If you don’t have it already, add American Express Open Forum to your online reading list. It’s amazing that one of the top resources for small businesses comes from a non-media brand, but get used to it. More and more of the best content around will continue to come from companies that haven’t historically been publishers. John Jantsch wrote a compelling article recently on Open Forum called “5 Ways that Content Marketing Has Changed the Art of Selling Forever.” There are a couple key points in here that are essential for HVAC contractors to understand.
Before a technician walks into a house or makes a cold call, do the proper listening online. 90% of your customers have a social profile (either on Facebook or Twitter and soon-to-be Google Plus), so do your homework and understand who these people are. By doing a little work upfront, we may be able to uncover challenges or preconceptions ahead of time (i.e., they may be already discussing their home comfort problem online).
Insight over Information
More of your customers are coming in pre-sold. They’ve researched online and have the information they need. Today, our customers may know as much about the product as us (scary, huh?).
So your sales job as a contractor is less about information (they already have that) and more about how that information fits into this specific situation. We need to be prepared for that kind of sales situation.
Publish over Prospect
I love this line from John: “Search engine usage has made consistent content production mandatory.”
Just like American Express, we’re all publishers today. We need to consistently deliver valuable information to our customers (not should, but need). Our sales organization needs to continually create a stream of content that positions our brand as the regional expert.
Think of it this way: every situation is a content situation. Have you found a unique challenge in a home that you solved? How do you communicate that in your blog, on your website, in your enewsletter or on Facebook? Are you sharing tips with your followers on Twitter? This type of thinking needs to be integrated into every part of your organization, from administrative staff to technicians, to sales people, and to the owner him/herself.
Farm over Hunt
Most contractors are built as hunters. We want to see sales immediately. Who doesn’t?
Unfortunately, it’s harder than ever to reach people by phone or to get our customers’ attention. Consistent content marketing means that we need to continually plant the seeds so that we are the preferred partner chosen when our customers do indeed have a problem we can solve. I see so many contractors stop the process during the busy summer or winter months and then wonder why sales aren’t coming in when things get slow.
Online content never reaps immediate results. Only those who consistently farm will get business and referrals over the long-term.
Joe Pulizzi is CEO of SocialTract , the leading blogging and content service designed for service companies. SocialTract is part of the Content Marketing Institute , which runs the largest international content marketing event, Content Marketing World (Sept 6-8, 2011). Joe is also co-author of Get Content Get Customers, which details how companies can publish content to drive revenues. Joe can be reached at [email protected].