Perhaps you've seen him: the nodding, smiling homeowner who has no idea what your technician is talking about. In fact, your technician -- who's just doing his job, trying his best to explain the advantages of the customer's new furnace -- lost him five minutes ago, at "98% AFUE."
Like any industry, the HVAC industry is full of jargon. But because heating and cooling contractors dwell in a world of mechanics, efficiency ratings and evolving technology, the HVAC industry can be even more confusing than many to typical homeowners. To a prospect who is new to the world of heating efficiency, "annualized fuel utilization efficiency" sounds as foreign as "blunging" might sound to an HVAC contractor. (Potters, of course, know that blunging refers to - the process of mixing clay and water.)
Here's where your HVAC blog comes in. Your blog offers an excellent opportunity to translate industry jargon into clear language that prospects can understand quickly. Break down complex or confusing topics into pieces, explain them in plain English, and you've gone a long way toward winning over one more customer -- and toward establishing your HVAC contracting company as the go-to source for expert information in your community.
This isn't to suggest that your customers aren’t intelligent. In fact, any reader who catches a whiff of condescension on your HVAC blog will move on quickly. But online readers have good questions, and they are looking for good answers. The online source that provides information most clearly is the one they'll read -- and return to later when they have more questions. And good content is content that puts readers first.
Here are some tips for eliminating jargon and other reader-unfriendly obstacles in your HVAC blog -- and for creating content that offers a real benefit to the current and potential customers who find you online:
• Put yourself in the reader's shoes. As you embark on a topic for your blog, ask yourself: What does this mean in the end for the customer? As an HVAC contractor, you might be dazzled by the technology of the latest solar-ready hot water heater. To a homeowner, it's a piece of equipment that means smaller utility bills and reliably hot water. Or, from your perspective, you're selling a furnace. From your customer's perspective, he or she is making a major investment in a reliable source of warmth and comfort for the whole family. Use your HVAC blog to convey what is important to the customer.
• Make it human. While always remaining professional, your HVAC blog should also reflect the fact that it is produced by a local company run by real people. How to accomplish that? Maintain a conversational tone. Again, translate jargon into plain language. And strive to reflect the people and community you serve. If your region is experiencing its ninth day of subzero weather, take note of that as you write a post about heating efficiency. If your new technician's quick fix of an elderly customer's thermostat inspired a grateful note, write about that, too.
• Get to the point. Customers can get their chit-chat elsewhere. From your HVAC blog, they want useful information. Don't "back in" to your post with slightly relevant chatter. Instead, make your point right off the bat, letting readers know what they stand to gain by reading your post. Edit carefully, cutting out redundancies. It’s much better to offer a truly informative 200-word post than a 400-word post that risks wasting your potential customers' time.
• Break it down. Sure, you could go on for hours about ductwork. Resist the urge. Divide big topics into smaller, manageable topics. Write one short post about duct sealing. Write another about duct cleaning. Write a third about duct insulation. You will make it easier for readers seeking specific information to find the answers they need. You'll also reduce the risk of information overload.
• Break it down some more. We know that online readers like to scan content to quickly locate and digest the information they're seeking. Use bullets, subheads, numbered lists and concise paragraphs to offer bite-sized pieces of information.
• Make your HVAC blog accessible in terms of design, too. Less is more: eliminate clutter, and make your blog easy to navigate. Offer a good search feature so readers can easily find past posts on other HVAC topics.
There's a point to all of this. Your HVAC blog should be playing a leading role in your overall marketing strategy. After all, we know that your current and future customers are online; blogs offer a way to create quality, consistent and useful content to meet them there. But to take the relationship beyond that first glance, your content has to keep them reading -- and that requires content that prioritizes your customers and their needs.
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].