Out with the old, in with the new. It’s a new year and we’ve all heard the saying. But for those in the world of digital marketing, it’s more than a cliche. The online marketing landscape is constantly changing, and it can seem hard to keep up.
This is especially true for industries that are still making their digital mark. For HVACR businesses, this couldn’t ring truer. We live in an age where consumers expect information instantly. The mobile mind shift means that when your customers have a question or wish to find information, they anticipate being able to find it. When they need it. So what does this mean for HVACR distributors and contractors? It means that you need to have a digital marketing plan. And if you don’t have one yet, you’re already behind. But, it’s a new year and there’s no time like the present to maximize your digital presence and heat up your business. Take these actionable steps and start applying them now.
First, let’s set the stage.
Buyers of HVACR solutions can be broken into two groups:
- Brand-first – choose the brand of product first and then consider installation options
- Contractor-first – choose a contractor first and then consider brand options
For a distributor or manufacturer to seek out a bigger piece of the pie, they must play to both sides of this issue:
- Gain online exposure for brand related terms. From this perspective, a distributor’s goal should be to capture traffic for specific products and part numbers, but also equipment related terms with geographically modified terms – i.e. “ABC Brand furnace Syracuse, NY”.
- Promote contractors. Distributors can promote contractors on their own site by creating an online directory as well as localized landing pages for important markets. We call this “leapfrog marketing” where you market directly to consumers, directing them back to contractors you work with. In our eBook, we go into more detail on this concept.
For a contractor to increase their online exposure they should focus primarily on their online reputation and website but also make mention of the brands they partner with.
Now let’s get into some individual tactics that can you can implement right away:
1. Maximize your mobile experience.
Four billion people use a mobile device. And recently, for the first time ever, mobile usage has surpassed desktop usage. That’s incredible when we consider the fact that the first iPhone wasn’t released until 2007. In just 10 years, we’ve blown past using our desktop computers and now prefer to find information in the palm of our hands. This may be eye-opening for HVACR distributors and contractors who may still not have a mobile site or perhaps haven’t considered if their website is optimized for mobile.
Think about it. When we have a question or want to find a certain bit of information, how likely are we to be next to our computers at that moment? Not very. And we immediately reach for the smartphone in our pocket or the tablet in our bag to find the answer, quickly. Information is available at consumers’ fingertips and buyers have the ability to educate themselves to find a solution. This means that HVACR distributors and contractors need to work that much harder to make sure their product and service can be found among the crowd.
So what can you do? Think mobile-first. Make sure your website appears seamlessly on mobile. Can your customers easily find the information that is most important to them? Can they find an answer within one to three clicks? Is your contact button accessible in case they have further questions? These steps will not only make your site more attractive to potential buyers, but Google favors sites that are optimized for mobile increasing your chances of coming up higher in search.
2. Optimize your Google My Business page
This is an easy and effective tactic. When a contractor happens upon your business in search, your Google My Business page is the first thing they will see. Take steps to ensure that the information provided is up-to-date and accurate. A lot of what determines where you rank in a search will depend on your location and reviews (which we will get to later), but keeping your information current and adding photos of your product, service, and facility will go a long way in establishing credibility and gaining a potential customer.
3. Make information easy to find
People and search engines alike prefer when information is prominently and accurately presented. This means that your contact information, such as address, phone number and email, are easily found and displayed. Also, include calls to actions that make it easier for customers to contact you, fill out a form to get a quote, schedule a service, or live chat with a professional. Make sure these buttons are strategically and clearly placed throughout your website so that customers don’t have to click more than two to three times to find what they need. This will not only make their lives easier, but it will be seen more favorably by Google and can increase your rank in search results.
4. Construct a system to gain reviews
I mentioned we’d come back to this. Obtaining reviews is crucial to increasing your online presence. Think back to your last purchase or the last time you picked a restaurant for dinner. Chances are you looked up reviews online first. A Bright Local Consumer Review Survey found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This statistic is just as important to the HVACR industry as any other. So here’s what you can do:
- Ask for reviews. We know people love to leave reviews to complain about a product or service. But happy customers are just as likely to leave a review if asked. Train and prep your team to ask for a review after they’ve finished a service.
- Respond to negative reviews. Addressing an unhappy customer is important to maintaining credibility and possibly turning what was a bad customer experience, into a positive one.
- Maintain a stream of recent reviews. If your most recent review is older than three months, it’s irrelevant. When a potential customer is looking at your company’s reviews, they want to be sure that what they’re reading is accurate and true of your product/service even today. Have a system in place that will ensure you’re receiving a steady stream of reviews.
- Display reviews on your website. Using a plugin, pull in reviews from your contractors’ Google My Business pages and display them on their profile pages on your website. This, again, will increase your credibility while also offering quick access to information for your customers. Think of this portion of your site as a high-quality directory of the contractors you work with.
5. Add any badges, associations, or certifications to your site
Customers want to know that they’re hiring professional, trustworthy contractors. Whether you’re a part of an association, have a brand affiliation, or earned a particular certification, add these “badges” to your site. They demonstrate your expertise and build trust with the consumer which goes a long way with building credibility within the HVACR industry.
6. Create and promote your own content
A great way to establish credibility? Create your own content that educates and/or solves a problem. As the HVACR distributor, you are the authority in the field and have valuable information to provide. Use the buying process as a guide. Creating your own unique content not only impresses Google and helps you to rank for important keywords, but it also provides contractors something to share on their website or posts to their social channels.
Create content that will resonate with a potential buyer based on where they are in the buying process. For example, a case study would be appropriate for customers as they are evaluating their option of contractors or an infographic is a great way to educate consumers who are still in the learning phase.
Once you’ve created this content, promote it. Develop a campaign that includes paid advertising, social media advertising, and utilizing the ecosystem of channel partners to share your content on forums, blogs, etc.
ROC Principle and final thoughts
At Site-Seeker, we created the ROC Principle, a marketing plan that ensures strategy comes first. “R” stands for Roadmap and refers to auditing your current properties and assets. “O” stands for Ongoing efforts to maintain continuous touchpoints with consumers. And “C” stands for Customer to reinforce that all initiatives taken align with the needs of the target audience. You can read more about it here.
The way customers search for information has changed. Digital visibility and search engine results are crucial to HVACR distributors’ success. The tips mentioned above are a great start to maximizing your online presence and generating more business.