Make Strategy, Marketing and Sales Work Together
Originally published: 05.01.18 by Jennifer Peterson
Join forces to create sustainable growth for your company
It’s a common complaint among HVACR companies: Every year the marketing budget increases. Every year the leads stay the same.
Why is that?
The simple answer is if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. In other words, if you’re not changing your strategy or revamping your tactics year to year, you shouldn’t reasonably expect your results to change either.
Like everything else, you can depend on the cost of marketing to naturall continue to rise, but without refreshing your strategy, your results will likely remain the same.
How do you get into this rut? Part of the answer lies in the relentless, everyday demands of your business, because it’s easy to set your marketing on auto pilot while you’re putting out other fires. Additional factors may also be at play, such as:
The marketing isn’t actually strategic. It follows the same pattern in spring and fall, pushing the same products and the same specials and promoting only what’s important to the company, not what’s important to the customers. And the push is sporadic, not continuous, year after year.
The growth initiatives and goals identified by the top leadership are not clearly communicated or aligned to the marketing and sales teams. For instance, leadership wants to focus on growth through system enhancements, marketing is pushing preventive maintenance, and sales is experiencing an increased demand for fuel delivery.
There’s a disconnect among the key players.
Salespeople, estimators or other staff who are on the front lines with customers aren’t included in the marketing strategy or messaging process. This is a big misstep but surprisingly common.
Marketing that worked 20 years ago is assumed to still work just as well today. Brands may be adding PPC, SEO, and mobile, but they are failing to dive into the psyches of their consumers and develop and deploy messaging and creative that connects through the right communication channels.
If any of these conditions describe your company, don’t worry. A few simple adjustments can get your marketing efforts fully aligned and on track for more satisfying results.
Gather the Right Players
To balance both your long-term marketing objectives and your short-term business demands, it’s important to strategize with the right players. Companies of all sizes struggle to ensure that top-level strategic planning, marketing initiatives and sales efforts are fully aligned for efficiency and effectiveness. Even brands that start out with the best of intentions to bring the three areas together sometimes lose momentum, as they must focus on critical day-to-day business needs.
But, when these elements work together in concert, maintaining focus in both areas becomes much easier, even when daily demands take precedent.
Many companies get into a bad habit of having top level leadership set growth goals without the full collaboration of marketing and sales. The sales force in particular is woefully underutilized when it comes to identifying customer preferences and pain points and selecting tactics to reach target audiences.
Instead, marketing plans are often prescribed to the sales force without being evaluated to determine their effectiveness from year-to-year. It’s easy to succumb to the routine. Routines are comfortable and easy. It’s spring, so it’s time to send out the summer cooling mailer.
But, how effective is that air conditioning mailer going to be at generating leads when it’s snowing in April?
It’s not uncommon for the sales staff to become frustrated with marketing efforts that don’t effectively support their goals, especially in larger companies that have multiple departments.
Marketing may not deliver the right leads to sales, or residential or commercial sales managers might feel as though marketing doesn’t capture the customer pain points and needs that they encounter. Each of these disconnects results in planning and execution that is not as effective as they could be.
You can avoid this disconnect by including your sales staff in your seasonal or annual strategy sessions. Your sales team is an incredibly valuable source of information about your customers and market conditions, and they need to have a seat at the table.
After all, this group will be responsible for delivering on the messages you choose to communicate, and they have the most intimate knowledge of your audiences. They can also help your marketing efforts be much more responsive and, thereby, much more effective.
Less About What, More About Why
Regardless of whether your business is residential, commercial or both, the HVACR world is full of small daily demands that can easily distract you from your big picture marketing goals.
Case in point, it’s April in Central Pennsylvania, and it’s snowing with more snow predicted to arrive later in the week. This unusual weather pattern means local HVACR businesses are still getting heating service and fuel oil calls during a time of year when they typically would be launching spring campaigns to gear up for the cooling season.
Before you and your team decide what you’re doing, you need to decide why you’re doing it. As mentioned earlier, routines are easy and comfortable, but they’re not inherently effective. You may always send out a spring mailer about air conditioning maintenance or a fall mailer about new furnaces or fuel delivery, but you need to be responsive when those messages aren’t appropriate and need adjustment.
You also need to take a fresh look at your tactics from time to time. Direct mail is great, but would PPC be more effective in your market for your demographic? What about SEO? Your company may always attend a regional home show, but if the attendance at that show no longer represents your target market, perhaps it’s time to roll up your banner.
There are a lot more marketing tools at your disposal today, but just because you can use a new tactic doesn’t mean you should. That’s why it’s important to define your goals first and let everything else flow from there.
Defining your goals up front creates alignment at the outset. Your team can quickly evaluate both old and new tactics throughout the season and throughout the year based on established criteria, and you won’t have to repeatedly justify why certain tactics are no longer supported.
If they don’t align with the company goals, they don’t happen. Everyone is on the same page. Everyone follows the same rules.
All Together Now
Strategic planning takes time, so stack the cards in your favor and choose a time of year when your business is at its least demanding, so you can give it the most attention. If you’re in a management position, come with goals in mind, but be prepared to shift, adapt, or add to those goals based on input from other departments and positions throughout your organization.
What you’ve always done may not be working anymore, and you may need to break out of some old cycles to generate new results. The best strategies marry high-level business objectives with the real, everyday needs of your customers. Those who routinely interact with your customers can help inform your key messages by identifying and removing objections and speaking to specific pain points.
They can also help you determine which communication channels will be most effective at reaching your target audiences in the decision-making moment.
The more you involve your sales team in defining your goals and creating your marketing strategy, the more likely you are to increase your leads and enjoy sustainable growth.