You’ve heard it before: If your HVAC company isn’t growing, it’s dying. And we all want to survive. While acknowledging challenges ahead, the vast majority of small business owners hope to double sales in the next five years, according to a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business.
The fact is, new customers are key to survival. And using social media is key to finding new HVAC customers. Underneath the bells and whistles of online social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter – behind the hits and likes and hashtags – online social media works like old-fashioned, person-to-person networking to build your business.
Blogs and sites like Facebook and now Google+ let you strengthen relationships with people in your community and establish your position as the local leader in your field. Social media also gives you a platform to broadcast your own voice as an expert. Your customers can amplify those messages as they sing your praises.
There are numerous ways that you as a contractor can use social media to find new HVAC customers during 2012.
Here are a few:
Reach out – with a gift in hand.
The best gift you can give a potential customer is the benefit of your expertise. Most customers would probably rather be doing anything other than deciphering changes in federal refrigerant regulations or factoring out the benefits of programmable thermostats. Here’s where you step in, offering straightforward, concise information from a local source (that’s you).
Just think about all those questions your customers ask you or your technicians. Make a list and include those in your ongoing marketing plan.
Put your content on your company’s website and blog, but use other social media tools, like Twitter or Facebook, to broadcast it. Not all of the content you share has to be yours. Provide links to industry news, like articles about new technology and national rankings of equipment. The HVAC organization should serve as an online clearinghouse of vetted, relevant HVAC-related information.
Of course, fantastic content is useless if no one can find it. Use keywords and titles to ensure that your content shows up in online searches. Design a website that puts readers first – if your site is difficult to navigate, potential customers will quickly move on. Organize your blog posts with categories and tags so readers can quickly locate their topics of interest.
Make your best content highly accessible by putting resource pages on your website, blog and Facebook page. This might be a “Frequently-Asked Questions” page about your maintenance plans or a how-to guide for filter cleaning. It might be an ebook about an issue that’s important in your community – how whole-house ventilation systems can address local pollution problems, for example, or how ceiling fans can offset high humidity.
Once you have something to offer, start building your online community. Your followers will be a diverse group of former, current and potential customers who share at least a tangential interest in HVAC topics. Whether they need your help now, later or never, each of your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter contacts and blog readers is valuable. They may turn into customers themselves or they may be key to helping you find new HVAC customers.
So how do you build your base of social media fans and readers?
• Cross-promote your online content. Publish a line or two from each new blog entry on Facebook, along with a link to the full post. Link to your Facebook page from your website. Use Twitter to share new additions to your website.
• Throw in some special offers in between all that informative content. Tweet a link to a coupon. Having a slow week? Offer a deal for Facebook fans on maintenance plans. Even if your current contacts don’t bite, they may pass along the deal to friends and families, who may join your online community, too.
• Speaking of Twitter: Don’t dismiss it. It’s a simple but powerful tool that can drive new folks to your business and strengthen your relationship with your existing customers. It can be invaluable in finding new HVAC customers.
Finally, no matter the social media platform, issue a call to action. Maybe it’s an invitation to comment on your blog post (and when you do receive comments, respond promptly). Maybe it’s a form that will secure a Facebook-only deal or a link via Twitter to a downloadable do-it-yourself maintenance guide. Clear the path for your customer’s next step, whether that’s toward a purchase or a reinforcing of your relationship.
Want to find new HVAC customers? Make it easy for them to find you.
Joe Pulizzi is CEO for SocialTract, the leading blogging/social media service for HVACR Contractors. Joe’s new book, Managing Content Marketing, is now available on Amazon and Kindle. Joe can be reached on Twitter @juntajoe or by email [email protected].