The Most Bang For Your Bucks
“I really love video,” says Renee Lucas, co-owner, LCS Heating & Cooling, LLC, Indianapolis. “I think people connect with video because they can truly see us. For well over a year now, we’ve been doing a weekly video post that we call ‘HVAC Talk: Let’s Be Real.’ People’s interaction with our company on Facebook has grown significantly since starting that.”
The videos, which typically range from two to five minutes, may feature Lucas, her co-owner husband Travis, a technician, or an installer. The final products, which take about five minutes to produce, end up on YouTube, Facebook, and the company’s website.
“The point is to provide content and be straight up with people,” she says.“Sometimes we pick topics based on customer questions we’ve had that week. Sometimes we give tips depending on what the weather is. Sometimes we talk about what to expect when working with a company.”
The firm, which the husband and wife team started in 2005, specializes in residential and light commercial HVAC and employs 18. “Our business has grown year to year, primarily by referrals and word-of-mouth marketing,” Lucas says.
In addition to videos, the company includes TV, billboards, Facebook, print magazines, and networking membershipsin its marketing outreach. “I try to think of what is important to homeowners,” she explains.“I often do this by thinking about what I personally like and don’t like in ads that I see—as a person, not a business owner. I also think about how I want our company to be seen and perceived.”
Seeking Five-Star Reviews
Another contractor who relies on videos is Louis Hobaica, president, Hobaica Services, Phoenix, Arizona. When theyidentify a problem on service calls, his technicians make a video to show to customers rather than
trying to explain the issue using confusing technical jargon.
“If I show you a video of the customer’s home with third-party
verification, there’s no smoke and mirrors,” he says. “The customer can view the video, ask questions, and control the conversation. This tool doubles our closing rate. You leave a lot of service on the table if you don’t utilize a video.”
The technicians mount their phones to their foreheads and use a Bluetooth clicker to stay hands-free. After they make the video, they show it the customer saying, “I’ve identified a few concerns I would like to make you aware of.”
Hobaica also takes advantage of video to teach his team members how to ask for a highly coveted five-star review and how to explain the company’s referral process. Each video is less than two minutes and ensures that all employees present in the same way.
In addition to television, radio, billboard, and postcard marketing, Hobaica places a high priority on requesting and supporting online reviews. “Our goal this year is 2,000 Google reviews with a 4.9-to-5-star rating,” he says. “Our focus is to create a positive, memorable experience. Our customers may forget what we said but will long remember how we made them feel. We create a great customer experience and ask for a five-star review.”
The company, with 40 employees and annual sales volume of $10 million, concentrates on the HVAC, wine cellar, drain, sewer, plumbing, electrical, security, video, and automation businesses.
“Our company was founded in 1952 so we’ve been around for 67 years,” he says. “We have a long history with our customers. They know us. We’ve dealt with their parents, their grandparents, their kids, and their extended families.By creating a relationship with our customers, they want us to work for them because they know they will be taken care of.”
Hobaica spends 70 percent of his marketing budget on his current customer base of 15,000. “If you’re a brand new customer, you will hear from us at least 30 times during the next year in a lot of different platforms—emails, notifications on your device through geofencing when you pass by our billboards and targeted zip codes, postcards, automated emails after every service, and monthly specials cross-pollinating other services.” He adds that outbound customer service representatives follow up on all open estimates that weren’t closed.
According to Hobaica, “we also like to keep our marketing dollars in-house—meaning we spend a lot on bonuses and spiffs as incentives to our biggest ambassadors, who are our team members. I’d much rather pay our team members to market our company rather than an outside third party.”
Yellow Trucks Carry Message
Mark E. Meacham, Inc., in Charlton, Massachusetts, spreads it marketing budget across digital, radio, cable, email, and selected print. The percentage and the amount allocated to each have not changed in two years, explains Mark E. Meacham, president.
“We’re not chasing a lot of new customers,” he says.“The lack of skilled tradesmen restricts our ability to grow rapidly. We can sell all day long, but if you don’t have crews to do the work, what’s the point? It’s a constant balancing act between demand and capacity.”
The 33-year-old company, which has 28 employees and offers residential HVAC and plumbing, is known for its bright yellow service trucks. According to Meacham, the highly visible trucks attract attention and are an excellent source of inexpensive marketing. When asked why they called, customers frequently respond, “I saw your truck.”
Don’t Make These Marketing Mistakes
There’s no sense wasting precious marketing dollars, agree HVAC contractors, who cite two mistakes to avoid:
Avoid low-ball pricing gimmicks. “I stay away from marketing that pins us to be the cheapest price,” says Renee Lucas, co-owner, LCS Heating & Cooling, LLC, Indianapolis. “For example, if there’s a mailer that has several HVAC companies advertising already, you won’t see us in there. In that type of marketing, it generally comes down to who has the cheapest service call or the cheapest tune-up price. I feel like that makes us a commodity instead of a unique business.”
Mark E. Meacham, president of Mark E. Meacham, Inc., in Charlton, Massachusetts, agrees. He advises that you stay away from “gimmicky confusing print ads in local free publications.”
Don’t market to the masses. Know whom you’re marketing to and who your real customers are, Meacham says. His marketing advice to other contractors: “Work your existing customer base for recommendations and referrals.”
Louis Hobaica, president, Hobaica Services, Phoenix, Arizona, has this approach down to a science. “We get the most bang for our buck by marketing to our existing customers, who already love us. We market other services to them and ask them referrals. We’re spending about 8 percent of our total sales on marketing right now. We’re in a growth mode. The economy is good and people have money to spend.”
Hobaica carefully considers the customer base he is trying to reach with his marketing messaging. “We have to make sure the audience is within our target audience and is a customer we want,” he explains. “Phoenix has 60+ zip codes. We can’t serve all of them. We concentrate on about 15 zip codes.”
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