When your HVAC company relies on word-of-mouth or a simple yellow page listing to generate new business, you'll miss out on a tremendous opportunity to expand and grow your company. A single phonebook listing no longer does enough to convince potential customers to call you, especially given the increased percentage of people who search for service businesses online. An HVAC marketing plan that targets potential customers helps increase your leads and improve your brand identity, better publicizing your services.
What is an HVAC Marketing Plan?
An HVAC marketing plan is a comprehensive, year-round plan for advertising your HVAC business and services. If you do on-the-fly advertising or no advertising at all, you likely waste money and constantly battle to get ahead of your competition. An effective HVAC marketing plan takes into consideration the needs of your customers, seasonality, different advertising mediums, and costs. Your plan should also feature established goals. Plans can be laid out and executed monthly or even quarterly. The point and main advantage of developing a marketing plan is to prepare and plan for success.
Imagine the following scenario: In July your area experiences a record-breaking heat wave. In the HVAC industry, this equates to air conditioning units failing and needing emergency repair. If your company did not prepare ahead of the heatwave and increase demand for HVAC services, chances are you will have to scramble and pay a premium to get your name out there once it strikes. Now, imagine that your company had implemented a marketing plan well in advance of July that included advertising in the local paper, sending out direct mailers with a repair promotion, and establishing web listings that customers can easily find. Put a marketing plan in place ahead of time and there's less need for scrambling, costs are negotiated beforehand, and your HVAC business can focus on providing excellent service.
How To Develop A Marketing Plan
Putting an actionable HVAC marketing plan into action does require some research and a dedicated budget. To start, you need to evaluate what avenues of advertisement would best suit your business and market. The most conventional advertising mediums in the HVAC industry include newspaper ads, postcards, local online listings (Yelp, Angie’s List, Google My Business, HomeAdvisor, etc.), social media, and your company website. Determine how you can reach the greatest amount of people in your market for the least amount of spend. To research what would work best, start by asking those around you how they find service companies. As you shop around for different advertising opportunities, request readership or membership numbers from publications to quantify the exposure you could receive.
Seasonality in the HVAC Industry
When developing a marketing plan, consider the seasonality of your business. Typically, HVAC companies will see bursts in service requests when the weather drastically changes. Using historical information, determine during which months this usually occurs in your area and plan for it. If winter typically brings an influx of furnace repair requests, consider promoting this service right before the start of the weather change. In Spring, offer free estimates on new systems or custom maintenance plans. Offer discounted tune-up services during periods of time when the weather remains static and temperate. Sometimes, simply promoting a service in conjunction with a new season can spur potential customers to think about the HVAC services they might need.
Determining Your HVAC Marketing Budget
Lastly, you need to dedicate a budget towards your marketing plan. Going with a percentage of sales for each season could qualify as a good way to start. Use your past revenue information to determine your sales during the busy winter, busy summer, and the slow seasons. If you have multiple years of data to work with, find out if you have experienced sales growth each season compared to the year prior. If you have, congratulations! This is a good sign of growing success. Set realistic revenue goals for upcoming seasons. If you are a relatively new company that has not had the time to mature and build a long-standing reputation, dedicating 4-6% of your sales each season towards marketing would make a good starting budget. With a budget established, all that remains is determining the marketing tactics to spend it on. Do things right, and you'll generate new leads and new business.
Traditional Marketing Tactics for HVAC Companies
Unfortunately for HVAC company owners, there is no silver bullet in marketing. It probably won’t be immediately clear where to allocate your budget. Expanding your client base will probably involve using several tactics. Verify and test traditional marketing tactics regularly.
Door Hangers and Flyers
Flyers and door hangers are a proven marketing tactic that typically generates a positive return-on-investment (ROI) for residential HVAC companies. These items are inexpensive to mass produce and easy to distribute. By creating traditional print marketing materials with a coupon or a bonus offer unique to each neighborhood you distribute them in, you can track which sections of your city generate positive leads. Campaigns for yearly maintenance work well in the spring and summer. Consider using door hangers and flyers on these occasions.
HVAC companies can certainly take a page from the real estate agent playbook when it comes to building personal networks. In the real estate industry, one school of thought suggests your "sphere of influence" can help you grow your business.
Naturally, for HVAC companies who have existing customer bases and reputations, this sphere of influence doesn't need the typical "letter of introduction" that a real estate agent would create when starting their career. Instead, focus on expanding your existing network and cultivating relationships with people who aren't necessarily people with whom you would normally associate. Attend community events, volunteer events, and networking socials. Donate your time to organizations like Habitat for Humanity. These actions can go a long way towards building community bonds. Cultivating these relationships while gently reminding people you meet what you do for a living can help grow your business over time.
Direct Mail Campaigns
Direct mail can be one of the most effective marketing tools in your arsenal, but only if you use it correctly. The low cost, the flexibility of your sales message, and the ability to target individual lists make direct mail a very attractive option. The key to direct mail is to target the correct people. If you choose to work with a direct mail provider and purchase a mailing list, exclude apartment tenants or newly built houses. These residences will likely not need any major HVAC services.
Use your service records to develop a customer mailing list. Reach out to clients you've already developed a relationship with and offer them a discount for annual tune-ups. This serves as an excellent way to encourage repeat business.
