Your strategic planning for the year is probably almost completed. For those of you who haven’t started, make sure you do. Regardless of the size of your business, early planning makes sense.

Many HVAC business owners become personally involved in the technical side of the business, but you must also become involved in business marketing strategies.

Marketing is often the last thing to get attention in hard times, and marketing budgets are often dramatically trimmed at the first sign of reduced revenues. However, whether your marketing budget is ample or frugal, in this industry, marketing to your existing customers is critical. After that, you must channel your focus and marketing spending to non-customers living in your customers’ neighborhoods.

Here are my suggestions for marketing your business in 2013:

For Existing Customers

Whether your company is large or small, don’t forget that half of all homeowners don’t think about their HVAC systems until it fails.

Half of your existing customers invite you or a competitor into their home at least once a year for system clean-and-checks. This is a great opportunity for you to get your customer to pay for your ability to build a relationship.

Half of those clean-and-check customers are operating on established service agreements.

More than one-third of your prior-year customers can’t remember your name. You were just there, yet they won’t be able to contact you again. That’s why you must find ways to stay in touch.

Your reputation and your name are two distinctly different things. Your reputation will last longer in your customer’s mind than your name.  Your reputation won’t help you grow if your customer can’t remember your name.

Whether you have ample funds for marketing or a limited marketing budget, it’s a major mistake to neglect marketing to recent (past 2-3 years) customers.

If your reputation is good, be certain your past customers can link your reputation with your name.

If you have customers with whom something went wrong, don’t forget them. Consider sending them special mailings. Often, they’ll return to the company they worked with in the past, even if something went wrong.

Building your relationships — and finding the right theme and focus in which to do so — is difficult, but it’s worth the effort.

For Potential Customers

Use your past work to help energize your marketing effort. Homeowners talk to one another about you. Over one-fourth of installations are followed by recommendations to friends and family.

Send mailers/door hangers to neighborhoods where you worked last year or two years ago. Target neighborhoods where you have existing, recent customers. This helps you build a core market for your service business, and past customers are there to help.

The Value of Marketing

There are many marketing efforts that work. Some are highly costly, while others are not.  Leveraging your reputation and your past (recent) work helps you win a stronger return for your marketing dollars.

Positive reasons for your contact with your homeowners include:

Service agreements are a great way to maintain a rapport with your customer.  Half of all homeowners already understand that it’s important to have a professional clean and assess their HVAC system, at least annually. Half of all contractor home visits this year will be clean-and-checks. Half of those will be service agreements. Such contact can be a very positive way to stay in touch.

Warranties and extended warranties are great reasons to contact your customers. The American Home Comfort study continues to uncover the fact that most homeowners misunderstand their warranties. Even if you’ve told them about the warranties once, telling them again is a useful and appreciated contact. 

These ideas aren’t new. However, the fact that they’re needed makes it important that you remember them. Homeowners of all ages have difficulty remembering your name. Anything you do to help them remember you is worth the effort. As you complete your strategic 2013 business action plan, make sure to include outreach to your core customer group.  

Decision Analyst’s American Home Comfort Study of homeowners explores what customers look for in HVAC contractors. To learn more about this study, or to purchase it, contact Garry, at gupton@decisionanalyst.com.