Running an HVAC business has changed dramatically in the last 15-20 years. The rise of computing technology and mobile devices has made field service management software more powerful and effective than ever, of course, but that’s not the only thing that’s changed. Marketing has also taken giant leaps forward, and there are more ways than ever to reach your ideal customers.
The downside to that is that there are more ways than ever to reach your ideal customers. With so many options, it’s not easy to figure out what you should be doing. In this post, we take a look at the things you can do to effectively grow your marketing efforts and bring in more business.
1 | Get Your House in Order
Before you embark on any large-scale marketing efforts, it’s vital to make sure your business is operating the way it should. Positive, empowered employees and good business processes make for happy customers – and happy customers are essential to getting the most from your marketing.
Not only do happy customers generate great word-of-mouth referrals, but they often leave positive reviews. You could spend thousands on marketing, but if people research your company and find mediocre or terrible reviews, they’ll almost definitely go elsewhere.
Running your business smoothly and efficiently also ensures greater customer retention. Whatever you’re spending to bring new customers through the door, it makes sense to do everything you can do to ensure you earn their business for years to come.
An efficient, well-run company is the key to making every marketing dollar go a little bit further.
2 | Build a Good Website
Your website serves several purposes when it comes to your marketing. Not only does it act as a brochure and way for your potential customers to get in touch with you, but it can actually draw customers to you, even if they’ve never heard of your business.
How? Search engine optimization. We’ll talk more about this in another section, but for now just know that when your website is properly optimized, search engines like Google and Bing will serve your site up as a result for those who are seeking the kind of services you’re offering.
Aside from search engine optimization, there are several things every HVAC website should offer:
- A clear and prominently-displayed phone number
- A secure browsing experience (your URL should be HTTPS://, rather than HTTP://)
- Speedy loading
- Clear, error-free descriptions of the benefits you can provide to your customers
- The ability to join your email list
- A mobile-friendly version of your site
Where should your phone number be?
Most websites choose the top right corner of the website for their phone number – and as a result, that’s where most people look for it.
The second most common place is in the footer. If there’s some reason you absolutely can’t put it in the top right corner, the footer is the next place most people will look for it.
What’s a secure site and why does it matter?
A secure site (one where the URL begins with https://) protects customer information as it’s submitted through your site. Most web hosts can provide this for an extra $10-30/year, and some even offer it for free, especially in the first year.
If you’re not sure whether your site is secure, try visiting it in a web browser like Chrome or Firefox and then look in the location bar. A secure site will have a small padlock off to the left side of where you type in page addresses.
In addition to protecting user data, secure sites also get slightly preferential treatment in search engines like Google. Considering how cheaply you can add this, there’s really no good reason not to do it.
Why does it matter if my site loads quickly?
There are two reasons, actually. First, people are increasingly impatient with page loading speeds. We live in a world of instant gratification, and if your site doesn’t load quickly, many customers will move on to another one.
The other reason is that search engines have begun to factor site speed into their rankings. If your major competitors have faster websites, they’ll have an edge when it comes to ranking well and getting new customers searching for an HVAC company.
To test the speed of your site against your competitors, check out Google PageSpeed Insights. You may find that it’s time for some upgrades or maybe even a complete site overhaul.
My website loads on my phone. Is that what you mean by mobile-friendly site?
Not necessarily. A mobile-friendly site is one that’s designed to be equally easy to use on a mobile device – and that often means making changes so the mobile version is slightly different from the regular desktop computer version of the site. Things like drop-down menus and small text can be challenging on tiny phone screens, so a good mobile-friendly site will eliminate those things in the mobile-version.
To check whether your site is mobile-friendly, enter your URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Tester. You’ll get valuable feedback to help you determine whether it’s time to make some changes to your website. Remember – in 2019, mobile traffic accounted for roughly half of all web traffic.
3 | Build an Email List
When it comes to HVAC marketing, one of the most cost effective things you can do is to build an email list. Though it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as things like Facebook and Instagram, it’s one of the few ways you can build an audience you truly own.
When you post on social media, you’re at the mercy of their algorithms – algorithms that favor fun and exciting topics that get lots of engagement from followers. While less than 5% of your audience will typically see a post on Instagram or Facebook, you can be sure 90% or more of your emails will land in their intended inboxes.
Email marketing is an affordable way to get in front of your customers on a regular basis, allowing you to remind them of upcoming specials or seasonal changes that might prompt them to take action on maintenance they’ve forgotten. By emailing regularly, you ensure you’re at the top of your customer’s mind whenever new needs arise.
These days, there are tons of reputable services to make email marketing easy. Some are even free until you reach 500-1000 list members. Many offer handy form-builders so people can easily add themselves to your email list to receive news, specials, and updates.
