• The Non-Sales Touch

    April 13, 2011
    When HVAC contractors talk about their websites, they almost exclusively talk about its importance in attracting new customers. Blogging, social media, pay-per-click, search engine optimization, etc., are all attraction marketing tactics.

    When HVAC contractors talk about their websites, they almost exclusively talk about its importance in attracting new customers. Blogging, social media, pay-per-click, search engine optimization, etc., are all attraction marketing tactics. Of course, it makes a lot of sense that contractors talk about attracting new customers. Your website is your storefront to the world. If your website is hard to find or doesn’t have the information that takes the buyer to the next level, your business is in big trouble.

    According to a recent study from the Content Marketing Institute, seven out of 10 businesses develop online content to RETAIN customers. That’s right, the biggest reason that companies develop online and print content as part of their marketing is to try to keep their customers. Also, according to Bain and Company , the cost of acquiring a new customer is six to seven times higher than keeping a customer, so it makes sense that a good portion of our content creation efforts are focused on retention.

    Just think about the type of information you receive in the mail. I receive Mazda’s magazine Zoom Zoom every quarter because they’re trying to keep me as a Mazda owner. They send me entertaining and educational information that works to position Mazda as a trusted resource. I also receive AAA’s tourism and travel guide, not only as a member benefit, but in the hopes that I will resign up for the service again. Both these examples are retention marketing.

    The same idea works online, but service companies rarely think about it. We all know that keeping customers is critical to a healthy HVAC business, yet many contractors do little to communicate with customers on an ongoing basis. This is where online content can serve a critical role.

    I was chatting with a contractor the other day and he was talking about “non-sales” touches. As we discussed more, he went on about the importance of interacting with current customers on a consistent basis WITHOUT hitting them up for a sale – a special offer, a discount, a new service or even regular appointments as part of their service maintenance agreement.

    How can we add more “non-sales” touches to our customers, keeping in communication with them and positioning our business as trusted and helpful resources?

    Blogging – Yes, blogging can be a tremendous customer attraction tactic, but don’t forget about talking with your existing customers. Let’s say you deliver two blog posts per week through your website. Of that, what if a current customer reads even 25% of those posts. That would mean an additional 25 “non-sales” touches to your customer throughout the year. Very powerful.

    Newsletters – Although I believe all contractors should develop and send a print newsletter, it can get expensive, averaging about $1 per copy or more after all investment (postage, creative, etc.). Still, 42% of businesses still send out customer magazines and 25% send printed newsletters. But, 61% send enewsletters, and even with all the email spam, open rates on enewsletters continue to be healthy. Services like Google Feedburner can automatically send email newsletters to your customers if you have a blog (Feedburner is a free service). If you want to customize your newsletter on a monthly basis, services like Emma, iContact, Constant Contact and Mailchimp are all solid choices. Those of you that have blogs can easily develop an enewsletter out of your blog content, which, once an email template is created, will take you less than an hour a month to do. Having an enewsletter also gives your technicians incentive to gather email addresses from customers when doing a home visit.

    eBooks – Creating ongoing, helpful resources for customers is a must. Jackson and Sons out of North Carolina sends their customers this helpful eBook and guide on Home Comfort Solutions. An eBook can be a great way to distribute helpful information, integrated with relevant images, to help education current customers and position your company as the regional expert. A great non-contractor example is Healthy Mouth, Healthy Sex from Dr. Helaine Smith, who used this eBook to supercharge her dentistry business and keep customers coming back.

    Facebook – Connecting with customers on Facebook is one thing, but having something to say is a completely different issue. If you have a Facebook page, make sure you actually have something interesting to say or there is no point to having a Facebook presence.

    You want to keep more customers. You want more service-maintenance agreements. You want to reach out to your customers more without selling to them. If that is the case, you’ll need to develop consistent and helpful information that positions your business as the leading home comfort solutions expert. Blogs, newsletters, eBooks and Facebook are simple tactics that may work for your business, but it starts with thinking about the types of issues that your customers struggle with. The home comfort problems that keep your customers up at night are the ones you need to answer. When you do, you not only touch your customer without having to sell to them, you lay the groundwork to keep that customer for life.

    Joe Pulizzi is CEO of SocialTract , a blogging/social media service for HVACR contractors. Joe is also co-author of Get Content Get Customers, which details how companies can publish content to drive revenues. SocialTract is a division of Z Squared Media, LLC . Joe can be reached at [email protected]. For speaking needs - http://joepulizzi.com.