The phone rings or the inbox dings to indicate that a new message has arrived. The customer service representative answers the call or replies to the email, and then immediately gets to work handling the customer’s needs. The interaction sets in motion the process of scheduling an appointment, diagnosing the problem, providing the proper service, sending an invoice and thanking the homeowner or business for choosing this heating and air conditioning contractor.
The transaction never would have happened without the first phone call or emailed contact form. But, does the company know what prompted the customer to pick up the phone or fill out the form? How did he or she find the number to call, or arrive at the website?
Valuable Data Enlightens Decisions
Capturing this information should be a routine part of the sales process for HVAC companies, so they know the source of their leads well before they know the source of the heating or cooling malfunction. Managing leads helps small businesses figure out which marketing efforts are working, and where they need to improve their visibility.
Without data, managers are left guessing what’s driving their new business. Instead, they can have a firm grasp on what’s working to measure their return on investment and make smarter marketing decisions in the future.
How HVAC Companies Can Manage Leads
There are several ways to determine what brought a customer to the company. The most basic is to ask.
When customer service agents answer phone calls, they should ask, “How did you hear about us?” Then, ensure that the answer is logged in computer software or on the intake form that establishes the customer’s record or account with the company. Examples of possible answers could be:
- A friend recommended you.
- I found you when I did a web search.
- I saw your truck.
- I got your flier in the mail.
- I heard/saw your commercial.
- I cut your coupon out of the newspaper.
Categorize the customer’s response according to the company’s marketing tactics (referral, web, truck wrap, direct mail, TV/radio ad, print ad).
Other more technical ways to determine the source of leads include call-tracking and Google Analytics.
There are various call-tracking solutions available. On the most basic level, they work by assigning a unique phone number to each medium where customers could find it, so that the number they call indicates whether they got the phone number from the website, or truck, or magazine ad, for example.
Similarly, different marketing media can provide unique website URLs, so that companies can determine where customers who visit the site first saw the web address.
Google Analytics allows companies to see the source of traffic to their website. Use this tool to determine the number of visits overall, or to specific pages, that came from organic searches, pay-per-click ads, social media, a link on another website (labeled as “referral”) or directly (customers that type the site’s URL into their browser or have it bookmarked).
Track Value to Measure ROI
The next step toward assessing the value of those lead-generating efforts is to know the quality of the leads that they’re creating. If the person who contacted the company does not ultimately buy services, be sure to indicate that the lead did not convert into a customer.
For those who do, develop a way to record the value of the sale. This is how managers can determine the return on investment (ROI) of their marketing expenses—by comparing the cost of the advertisement, Google AdWords campaign or vehicle wrap to the value of sales the tactic generated.
The goal is for lead-generating efforts to spark sales that are worth more than the expense the company invested to deploy the marketing tactic.
Review Records Regularly
There are a variety of ways to track all of this information, from simple and free, to fancy and expensive. On the latter end, customer relationship management (CRM) software offers dynamic features with a full complement of tools, reminders, templated communications and notifications. Or, HVAC companies that use sophisticated software for scheduling appointments and managing customer records may find existing fields where information about leads can be input and measured.
On the simpler side, a basic spreadsheet can do the trick, since columns and rows can be sorted, searched, filtered and summed. Perhaps several employees share access, or all of their files are merged at regularly scheduled intervals so that managers can see the full picture.
No matter what tool holds the data, what’s most important is to look at the numbers. Review the information at least monthly, and compare the data to the same time period the previous year, to account for the seasonality of sales in this industry.
Also, look for trends after a new marketing initiative launches or whenever there’s a change in the company’s strategy or visibility.
Use Learnings About Leads
Finally, HVAC companies with all of this information in hand can adjust their marketing budget to invest more heavily in areas that deliver the most valuable leads. It requires some time and effort, but it immediately benefits the bottom line.