4 | Get to Know Search Engines
Google is one of the most powerful referrers of new business, and it’s worth taking the time to learn how to improve your presence and reach within the Google ecosystem. There are four basic components to your presence:
- Local Service Ads (pay per lead)
- Standard PPC Ads
- Google Local (Maps) Organic Results
- Google Organic Results
The first two are paid advertising opportunities, and the second two are “free” in the sense that you don’t pay Google for them. You may still have to pay in terms of making changes to your site or even hiring search engine optimization help if you’re not willing or able to do it yourself.
Paid placements are highly effective and extremely fast. You can set them up and start getting phone calls or traffic to your website almost immediately. The downside is that you have to pay, and when you stop paying, the clicks stop coming. Still, these paid placements can be highly effective and profitable when well-managed.
The biggest difference between Google Local Services ads and standard Google ads is that the Local Services program only requires you to pay when you get a lead. The program also requires you to apply and offer a “Google Guarantee”. Once you’re in, you’ll be eligible to show up for searches within your local service area.
One nice thing about the Google Local Services ads is that they show up even when many ad blockers are engaged. Regular Google ads don’t. That makes it a great way to get in front of an audience that might be missing your normal Google ads – and with more and more people blocking ads, that’s good news.
Organic results get lower billing on the results pages, but since there are no ongoing payments to get that traffic (barring any third-party SEO company you might hire), it’s well worth a bit of effort to grab some of those views.
How do I get organic search traffic?
Getting “free” search engine traffic is based on a few major factors:
- Relevance – Does your site answer the searcher’s question?
- Quality – Is your site authoritative? Do other websites point to it (quality, relevant links to your site “vouch” for your site’s quality)
- Speed – Does it load quickly?
- Security – Is your site secure?
- Usability – Can your site be used effectively on mobile and desktop?
We should note that this is a simplification. No one knows the precise algorithm that decides who ranks where, but these are all factors Google has mentioned repeatedly over the years. There are entire books on search engine optimization (SEO) and some people devote their entire careers to learning the topic – but for a typical local business, mastering the basics will deliver good results.
5 | Work with Apps and Sites that Target Homeowners
There are a number of sites that have spent years cultivating an audience of homeowners, and all of them have different ways you can reach their audiences. These sites include Yelp, Angie’s List, Houzz, HomeAdvisor, and NextDoor.
Yelp is one of the most popular review sites, covering everything from restaurants to retail to home services. Because Yelp has such a large audience, they can deliver an enormous number of qualified leads – but it’s only worth doing if you have the manpower to follow up and turn those leads into sales.
Angie’s List is similar to Yelp, but their reviews are more limited in scope. They focus on local service providers, and it’s free for people to search their database and view their reviews (though it used to be a paid service). As with Yelp, it’s important to make sure you make the most of their leads, as they can be expensive and not worth the investment if your team doesn’t follow through.
Of the three sites so far, HomeAdvisor is by far the most specialized. It caters to homeowners in need of services – including plumbing, HVAC, general contractors, roofers, and more. Because they’ve specialized, you may feel they’re a better fit in terms of how you can showcase your business and connect with the right kind of customers.
Houzz is another site that specializes in homes, décor, and architecture/construction, but their overall feel is a bit more “décor-ish” than HomeAdvisor. If you’re prepared to pay for leads and follow through, it’s another site worth testing.
NextDoor is an app that lets neighbors connect. If you want to make headway in a certain part of your city, it can be particularly useful – but so far, their advertising options are fairly limited. Even still, it’s worth claiming your local business page, even if their advertising options aren’t a good fit for your business.
6 | Ask for Reviews
In a time when a single angry customer can go around to all the review sites and leave nasty remarks about your business, it’s important to be proactive about getting good reviews. Unfortunately, unhappy people speak up much more often than happy customers, and people don’t always think about just how much their reviews can help a small business.
The answer? Ask! When a job is completed and the customer is happy, let them know how much it means to you and your business to get good reviews online. If there’s a specific platform where your need for reviews is more pressing, it doesn’t hurt to suggest it – but ultimately, all positive reviews are a good thing for your business. Some customers may not use Yelp, for instance, but they’d be happy to leave a review on Google or Facebook.
What about bad reviews?
If you get a bad review, the best thing to do is to respond in a cool, calm, and collected way to make sure your customer is looked after and any readers can see you’re not unreasonable. If the review is abusive, vulgar, or otherwise inappropriate, it’s generally best to report it to the platform and avoid engaging.
HVAC Marketing Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Marketing can feel unnatural or intimidating to many small business owners, but it doesn’t have to be. By focusing your efforts on a few key areas, you can create HVAC marketing systems within your business that will drive new customers for years to come.