“Fail to plan. Plan to fail.” Harsh words indeed, but painfully accurate – especially when you realize that some HVAC contractors have no marketing plan.
Lack of planning costs contractors in lost sales and wasted marketing dollars – not to mention a year-round nagging feeling. Contractors tend to worry that they should be doing something, but wait until it’s too late.
Usually, contractors end up putting too much money in the wrong media, or too much in the right media at the wrong time. This poor timing causes contractors to miss openings when their market was ready to hear from them and instead hit hard when the market isn’t responsive.
Typically, the HVAC contractor waits on the weather or panics if it doesn’t cooperate. Worse than that, he’s prone to buy whatever the ‘deal of the week’ is being offered by the Yellow Pages or a radio salesperson.
This business approach will either doom sales or slash profits, especially when you consider that most contractors spend 4-6% of their gross revenues on marketing.
Marketing is too important to guess at. It is your primary lead source, (which you must have in order to have sales.) Believe me, there are more reliable marketing methods than the weather, and there are more prudent ad buys than ones made in a panic.
The simple cause of all this guess work is a lack of a marketing plan.
You need a marketing strategy that considers the needs of your market and provides a year-round plan to meet those needs. (Hint: Choosing an ad and hoping for the best is not a plan.)
Here are 4 simple steps to get your strategy started:
1. Determine your sales goals in service and replacements.
2. Assign a percentage of those numbers to your marketing budget. The average in HVAC is 4.3%. Aggressive companies can spend up to 10%, while slow, mature companies may only spend 2.5%. The aggressive must spend more for acquisition, while the mature company spends much less producing the same results from a great customer retention program, such as newsletters.
3. Figure your percentage of sales in the peak summer, peak winter and both “off peak” seasons. This is exactly relative to your goal for these season’s sales. (See, I’m simple about this. No need to confuse this with a plan you’ll never do.)
>4. From this, you can quickly determine the timing for service or replacement promotions for each season, using the percentage of sales per item as a basis for your marketing. Now, simply spread these dollars over the highest response media.
Generally, I’d advise to use newspapers, followed by direct mail postcards, then letters, then electronic. This gives you the highest number of ‘hits’ for the least dollars in the most likely markets. All these leads go into a ‘funnel’ of least likely to most likely, then to good ol’ paying customers. Just like that. The better the prospect, the more often they should hear from you in a year.
I’ve computed this formula dozens of times for many contractors over the years, and it can work wonders for you too when it’s captured in a year-round plan.
Without a plan, you’re basically re-active, when you should be pro-active. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead of desperately throwing money on ads when business slows, a marketing plan gives you a calm, rational approach to anticipate the slow times, and gives you ways to keep promoting yourself when business is booming.
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing calendar with an easy-to-follow marketing plan by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115 or emailing to [email protected]. You can also call Hudson, Ink at 1-800-489-9099 for help or visit www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.