When it comes to most HVAC businesses, getting things done seems to take precedent over getting things finished. There are only so many hours in the day, and a plethora of areas that require attention. It can seem like fighting a losing battle at times, especially if you’re bootstrapping it.

It’s to this tune that branding often takes the back seat to other priorities. It’s something most owners see as a prerequisite rather than a fundamental; less of a “need-to-have” and more like a “nice-to-have.” Chances are that your brand is committing one or more of the following brand mistakes. Since knowing is half the battle, here is what to look out for:

  1. Your Brand Doesn’t exist. The first grandiose brand mistake is not having a brand at all. This is no way to do sustainable business unless you’re doing something illicit. Let’s hope not.
  1. Blatant Branding. The polar opposite of no branding is also a major blunder. Some business owners truly lack creativity, and want to have their brand associated with the type of product or service they create. However, they implore this strategy to the point of being completely obvious, which has a negative affect on consumers. How many sun and snowflake logos has your audience seen before yours? Why would they remember your brand if every other contractor has used the same, tired approach?
  1. Uses clipart. If your branding is centered on a graphic made in Windows 95 or the like, you are conveying a lack of technological prowess. Likewise, you will never be able to fully own your brand as intellectual property. It’s time to get with the times and upgrade.
  1. Uses “nephew art.” In the industry, it’s a common occurrence for owners to substitute the efforts of a dedicated, experienced professional designer instead for a relative or close friend who may know a thing or two about Photoshop. There are certain fundamentals that can only come from experience in this field, and your nephew is not likely to know the majority of them.
  1. Uses photos. Brands that incorporate photos are incredibly hard, if not impossible to integrate across your media mix. A picture may paint of picture of a thousand words, but none to them will represent your unique brand. Photos of condenser units on your truck may say what you do, but it will come at the expense or people knowing who you are and your brand.
  1. Unrelated to your industry. You wouldn’t buy a cereal with a skunk on the box. You wouldn’t buy fine jewelry at a neon-colored storefront. It’s important that your branding is creative, but also that it stems from elements appropriate to your industry. You want to eliminate second-guessing with your branding, not encourage it.
  1. Doesn’t present a brand promise: If you handed out a business card, what impression does it leave the viewer? If it’s neutral or negative, you’ve missed an opportunity to set a higher level of expectation and brand promise to that consumer.
  1. Not integrated across all media. If you have a brochure and a website with one brand, and a vehicle wrap with another, you’re going to be losing out on the power of association in a very big way. Make sure your branding is present in every aspect of your media mix.
  1. Not applicable to all media. Your brand might look spectacular on paper. But the website branding might be a whole different story, closer to a work in progress. However, if a consumer only sees one or the other, he or she will have two very different perceptions about your company. You need to send the right message at every turn, and that means a strong brand identity that translates smoothly across every touchpoint. In terms of priority, your truck wrap represents one of the most important public touchpoints of your unique brand. Make sure it works here.
  2. Not consistent across all media. Similar to the previous two mistakes, if your brand’s voice isn’t consistent across every channel than it may put a fork in your credibility. This is like the politician who looks great during speeches, but then posts off-color remarks on social media. It’s inconsistent with the message he or she is trying to convey. Don’t let that happen to you.

The whole point of a unified brand is to gain a competitive advantage over your competition, and to build in the consumers mind a brand promise. With so many HVAC businesses not paying enough attention to their branding, this presents a unique opportunity to do the opposite. Design a brand that stands out, instead of one that fits in - and watch your sales increase, and the perception of your business grow in stature.

Dan Antonelli is the CEO and creative director of New Jersey advertising agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc., The Small Business Advertising Agency®, and the author of Building A Big Small Business, available at www.amazon.com. For more information, visit www.graphicd-signs.com