2020 has officially thrown just about every business across America a huge curveball, forcing home services companies all across the nation to move quickly in adjusting their business strategies. While plumbing and HVAC are generally considered “essential services,” these industries are still being significantly impacted — which means if you’re a plumber or HVAC specialist, you need to be prepared with a smart plan moving forward.
As a digital marketing partner for the plumbing and HVAC industries, we’re seeing a lot of companies land on their feet because they’re making the right choices with their marketing and business efforts. To help more businesses get through this challenging time, we wanted to share tactics that have been most effective for our clients.
By following the tips below, you can mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 on your business and lay some groundwork that will make your company more successful in the long run. Here are our top three strategies, along with practical tips for carrying out each of those strategies.
1. Inspect the situation at hand before you act
You can’t do damage control if you don’t first pinpoint the problem. While it may be tempting to hit the ground running with a fast solution to repair your business, action without strategy can have long-term negative effects on your company. So, before you make any drastic changes, be sure to do the following:
Identify where business is slowing down. Take a look at where you’re seeing calls and jobs drop off the most. Are you seeing the most cancellations with maintenance agreements? Are leads drying out from a particular source, like Yelp or Google? What’s suffering most, your organic leads or paid leads? Once you determine what’s being impacted and what isn’t, you can make smarter decisions about where you should and should not make cuts to expenses or shift your marketing strategy. The goal is to avoid doing more damage than good by cutting off a marketing channel that is actually bringing you business.
Think about where your customers are right now. Because of stay-at-home orders in many states, most people have more time on their hands, which means they’re spending more time online, and they’re using social media sites at higher rates to connect with family and friends. According to information Facebook provided directly to Scorpion, Facebook usage was 53% higher in March than ever before. These are the types of platforms where your business needs to be visible right now. Consider these shifts in consumer behavior when planning your marketing in the weeks and months ahead.
2. Pivot, don’t panic — be ready to adjust your strategy
Don’t cut your marketing budget if you don’t have to. Many businesses are panicking right now and looking for anywhere they can cut expenses. Going leaner with your business makes sense during a time like this, but it’s important to be lean in the right places — otherwise you’ll end up eliminating important sources of revenue that could help keep your business afloat during this economic slowdown.
Mary Jean Anderson, president of Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air in San Diego, agrees with this advice. In a recent Scorpion webinar where she served as a panelist, she said:
“For those smaller companies that want to grow, this is really the time to look at your marketing spend. For me, one of the standard operating procedures in [times like this] is to get in front of the people. We gained tremendous market share during the Great Recession, and that’s when we went from a $6.2 to a $15 million (company) seemingly overnight because we never backed down on the marketing at all — we kept that going.”
Instead of slashing your budget altogether, you should simply rethink your marketing strategy, which leads to our next point…
Focus your paid search advertising dollars on the services with the highest need. Having a presence in online search is still important, especially considering that plumbing and HVAC services are considered “essential” and people need clogged drains and broken HVAC systems repaired even when they’re sheltered-in-place. The key is to be aware of how search trends are shifting so you can prioritize your budget on the keywords that are most likely to bring you new jobs at this time. While there has been less activity for more general plumbing and HVAC search terms, there’s growing interest for terms like “water filtration,” “drain services,” “air purification systems” and “HVAC emergency service”. Do some research to see what’s trending for your area and update your campaigns as needed.
Invest in building brand awareness for your company. As mentioned, people are more active online these days, especially on sites like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. This creates the perfect opportunity for you to capture the attention of people in your local community on the platforms where they’re already spending their time. By creating social media and video ads and sharing helpful content on these platforms, you can keep potential customers aware of your business for when things return to normal again and they’re ready to hire you. Additionally, these platforms tend to have lower advertising costs than paid search, so they can be a great way to restrategize your budget, if needed.
Here’s the advice recently given by William Haddad, director of Strategic Marketing for Scorpion’s home services division:
“Facebook and social media channels are at an all-time high. They have so much more volume, they can’t even monetize the volume right now, so it’s at a cheaper rate. Same thing with Google pay-per-click [advertising]. So, take advantage of this just as you would if you’re investing in the stock markets. This is the time to invest and get more for your dollar.”
3. Instill confidence and meet your customers halfway when needed
Let customers know you’re prioritizing cleanliness and safety. Right now, people are scared of the idea of letting someone from the outside into their homes, so it’s important to communicate to your customers that your team is taking every precaution necessary to keep everyone safe. Make sure your team is always wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment, and walk customers through the additional measures your company is taking to mitigate any health risks.
One example is a video that was shared by our client Howie Metz, owner of Quality First Plumbing & Heating in Denver. In the video, which Howie posted on social media, he showed his company’s office and training facility being sprayed with a liquid disinfectant by a professional cleaning company, and he shared the reason behind it:
“I really have made a commitment to keeping this a safe environment... I want to make sure that on the other side of this, we’ve done everything we could possibly do for the sake and welfare and well-being of my coworkers, their families, and the clients that we serve.”
Use video to connect with customers on a more personal level. While there are many great ways to keep your current and prospective customers informed during the coronavirus pandemic, nothing is quite as powerful as video. Video is not only more engaging and easier to digest than text, but it also allows your audience to connect with you on a more personal level. Video marketing doesn’t have to be hard — just take out your smartphone, shoot a quick video where you share some tips or updates about your business (like Howie Metz did in the example above), and post straight to Facebook or another social media platform. The more helpful video content people see from you, the more they’ll consider you to be an expert in your industry.
Be flexible with payment. Many of your customers are facing challenging times with their finances right now due to being out of work. You can meet them halfway by getting creative with payment plans and maintenance packages to help spread out and lower the costs of your products and services. You can also provide discounts for customers who sign up now for jobs that will occur in the future. These tactics help to keep cash flowing through your business while showing customers that you’re willing to work with their needs, which can go a long way in winning their loyalty.
When all is said and done, it’s important to remember that the challenges we’re going through today are only temporary — the economy will recover and you’ll finally be able to go back to “business as usual.” However, by taking the right steps, you can bring your business out of this crisis stronger and more strategy-focused than it was before. It just requires a shift in your thinking and your actions!
For more information about how to move forward with your business during the coronavirus pandemic, listen to this episode of The Sharpest Tool podcast from Scorpion, or visit Scorpion’s COVID-19 resource page for home services businesses.