Solving the HVACR Marketing Puzzle, Piece by Piece
Originally published: 08.01.22 by Will Merrit
Marketing for your residential HVACR company has become complex in recent years. As an owner, where do you begin? What may have worked just a few short years ago, may not be the best platform today. Let’s break down the puzzle, piece by piece and then we can put it all together.
Evaluate Your Company and Your Current Marketing
First and foremost, every heating and air company is unique in its processes and its appeal. So, it is difficult to dole out a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. Each company is at a different stage of its life cycle, and therefore, may have varying needs than that of another company of a similar size. To put the marketing puzzle together and create your perfect matrix, there are a set of questions that need answering. Until you can do that, you shouldn’t finalize a marketing plan. However, once you can confidently address your marketing goals and identify your competitive edge with clarity, you will be closer to having a cohesive, successful marketing strategy.
What Are Your Business Goals?
- How long do you plan to own and run your business?
- Do you have yearly sales goals broken down by department? (Service, Maintenance, AOR)
- Are you measuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to determine how to stack up against the industry’s best?
Answering these questions will help shape your seller identity which will help you find your competitive edge. For instance, if your HVACR business is intended to be a short-term venture, and you plan to make the business profitable (in the short run) and sell without encumbrance, then your marketing plan may look different. If it’s long-term, you will need short benchmarks and a long-term plan to grow.
What Does Your Current Marketing Look Like?
- What social platforms are you using to reach your target customers?
- Does your company have a modern website?
- Are you using a lead generation platform?
Your Website is Your HVACR Storefront
In today’s digital world, we start with the website first. Your website is your online storefront. Customers always window shop before they buy, so it better look good! This step is foundational. Unless you are a programmer, I wouldn’t suggest slapping up your site. Use a professional, even if you can only afford a college student to design it. Back-end programming and design needs to be done; the creation of URL links must be SEO and clean (meaning without extra symbols like #%4 in the URL); page navigation and geo-links should be included as part of the design. Make sure this is done well.
Three Digital Must-haves for Your Business and Website:
- A modern, mobile-friendly or responsive website (Mean it looks presentable on all devices: desktop, laptop, iPad, and phone)
- Paid Services (Search Ads, Display Ads, Google Guaranteed)
- Social Media: Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, IG (Organic & Paid)
Once you have identified your company goals and the current state of your marketing efforts, you can begin to put the marketing puzzle together.
The Big Picture: Who Are You?
Does your company have a well-defined Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? How do you define that? Ask yourself, ask the team, “What sets us apart from the competitor across town?” You may not have it defined, but if you pay attention, you will arrive at an answer. Potential customers are seeking certain traits from an HVACR company. It may be stellar customer service, location, discounts, 24/7 service, specialization, or all of the above. Figure out your edge and then decide who your customer base is and sell to that. Most companies make the mistake of flying blind and hoping their “good enough” job is good enough. However, if you want to attract more business and grow, you need to define what your company offers and who is your target buyer.
Fulfill These Homeowner Wants and Asks
In my research, I have identified three distinct traits that resonate with homeowners when they are looking for the right HVACR contractor.
- Trust – consumers must trust an HVACR company to make a home visit.
- Value – consumers are looking for “value” in their HVACR purchase, and that does not always mean the cheapest price. Homeowners typically only purchase a new heating and air system on average 2.5 times in their lifetime.
- Fixed Now – Consumers are looking for fast service. Today’s consumers will not wait for you. Often, this trait will trump trust and value when the thermometer reaches 95 degrees. Define your contribution to these tasks when you are identifying your company’s USP and core brand.
Putting it Together — The Digital Piece
Your digital marketing starts and ends with your company’s website. It is often the final touchpoint before the consumer contacts you. Your website needs to give the consumer exactly what they are looking for when they land on it. Remember, your customer is not casually shopping for your services. They are typically there with some distress or issue that needs addressing. Their air conditioner or furnace is not working, and their home is uncomfortable. So, the quicker we can resolve their problems, the quicker you are going to gain new customers.
2. Paid Advertising to Drive Traffic
Now that you have a modern website, it’s time to drive visitors to it. PPC or “Pay Per Click” Ads are a very effective way to get your heating and air company at the top of the search results. Several types of PPC ads will drive visitors to your website.
- Google Guaranteed or Local Service Ads – These are considered a “pay per lead” ad. These show up at the top of the Google search results. Your company does not get charged unless the consumer calls you. Originally, Google had these listed as “fixed price per lead”, but now it is a fluctuating cost that goes up and down based on demand.
- Search Ads – these are often called “text” ads. They show up just below the Google Guaranteed ads and are considered a “pay per click” ad. When the consumer clicks your ad, your company is charged. The cost per click is dependent upon what you and your competitors are willing to pay.
- Display Ads – These are more to create awareness or “brand building” for your company. These ads will show up on partnering websites at the top, side, or bottom margins, on apps, or even on games.
3. Social Media
Today, your business must show up where the “eyeballs” are! Consumers are infatuated with social media. Anything from posting funny videos to seeing pictures of their grandkids gets shared. You may ask, “Why would a consumer look for an HVACR contractor on social media?” Well, they aren’t, but if they see your ad, and they need the service, they’ll click, the same way that a customer isn’t watching TV or listening to the radio will find a brand. If a slogan sticks, they are likely to get business. Also, if you have a consistent presence, a consumer will remember. So, you need to be where the consumer’s attention is today. Consistent organic posting to social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn will drive branding for your company.
The Traditional Piece
When we refer to traditional marketing, we are speaking about radio, television, and billboards predominantly. These platforms are some of your best branding assets and top-of-mind awareness tools for your HVACR business. We direct clients to focus on their digital piece first (website, PPC, or paid ads, and social), and if their funds allow, we allocate dollars to traditional branding as well. Remember to focus on the “lead generation” tools first. Branding through traditional media is a big piece of the marketing puzzle, but we see many companies focusing the majority of their budget on these platforms. The consumer is not thinking about your services until their air conditioner or furnace breaks. Where do they go to find you? Today, consumers go straight to the internet. So, if you are not present on Google Maps, PPC ads, or local service ads, they may not find you at all. There needs to be a balance between branding and lead generation marketing for our industry.
Decide What’s Right for Your Company
While I have provided the template to put together the pieces of your marketing puzzle, there is no right or wrong answer. The final “right move” depends on what is right for your company. In a perfect world, your HVACR company would have a marketing budget to cover everything, but that is usually not the case. What you need to monitor is your balance of branding vs. lead generation. A company’s branding helps consumers identify their business when they are taking action to buy. When your potential customer is searching “AC repair” or “heating and air companies”, they need to recognize your business when you pop up in the results. The balance between the two varies from a 50/50 spread to 2/3 lead generation and 1/3 branding or possibly the reverse. It depends on your messaging, the age of your company, and how efficiently your organization captures the leads. Again, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on advertising if it doesn’t convert leads into an actual business.
This ties in directly with my next article, “Simple Techniques to Maximize Your Marketing Efforts”. Then, I’ll get into the little, extra one-percenter tips, that make a huge difference.