Keep it short!  Consumers’ attention spans are short.  Create a survey that will take them no more than five minutes to complete.

4. Questions to Ask

Here’s where it gets difficult for business owners. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it is paramount to the improvement of your company. Start with a couple of broad questions and then narrow it down.

Examples Include:

    Please rate your overall satisfaction with our company. 
    How likely are you to recommend us to others?
    Overall quality of work?
    How timely were we?
    Did we explain our services in a way you could understand?
    Overall appearance of our company personnel?

Reminder: Top of Mind is Not SPAM

Staying in touch and keeping your brand top of mind should never be confused with SPAM. This pertains to all the forms of messaging we discussed in this article. It’s a fine line between too much contact and not enough. Be deliberate, thoughtful, and consistent and you will avoid SPAM.

Familiarity, Good Service and Trust Equals Lifelong Customers

Lastly, I know you hear me say this often, but the topic of “heating and air” often once fixed, is out of sight and out of mind to your customer. Keep in touch and do that at most once per month or once per quarter. Also, encourage your employees to interact with your customers as much as possible. The more comfortable your customers are with your technicians, the more honest the feedback and communication you will get! This familiarity and trust will drive better business and lifelong customers.

Will Merritt is the managing partner at Effective Media Solutions in Charlotte, NC. He has more than three decades of experience creating marketing solutions for business owners. For more, visit http://myeffectivemedia.com or email will@myeffectivemedia.com

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