Two marketing coaches look at ever-changing marketing strategies as the pandemic fades out of focus.
End users and HVACR contractors are both ready for the pandemic to end; as states reopen and infection counts wane, hopes for a return to normal are on the rise. The industry weathered the past year relatively well and even saw higher sales as a result of consumers investing in their homes. As life slowly gets back to normal, how should contractors handle their marketing?
Marketing After Covid
Justin Jacobs, a marketing coach for Hudson Ink said, “Everyone wants to return to a sense of normalcy and in-home contractors are a part of that, but people also want to be assured that we’ve all learned from the process — as to not repeat it or have a relapse of any kind.” Justin explained that the time to drop COVID-focused messaging soon, but contractors should continue to explain which practices that were introduced due to the pandemic will remain integrated into their company, such as an emphasis on safety and reduced contact in the home.
The market features a spectrum of consumers, including those who have zero concern regarding coronavirus and those who continue to wear masks and avoid crowds. Contractor marketing should appeal to both, and include comment on the company’s general health considerations as well as what services they will provide to improve IAQ.
“People are finally experiencing a little freedom, and many are tired of hearing about COVID, so if you continue to bring it up, it could be met with rolled eyes and a perception of unnecessary fear-mongering,” said Jacobs. “Use it just as a side note for a few more weeks in more highly populated areas, then you can revert back to regular system replacement pushes for the summer.”
Chris Smith, the CEO of All Contractor Marketing, pointed out that with states reopening, contractors will see a return to the busy lifestyle associated with pre-pandemic times. Homeowners will be traveling again, and competition for their disposable income will return. Contractors could benefit from refocusing their messaging on offering financing options and affordable monthly payments, even for emergency repairs. With recent price increases and the inflation effects of the stimulus money, more customers are getting multiple quotes and price shopping.
Because of competition and rising supply costs, Smith recommends that contractors lean into direct mail, social media, and pay-per-click advertising; these tend to produce a leads and sales at a relatively low cost.
Jacobs pointed out that many contractors took advantage of direct mail advertising during the pandemic, as many people were quarantined or working from home, meaning that there was a much likelier chance that direct mail actually got read. Typically, shifts like the one between email advertising and direct mail occur over months or years, but COVID accelerated the switch. ROI has proven to hugely outweigh the added expense compared to email.
Many contractors have expanded into pay-per-click advertising and social media in the past year. Some have overhauled their websites. Much of digital advertisement will continue, and the pandemic showed many contractors the importance of diversifying their marketing strategy. Technical challenges could mean pay-per-click ads don’t work properly, or postage prices could surge, so contractors need multiple avenues to convert leads. Even a couple of weeks without leads in the middle of peak season could cut deeply into sales.
As communities reopen, local events are an important way contractors can become visible to potential customers, appearing at and sponsoring events like Little League baseball games, park days, and concerts.
“People are ready to start living life again, so be there to greet them,” said Jacobs. “Stay in close contact with your Chamber of Commerce, there are always great ways to get some fantastic or even free advertising.”
A contractor-hosted event doesn’t need to be an expensive operation. A golf tournament, grilling competition, or day at the park can offer larger swaths of publicity, especially when paired with campaigns to spread the news on local news stations.
“Any time you can put a face and a personality on your company, making the homeowner feel like you’re a part of the community rather than just some business after their money, you win,” said Jacobs.