Say, "Thank you."
Sending a thank you card after a successful service call keeps your company in that customer's memory and builds a reputation on pleasantness and professionalism. When customers experience trouble with their heating and cooling system in the future, you want to make sure they remember you. Additionally, thank you cards encourage your customers to recommend you to others who need HVAC services.
Be sure to have well-written postcards and follow-up cards. If you make basic spelling errors, your efforts to contribute to a relationship with a customer may end up making you look bad and soil your reputation.
Marketing Your HVAC Company Online
The Harris Poll suggests that more than two-thirds of all adults in the United States use the internet. It is becoming more and more important for any field service company to pay attention to their brand’s online presence and visibility.
Your HVAC Website
Many HVAC professionals don't see the value in maintaining a website. However, this way of thinking is quickly becoming dangerous. The yellow pages simply don't get it done anymore. Just because you have a listing there doesn't mean people are going to find your business or phone number. Websites are a valuable medium for displaying your work, explaining the services you provide, highlighting financing options, showing your certifications and industry credentials, and showcasing the value of your business. Did you do a new installation that was picture perfect? Take a picture and show your work to new customers! You can think of your website as a digital brochure to help you explain how your service provides value to your future clients.
Your website is also a great place to post job openings within your company. Explaining the benefits of working for your business (as opposed to your competitors) can help generate qualified applicants to your hiring pool.
Additionally, owning a domain can help you create customized email addresses for your sales and maintenance teams. The ability to reach out to "firstname.lastname@example.org" builds much more trust than does sending an email to "yournameHVAC@yahoo.com."
The most compelling reason to maintain a website, however, is to generate "organic traffic." Organic traffic measures how many people find your website through Google or another popular search engine. With some work, your website could be the first thing that pops up in Google's results for relevant, lead generating keywords like "local HVAC company." You can always pay for an ad that shows up in this search result, but positioning yourself as the #1 organic result in your area makes life a whole lot easier (not to mention less expensive).
To take one example, the estimated cost per click (the cost you would pay if someone clicked on your ad) for the keyword "HVAC Houston" is $26.64. An average of 210 people per month search for this term. If you save $26.64 per potential lead to your business by appearing in organic search results instead of paid search results, you can save a significant amount.
Additionally, with a well-built website, you can start submitting your business to local service directories such as Angie's List, Yellow Pages, and Local.com. These listings help improve your chances of generating leads without creating much additional work.
Social Media and Your HVAC Company
Pew Internet Research found that roughly 71% of adults online use Facebook. A common objection to the creation of a Facebook page for HVAC businesses is a misunderstanding of the point. Who cares how many Facebook likes we get? It's a fair question! The quantity of Facebook likes does not equate to quality leads. Instead of focusing on the number of likes, one should instead remember social media's power to influence individuals. Online word-of-mouth is still a form of word-of-mouth. Setting up and regularly updating a local Facebook business page enables users to tag your business when discussing local HVAC contractors.
Writing good posts for social media can make for a challenge. Strike a balance between posting serious/likable/helpful content, making sure to respond to people's comments or questions on your page, and scheduling posts ahead of time so that your page will update itself without the need for daily maintenance.
The social media outlets you use should depend on the kind of customer you want to target and the niche you serve. If you only work on large industrial systems (as opposed to home HVAC systems), consider using LinkedIn to target other business owners with HVAC needs.
Streamline Marketing With HVAC Software
When adding marketing to your HVAC operations, try to find ways to utilize assets you already own to supplement your efforts. If you use HVAC software to maintain your customer records, consider utilizing some of your existing data to develop marketing strategies. For instance, use your HVAC software to record client anniversaries and send promotional coupons to reward a customer’s loyalty. If you have this information stored in an electronic database, you could save time by sending out these postcards or emails in batches. If your field service software allows you to create custom fields in your customer database, take advantage of this feature by adding fields for marketing-related purposes. Some good custom fields to start with include client anniversaries, how they found you, follow up feedback, and the nature of any repeated service calls. Storing this information in an easy-to-reference format allows you to spot trends across your customers that could better inform your marketing efforts. Another important way to utilize your HVAC software is to follow up with customers for feedback after work is completed. While this doesn’t seem like marketing, it can provide insight into how to approach new potential clients and ways to improve your service.
Assessing Your HVAC Marketing Plan
When implementing an HVAC marketing plan, ensure you regularly analyze, assess, and adjust your plan using data. You need to have a plan in place to determine if a particular strategy was worthwhile and if you should try the same thing again. Some important metrics to calculate when determining your marketing plan’s success include the number of new customers gained, your cost per acquisition of those new customers, and the return on advertising spend (ROAS). Going back to your allocated marketing budget, divide what you spent for the period of time by the number of new customers obtained. The result will be your cost per acquisition, which should be well below the revenue brought in by the service provided to the customer. To determine your ROAS, take the total amount of revenue driven by new customers for the period of time and divide it by the total amount spent on advertising. Convert the result to a percentage, and that will be your ROAS. The higher the percentage, the more effective the marketing strategy.
Taking the time to assess your HVAC marketing plan can help you adapt in the future and avoid wasted spend on ineffective tactics. By testing out different marketing strategies and evaluating their effectiveness regularly, you will stay ahead of the game and continually grow the success of your HVAC company.