There is an age-old saying in business: it costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current customer. Though the actual cost savings is debated, the principle holds true.
When it comes to generating revenue for your HVAC business, you generally have two options – find new customers, or generate more business with existing customers. Many businesses spend a lot of time and money trying to find new customers, with the idea that more is better. But, what if you spent as much time and money nurturing relationships with your existing customers?
If you’re looking to grow your business, here are some actionable tips for not only retaining but expanding your existing customer relationships:
1.) Communicate clearly, and regularly
In marketing, getting the same message in front of the same person 7x is proven to generate better conversion rates. That means you’ll get more leads and phone calls when you’re more consistent in reaching out to your customers. To get messages in front of your existing customers, consider utilizing a mix of marketing and sales channels – you want to be where they are:
- Facebook – 297 million people in the US used Facebook last year, and this number continues to grow. 80% of these users are over the age of 25 – many are homeowners. Your customers are on Facebook, and actively engaged with brands on that platform.
- Instagram – Facebook owns Instagram, so in essence this platform is an extension of that channel. However, Instagram skews younger – about 1/3 of Instagram’s 130 millions US users are between the ages of 25-34 (many more are younger).
- Email – according to a report by Statista, 80% of people – your customers – check their email at least once a day, with 60% of people checking their email multiple times a day. If you email your customers, they will see it. If you’re clever with your subject lines, they’ll open your email. And if you’re clear in your messaging, your customers will click through and take action on your website. Clear, concise messaging is the key.
- Netflix or other streaming platforms – there is a newer advertising medium called “OTT” or “Over-The-Top” advertising, which allows you to get your message in front of people who are watching Netflix or utilizing other streaming services. Here’s a great article for learning more about this marketing tactic.
- Outdoors – billboards work if you’re clever with your creative. Though conversion metrics are sometimes tough to nail down in this channel, outdoor advertisements in your local area are great for generating impressions and overall brand awareness.
- Cell Phones – phone calls and voicemails are one way to get your messages to your customers, but text messaging is an even more direct and widely-accepted form of communication these days. In fact, US smart phone users send 5x more messages than they make phone calls. 75% of millennials prefer texting to calls, mostly because they’re more convenient to their schedules and “less disruptive”. It’s even been reported that up to 20% of people never check their voicemails. As millennials age and purchase homes, this statistic will become even more important to your HVAC business. Text reminders about service calls or filter purchases, for example, would be a great way to strum up more business instantly with your existing customers. Source: https://uplandsoftware.com/mobile-messaging/resources/blog/75-millennials-prefer-texting-talking/
2.) Work existing customer incentives into your marketing budget
If it takes up to 5x less budget to generate business with existing customers as it does with new prospects, then it should be a no-brainer to dedicate some of your marketing budget to offering existing customers special deals and promotions (rather than saving these for new customers only). Consider sending your customers special promos through personalized emails, postcards, texts or other digital channels – there are many tools out there that will generate unique, personalized promo codes for customers. Promo codes are effective in closing new business because there is a sense of urgency around their redemption. Seasonal specials like product discounts or free service upgrades tend to work well in the HVAC world.
3.) Utilize technology to make “doing business with you” easier.
Doing business with your company should be easy for your customers. If they have to jump through hoops to figure out how to get a hold of you, or are required to be proactive in scheduling their own maintenance checks or ordering their own filter replacements, chances are the ball with drop. HVAC is not on top of your customers’ minds like it is on yours. The following technologies, when used effectively, will make both your and your customers’ lives easier:
- Online Store: allowing your customers to buy filters, maintenance agreements and even fully-installed systems online is becoming table stakes. Every other industry has jumped on the Ecommerce train, but the HVAC industry is lagging. This is your chance to rise above your competitors and set a new standard in your region – not only will your existing customers prefer doing business with you, but you will likely start to take market share from your competitors, too. Win/win!
- QR Codes: QR codes are an easy way to drive traffic to your website and online store. You can generate these codes easily using online tools like QR Code Monkey, and can print stickers affordably through any print shops near you, or Vistaprint (one of our favorites). Sticking QR codes on your filters when your customers purchase them is an easy way to help with the re-ordering process. Your QR code can link directly to your website when a customer scans it with their phone. Even better, link your QR code directly to a specific product page on your website and allow your customer to easily add the right filter to their cart, and purchase directly from their phone. Making it easier to buy from you will mean more sales and happier customers.
- Auto-shipping: many online stores, including all of those powered by Contractor Commerce, now offer customers the ability to sign up for auto-shipping and delivery of furnace filters. Customers simply select their own delivery schedule at checkout, then get billed on that schedule until they cancel. Repeat sales – especially of filters – is an easy way to expand relationships and average order values of current customers. Since filters should be replaced every few months, you’ll be leaving money on the table if you do NOT offer this service to your customers. The truth is, if you’re not selling filters to your customers on a recurring schedule, someone else (likely Amazon), will.
4.) Invest in a “WOW” customer service experience.
We’ll keep this tip short and simple – do what you say you’re going to do. As a business, if you deliver on your promises, you’ll develop great and long-lasting relationships with your customers. For example, if you make a phone number available on your website, be sure your customer service team is prepared to field these calls. Not answering or sending customers to voicemail is a surefire way to lose business in the long run. If you’re offering customers a promo code, make sure your customer service team is aware of this offer and proactively mentions it. Invest time in customer service training and it will pay off in dividends down the road.
5.) Ask for the referral
When is the last time you asked for a customer to refer your business to their friends or family? If you’re having a hard time remembering, then this tip is especially for you. Referrals were most likely the way your business got off the ground, and it will forever be a key lever in the future growth of your business. People trust their friends, family and coworkers and often ask for referrals on social media outlets. You have the ability to monitor these social feeds, provide answers when people ask questions, and focus on delivering WORLD-CLASS service to your customers. If you do these three things, the rest will take care of itself.
Remember, happy customers are happy to recommend you. Read that again. Sometimes asking for a referral is uncomfortable because, in a way, it’s asking for solid feedback on your business. If you haven’t “wowed” your customer or delivered on their expectations, you’ll probably hear about it when you ask for a referral. If you have, you’ll get the referral. Either way, LEAN IN. Keeping an open customer feedback loop is critical to retention and customer growth. Sure, you can always provide incentives for customer referrals, but sometimes the best way is simply to ask.
The HVAC industry is no different than any other when it comes to growing business with existing customers. Happy customers translates to more business. Communicate with your customers where they are, and how they prefer, and you’ll be halfway to your retention and existing customer growth goals. Do what you say you’ll do and provide excellent service, and you’ll hit a home run.
Download our “HVAC Contractors’s Guide to Ecommerce” to learn more about:
- Establishing your brand identity
- How to add a store to your existing website
- Existing customer communication plans
- The best online channels for driving new leads and sales
- Search engine optimization tips
- Paid advertising tips
- Social media marketing tips
- Google my business optimization tips
- The ideal number of times a prospect should see your ads
- How a WOW customer experience can generate referrals
- Tools for staying on top o