A strong brand and digital foundation can provide growth in any market.
Perhaps your small HVAC business has grown steadily for the past few years, but you are now looking to take it to the next level. Possibly you’ve noticed a slowdown in revenue and can’t pinpoint the cause. Or, maybe you are a startup player looking to break into the HVAC market against a number of big names.
Regardless of the situation, here are four tips that any HVAC business should employ to ensure that they stand out in their market.
1. Have a Rock-Solid HVAC Brand
When it comes to HVAC marketing, like the marketing of any small business, branding is paramount.
In a saturated market, a strong HVAC brand is the most important asset that your company has.
In a saturated market, a strong HVAC brand is the most important asset that your company has—more important than your equipment, tools and technology. The brand you develop represents your company as strongly as the employees working for your business.
The brand is what provides potential customers with their first impression of a business. It’s what is seen first on a fleet vehicle, on a website, billboard or social media.
A brand is more than the company name or logo—it’s the combination of color, typography, icons and text. Each of these elements come together to make something greater than the sum of their individual parts.
It is a shame, then, that so many HVAC brands are an afterthought—developed by a printing company as a means to get things done as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Developing a Powerful HVAC Brand
One quick way to tell if your HVAC brand is strong enough to succeed in the market is to print it on a piece of paper alongside your major competitors. Does it stand out from the competition, or do your eyes wash over all logos, without settling on any one? Ask the same question of a few other people—and, particularly, those not invested in your business. The results will be telling. Check out these other signs that you may need to rebrand your HVAC business.
Obviously, the more your brand sticks out, the better. But this alone is not the key to a powerful brand. The second vital part to a successful HVAC brand is the promise it implies. When looking at a brand, a consumer should feel something about the company, or think something to be true of it. The brand must communicate these emotions and characteristics, whether it is happiness and trustworthiness, or sophistication and technologically savvy. Look at your brand again— what promise does it make, if any?
This is where the colors, typography and icons come into play. The proper combination can provide the exact brand promise that’s needed to get consumers to become customers of your business, not your competition.
2. Have Cohesive Messaging
Once a strong brand is created, it is time to develop a brand voice for your HVAC company. This is a set of guidelines that describes how the company will communicate with consumers and customers across all mediums—from brochures, the website, blogs and social media, to traditional advertising channels, such as radio and TV. In a saturated market, where there is a lot of noise competing for the consumers’ attention, a cohesive brand voice is like a foghorn cutting through the chatter, delivering a loud, bold message.
The development and execution of a brand voice is something frequently missing from HVAC marketing plans. The weight of doing business in a 24/7 society often results in marketing messages that are created on the fly, and by various stakeholders. The results are clear: disjointed messages that do not align with a brand promise or the brand itself.
Developing a Stellar Brand Voice
A brand voice is vital to standing out in a saturated market, as it tells consumers not just what a company does, but also who makes it all possible.
A brand voice is vital to standing out in a saturated market, as it tells consumers not just what a company does, but also who makes it all possible. A brand voice is an expression of a company’s values and its way of thinking; it must grow out of what a business genuinely believes in and stands for. This is not something that’s done overnight—significant thought must be put into developing a brand voice that resonates with the brand itself, the brand promise and the target audience. (Read more details on brand voice development for small businesses.)
By having rules that provide for uniform messaging in all areas, the impact will be more powerful than fragmented messages crafted over time by various stakeholders. Consistency is key for long-term success in a saturated market.
3. Invest in Digital
When there are options for $1 websites built in a week, why would a small HVAC business invest thousands of dollars into a website design that takes months?
One word: science.
Like branding, websites are often given low priority on the totem pole of an HVAC business’ investment plan. Almost nothing could be worse for the future success of a business in a saturated market.
A website is where the consumer’s first impressions, which they developed upon first seeing the brand, are cemented. It’s the hub for every marketing effort and every potential sale, from word-of-mouth referrals to traditional advertising efforts. Those emotions and the brand promise voiced in the brand and logo should be echoed in the design, content and functionality of the website.
A website is where the consumer’s first impressions, which they developed upon first seeing the brand, are cemented.
The effectiveness of a website is based on more than consistency and good design, though. Bringing a brand to life online involves a combination of efforts within an interactive medium, including copywriting, graphic design, and technical expertise. This should not be left to the cheapest solution, and a single person can rarely, if ever, have the proper depth of knowledge to be effective across all of these areas.
Selecting a Digital Partner
Picking the right website design and development vendor is one of the hardest decisions a small business can make, and rightfully so. There are, however, a number of elements to evaluate to make this selection process easier. Know that there are no right answers—what works for one business may not work for another. Pick the vendor that most closely aligns with your must-haves.
- Experience is critical. Does the company have expertise, testimonials or case studies (with metrics!) from others in your industry?
- In-house execution. Is the design and development work done in house, or outsourced to another party?
- A fighter in the ring. Is there someone at the company who will know your business inside and out, and serve your interests during strategic internal discussions?
- Original work. Is the design and code original work, or based on a template?
- Partners, not vendors. Does the company invest in your success, or just look for their next payment?
No matter which vendor is chosen, though, the success of the website is also dependent on your effective communication, particularly of expectations, goals and needs. At the same time, a business owner should understand some of the website development process, and expectations that a vendor will have of their client.
4. Invest wisely
Now that your brand and website are the leaders in your market, it’s time to take them out for a spin and promote your business. But where and how a business does so is the last element of ensuring success in a saturated HVAC market.
One of the most cost-effective, revenue-generating methods of doing so is via digital marketing. Covering the gamut from email marketing and blogging, to social media and pay-per-click advertising, digital marketing is still affordable when compared to traditional mediums, such as billboards, radio and television. But don’t expect to pay pennies—depending on the medium, the costs to run digital advertisements can be high.
For example, as of this publishing, in many saturated HVAC markets across the U.S., the cost to run an ad on Google Adwords at the top of page one for popular terms such as “air conditioner repair” is at or above $30 per click. Depending on conversion rates and margin, there may be other digital avenues that generate better ROI for a lower cost.
Unlike traditional marketing, the return-on-investment in digital programs is 100% trackable.
Unlike traditional marketing, the return-on-investment in digital programs is 100% trackable. Keep this in mind when selecting digital marketing strategies, vendors and programs. Set benchmarks, and goals, and commit to analyzing the numbers. Learn when to pull back on programs that aren’t delivering ROI, and wait on new programs that need to gain legs before ROI is reached.
This is where your digital partner, mentioned in No. 3 above, comes in handy. A partner will help you evaluate all options and select the best methods for your goals. They can help develop strategies and tactics that work toward your goals, be it brand awareness, leads or direct sales.