The HVAC industry is one of our favorite industries to work with, and contractors have some really specific needs when it comes to HVAC web design and HVAC digital marketing. In this article, we are going to be focusing on the HVAC industry specifically. We want to talk about some of the digital marketing strategies that work best for AC installation and repair professionals in terms of landing solid online leads that convert to repeat business.
The HVAC contractors that have been in business the longest are no stranger to marketing campaigns that are long on promises (and cost) but short on results. Keep reading to find out how to get the best bang for your buck.
HVAC Web Design and the Unique Challenges to This Industry
One of the first pieces of advice given to any business owner who approaches us is to create a persona. What does your best customer look like? Are they younger families or aging baby boomers? Do they live in certain parts of your city? What types of things are important to them? What types of things are MORE important to them (for example, cost or comfort?).
Its very eye opening to talk to several battle-hardened veteran HVAC contractors who have run dozens or even hundreds of marketing campaigns for their business, and find out that many of them never started a campaign by asking this simple question. So, can you guess what the answer is?
Usually, it goes something like this:
The Best Customer for my HVAC Business is:
- Between the ages of 30-60
- Owns a home
- Has money
- Values things like comfort and energy efficiency over cost
- Lives in a mid-upper class neighborhood
- Has done enough research to understand terms like BTU and SEER
This is a great place to start, but it’s not enough. To really create an effective campaign, we also need to find out what is important to this type of HVAC customer.
According to research in the American Home Comfort Study, one in 10 homeowners wanting to replace an old a/c unit with a new one did so to improve air quality, and more than two in 10 wanted to improve comfort. Forty-five percent wanted a more efficient product to reduce utility bills. Most of these homeowners (57%) were over the age of 45.
What were these types of customers looking for when choosing a contractor to replace their AC system? The study cited above suggests that one of the most important elements is trust. What built that rapport with customers? Those who responded in the study indicated that they were more likely to trust an HVAC contractor that already had a service and maintenance agreement with, and that they tended to trust a contractor who took on more of an “educator” role during the sales process.
How are Customers Finding the Contractor They Will Do Business With? Almost Always in the Same Place.
This is some essential info. According to the study, in 2002, about 24 percent of respondents were getting their information from the Yellow Pages, 46 percent from friends, 21 percent from the web, and 55 percent from other contractors. More than 15 years later, those numbers look very, very different. Less than 5 percent are gathering information from the Yellow Pages, 35 percent from friends or social media, 48 percent from the web searches and online reviews, and 43 percent from contractors. (The reason these numbers add up to more than 100% is that the survey participants were asked to check all that applied).
If we combine “friends and social media” and “web searches”, we find that an overwhelming majority of customers who are shopping to replace their AC system are starting online. This has huge ramifications to the legacy HVAC dealer who has been in business for decades and has built their company on reputation and word of mouth. People may still be talking about them on social media, but without an effective web presence, they will continue to lose market share to their competitors. Effective HVAC web design and marketing is no longer optional for companies like these that want to stay in business.
There are a few areas for a dealer to focus on to maximize their visibility to these customers.
Essential Areas of HVAC Digital Marketing and HVAC Web Design for Contractors
We’ve discovered that some things work better than others when it comes to our HVAC clients. The best return-on-effort and investment usually comes from having some basic things in place first:
1.) Make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices
Sure, a huge number of people already use their phone or tablet for mobile searches, but for HVAC customers its particularly important. Many who replace their AC system do their research when there is an issue (my system is down and I need help) or when there is an emergency (my coil is leaking and the cost of repair is too high to not consider replacing the unit completely). They are usually on-the-go when these issues happen, and so their mobile device is the first thing they look at when trying to decide how to solve their problem.
2.) Focus your HVAC web design on educating your customers rather than trying to sales pitch
Many HVAC dealer sites shout the virtues of their company the second the customer lands on their page. Most customers ignore it completely.
Because the dealer has designed his web presentation to the customer with his own needs in mind. He needs a customer, he needs to make a sale, and he needs to convince the customer that he is the best one for the job. Here’s the pickle with that strategy: the customer already knows that you think you are the best and the greatest, and he/she has zero interest in hearing about it. They could care less about your viewpoint, because they are focused on their own problems and needs. And right now, they showed up at your website to try to find answers to some of their most pressing questions, like:
- Did the guy at my house who told me my AC was broken diagnose it correctly?
- How much does it cost for a new AC system?
- I don’t want to get ripped off. I know this company thinks they’re great, but what are others saying about this company?
- What info do I need to know to make a good decision here? I don’t know anything about HVAC and now I need to make a choice… fast.
If they find the answers to these questions on your educational, helpful website with a minimum amount of fuss, that dramatically increases the trust they have for you as a company.
3.) Make it incredibly, stupidly easy for customers to reach out to you.
If, while they are being educated, they also have easy access to a long list of positive reviews your clients have left for you and a painless “call to action” form where they can provide their contact information to learn more, then you are vastly more likely to close the sale with that customer.
It’s incredible to us that many HVAC dealers have websites that scream about deals and specials on the front page, but to find a form to fill out online customers need to navigate to a specific “contact us” page, scroll below the fold, and then deal with a form that asks for way too much information.
You need three things: First name, last name, and phone number or email address. That’s it. Need an address? Look them up on your local property appraiser site. Need to know the tonnage of their current system? How old it is? If they are interested in other options like air quality or variable speed? Ask the customer when you talk to them, and even then, only after you have taken the time to focus on their needs, their questions, and their concerns. Your HVAC web design should be focused on one and only one goal: to get the customer to engage. All you need for that to happen is a name and contact method.
Can Your Customers Find Your HVAC Website Online?
It is absolutely essential for HVAC Dealers to have a strong presence on search engines and on social media. Remember what we learned from the American Home Comfort Study? More and more customers are finding the dealer they will do business with by using two channels: friends/social media and web search. So how do you optimize your HVAC web design to be as effective as possible?
1.) Hire a Professional
Yes, there are many things you can do on your own. HVAC web design and digital marketing are not one of them. A professional that focuses on digital marketing for the HVAC industry will have done their research. They will focus on working in the following areas:
- Paid Advertising
- Social Media Marketing
- Responsive, Mobile Friendly Websites
- Quality, Educational Content
2.) Use Your Online Presence as a Two Way Street
Every HVAC contractor who has been in business for more than 5 minutes knows two sad truths. First, that no matter what you do there are some customers that you will never make happy. Second, that these customers talk way more than the many customers who are thrilled with the service you have provided.
The migration of customers to the internet as their main tool to find a contractor means that if one customer leaves you a nasty review, every potential customer who looks you up online from that point forward will see it. So what can you do? Simple. You respond.
Look, most people have their own industry with their own “PITA” (pain in the @#$) customers. They get it. If someone leaves you a nasty review, respond with kindness, firmness, and outline how you can (or tried to) make it right. Most people trust a 4.8 star review where they can read the owners responses to unhappy customers than a 5 star review with no responses.
3.) Execute Your HVAC Web Design Strategy, Evaluate Your Metrics, and Refine Your Tactics
Your HVAC digital marketing agency can help you with this. Just know that online marketing is unique among all other forms of advertising in that there is almost no guesswork. Just about everything that could possibly have to do with an HVAC online marketing campaign can be tracked. A good HVAC digital marketing agency will have this info on demand for you. They will have completed your HVAC web design with this in mind. They will also review it with you and help you make choices about where to send your money for maximum impact.
Still have questions? Are you an HVAC dealer who would like to learn more with no expectations? We are here to serve you.