Last issue, I focused on “The Next Big Thing” – the home performance industry – that many contractors were planning for at the ACCA Convention. This issue, I’ll discuss what I observed regarding “The Big Shift” that many HVAC contractors are already involved in, and it’s changing the way they communicate, the way they sell, and the way they market their businesses. Chances are, you’re already partaking in “The Big Shift”. Read on for a glimpse into how other HVAC contractors are leveraging this shift.
The Big Shift – Online Marketing for Greater Results
The tighter economy is forcing many HVAC contractors to closely analyze their advertising and marketing spend. Generating leads and sales is at a premium. Focusing on the activities that work while eliminating the failed tactics is what every contractor is trying to do. “The Big Shift” is occurring with more and more HVAC contractors recognizing they need to spend more of their marketing dollars online and reduce their advertising in other channels, such as broadcast and Yellow pages.
What they are doing to Succeed:
Perfecting SEO and Testing Pay-Per-Click – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines via organic or unpaid search results – is becoming a focal point for many contractors, and a foundation for their Internet marketing spend. The most effective SEO campaigns are those that focus on what prospects are searching for and then making sure that the website delivers that content. It’s the “what do my customers want to know” approach vs. the “what I want to tell my customers” approach. While the difference may seem subtle, it’s a big one.
In addition to SEO, more and more contractors are exploring pay-per-click advertising as a means to guarantee placement on certain search strings. Because SEO often takes some time to move websites up the search rankings, contractors are considering how they can leverage the guaranteed PPC placement at the beginning of the launch of their new site or landing pages and then gradually shifting their investment to a more robust SEO campaign.
Treating the company website as an extra salesman, not as a brochure – For years, HVAC contractors approached Internet marketing as a necessity to “get my name out there.” They felt that a home page that provided a history of the company, and some background on the owner, along with some pictures of their trucks would be a sufficient online presence. That attitude is shifting because consumers demand more, and contractors have a real opportunity to capture more business by stepping out from the crowd with their web presence.
In addition, contractors are recognizing that their site can serve as an extra salesman for them. It can not only attractively promote who the company is and what it stands for, but it can feature equipment, promote service agreements, generate leads and sales, and can be a supporting tool for the actual sales people who are out in the field working with prospects.
Draining their YP spending to expand Internet marketing – Almost every HVAC contractor I spoke to at the ACCA Convention has re-prioritized their marketing dollars away from yellow pages in order to fund added internet spend.
The results are in, and they’re plain as day. Yellow page spending doesn’t generate leads like it used to. By their very nature, the Yellow Pages can’t build brand awareness, loyalty or communicate why your company is worth paying more for. Consequently, what they do is attract consumers who are focused on the lowest price, not the best solution. In a market where value means virtually everything, those aren’t the type of leads you want to be generating. So the contractors who are still heavily invested in yellow page advertising are like farmers trying to grow crops on an old, beaten tract of land…it’s just not fertile ground anymore.
As I mentioned earlier, what makes online marketing so appealing is the detail to which you can track and thus gauge your ROI. Whether it’s SEO for your website, a PPC campaign to drive traffic to a landing page, or banner advertising to attract prospects, you will know what is working for you and what is not, because you can track virtually any set of metrics. You will have complete control over your spend so that you can invest in the areas that are pulling the best for you, and cut back in areas that aren’t working. As a former general manager of a $32 million contractor, that’s the type of control I would die for!
Until next issue, enjoy the Spring business and have a very Happy Easter!
Blaine Fox, Vice President of Warm Thoughts Communications, is a recognized expert on the residential mechanical services industry. In a world where every marketing dollar must be deployed to maximum effect, HVAC contractors are turning to market research to inform their decisions.The Warm Thoughts team of experts is helping contractors unlock the research and fine-tune marketing efforts. Blaine is a sought-after speaker, and presented at Comfortech 2009. He is also a frequent contributor to HVAC industry trade publications. If you have any questions about how to take advantage of market research for your service area, please email him at [email protected].