The five biggest marketing mistakes HVAC companies make

HVAC biggest mistakes

How to avoid the same traps in your marketing

A famous business owner once said he was convinced half of what he spent on marketing was wasted. He just couldn’t figure out which half that was! If you own an HVAC contracting business, you’re probably nodding your head. It’s hard to decide how much you need to spend on marketing … ever harder to decide how to spend it …and do you ever feel confident it’s really working for you?

For decades, I’ve worked with HVAC contractors like yours to help them create a steady flow of leads and boost their sales. I’ve learned a lot from them … and I’ve seen many make the same mistakes. So let me share the five big mistakes I see contractors from coast to coast make, so you won’t be foolish enough to do the same thing.

1. Go all in on digital marketing

Who needs all that old-fashioned stuff when we have the internet, right? It’s cheaper and people get all excited about it. Why would you waste money on anything else? Well, first, most business owners aren’t very skilled when it comes to evaluating marketing technology. Too many fall for a well-scripted sales pitch. They’re smart people, but they’re at the edge of their knowledge, and they end up trusting people who are trying to sell them something. Unfortunately, it’s usually the wrong something.

My pet peeve? PPC. Contractors aren’t buying it with efficiency or economy. They’re dumping far too much money into it, and that’s pushing prices for everyone else to an unsustainable level. If everyone else is in a bidding war for one channel, maybe you should find another where you can stand out for less.

2. Failing to plan for the off-season

Business has been great! Worked more Saturdays than you have in years, and all of a sudden it’s 60 degrees and the phone isn’t ringing. Equipment breaks down less when it’s not running. Tell me you haven’t worn your brain out trying to figure some way to flatten thoset seasonal revenue variations.

If you don’t have a plan in place for keeping your people busy during the off-season, don’t be surprised when you start wondering whether the next dip will be the one that does you in. With a plan, you’re still not likely to get rich in the off-season, but the cashflow will help you sleep better.

3. Engaging in “me-marketing”

Why do you advertise on the Channel Three news but none of the other stations’ shows? Ah, I see, you watch Channel 3’s News@Six. You like seeing your commercials on there. Makes you proud. But given that News@Six ranked below Channel 10’s I Love Lucy reruns in the last “book,” you’re one member of a tiny audience who gets to see them.

Unless your target audience is people who are far more serious about heating and cooling equipment than the average individual, you’re not the target audience. Please continue to enjoy your preferences, but please don’t use them to make your marketing decisions.  Pay attention what your customers watch and listen to. You might spot an opportunity you never considered.

4. Not knowing your CPO

I’m not referring to a chief petty officer. We use CPO to refer to cost per opportunity, something we see as one of the most important metrics related to marketing. First you have to understand you can’t go blindly into some kind of a marketing mix when deciding how much to spend and where to spend it. What percentage do you need to put into branding and what percentage goes into driving leads and opportunities? And yes, you do need both branding and lead generation, but only if they’re going to work together.

If you just divide the total spend by opportunity or lead, you get a number that doesn’t tell you very much. It doesn’t offer any insight into which channels produced those leads. You need to know what specific elements cost, how they performed, and whether they contributed to your brand. When you can track opportunities to each channel, you can compute the cost per opportunity for each channel.

Let’s take a simple 4”x6” tune-up offer postcard. There’s limited branding value – you either need a tune-up or you don’t, in which case there’s the trash can. If I can’t get those direct responses for $125 per opportunity converted into a customer, I’m paying too much. So I go over to Val-pak with a nice color piece repeatedly bound for homes within a specified area over the next year. Here, I think it’s an equal mix of direct response and branding, so I split the cost between those categories. I normally want to be at $150 per lead, because I’m going to get a mix of service and installation. Maybe I can go up to $300/lead on installation, because now I see we’re closing better than 80 percent of those responses. People know who we are now, thanks to the branding.

5. Trusting the wrong data

Data can be one of the most powerful business management tools … and it can be highly misleading. Today’s powerful business software packages give us an endless list of ways to present data. But be careful. Among our clients who use one software package we won’t name, the best we’ve seen is 80 percent accuracy. Before you make a decision based in data, double-check it the old-fashioned way.

Bonus #6: Counting on existing customers for growth

HVAC contractors love to brag about their long-standing relationships with customers. I think half the HVAC websites out there talk about how proud companies are to serve the same customers for years. Developing those relationships is a key element of most contractors’ business plans. But if you think all those long-term relationships are the key to growing your business, you’re out of your mind and setting yourself up for poor performance.

We’ve spent years analyzing data for HVAC contractors. Not just in one or two markets, but everywhere. And whether we’re looking at numbers in Oregon or Alabama, Arizona or Vermont, the same pattern appears. About 65 percent of what the average customer spends with you will happen in the first year. They can be your “loyal customer” for three years or thirteen, and the percentages doesn’t change. You’ll never make as much money from them as you will during that first year.

Do you want 65% or 35%?

So you can use your marketing and sales dollars to emphasize those relationships you’re so proud to have, and all you can hope for is that 35 percent. It’s nothing against you – it’s just the nature of the business. If you really want to grow – and I’m assuming you do – you need to concentrate on the other 65 percent. How do you do that? By targeting new customers.

That doesn’t mean giving up on those loyal customers. We can show you proven ways to leverage their value. But the key to achieving the kind of growth you’re after is to change your focus to bringing new customers through the door. Not convinced? We’ll be happy to look at your numbers and show you why you’re targeting the wrong growth opportunities.

If you’d like to know more about Cornerstone, and how we work as your outsourced marketing department to help grow your business, contact Or you can call (317) 804-5640  x108.

Scroll to Top