Any HVACR business needs to keep up with the industry. Whether it’s by training technicians or upgrading their tools, the state of the market and the level of competition out there makes it a necessity to always try to improve things.
One great way of doing this is by thinking outside the field service box and looking to other fields for inspiration and, across the board, a popular strategy these days is aligning sales and marketing. Aptly named “smarketing”, it aims to put the two departments together and let them empower each other towards achieving common goals.
Ever since thought-leaders in the business world have moved on from the ‘marketing & sales funnel’ to the ‘lifecycle scheme’, sales and marketing have been racing each other to delight the customer. This being said, rather than compete, the best results are achieved when they work together. But how to get them on the same page? And how to make this strategy work for companies who aren’t traditional targets for these Silicon Valley playbooks?
Well, we’ve sat down with Jason Morjaria, CEO and founder of Commusoft, and tried to find out more from his decade of experience working in the field service industry, and with HVACR businesses in particular. After all, ever since his own company saw tremendous growth thanks to smarketing tactics, he has been adamant about recommending it to other entrepreneurs.
When asked about a department that he recommends field service managers and owners invest in more, he’s certain that:
“It’s sales and marketing. I want to group them together because I think a field service business will be more likely to start out with a single team doing both. Since owners tend to be techs that have come off the tools and started working in an office, they don’t have time to focus enough on sales and marketing. […]
But I think, over the next few years, we’ll see a slight change in the way service businesses operate because of competition and because of the inherent nature of customers’ expectations. Simply having a sales and marketing team won’t be enough, they’ll need a long-term strategy that will yield sustainable results and content marketing together with the right people can do just that, in my experience.”
So, without further ado, these are Jason’s 5 tips for a successful HVAC business smarketing strategy:
1. Learn about smarketing yourself.
Smarketing is still a fairly new approach so no one would blame you if you’re not feeling up to speed with it just yet. But whether you’re planning on hiring someone specifically to manage this aspect of your HVACR business, or assigning it to another one of your employees, as a manager, it’s always best to know a couple of things about it as well.
Jason highlighted his method for decision making, when asked what he uses to figure out whether a strategy is going to impact his company positively:
“For me, I have realized that I’ve been doing this for a long enough time and I’ve been successful enough that I should trust my gut. So if I’ve got a gut feeling over something, you know, if my gut was wrong, the business would’ve gone under years ago.
The fact that it hasn’t, it tells me that my gut is usually correct, in which case I should trust it. But I think people create experiences. Before I hired Marine [first employee of the Marketing department and current Head of Digital] for marketing, I learned everything I could possibly learn about marketing. I learned about content. Then about the funnel. I did all the HubSpot trainings.”
The idea is that as an HVAC business manager, you can’t afford to be static and fall into complacency. There are always new things to learn and ways to improve which can help you better yourself but also empower your team to achieve higher and higher goals.
“Because at the end of the day, you can’t hire and you can’t teach or assess someone if you don’t know enough about that job to be able to do that job, at least to a certain extent.
And then the idea is you have people that are smarter than you, but at least you could have a sensible, informed conversation with that person. This is where companies, in my opinion, go wrong: when they think they can just hire someone and that’ll solve their problems.”
If it sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. No one said being an HVACR business owner is simple and the truth is that you have to wear a lot of hats and sales and marketing expert is just one of them. Jason felt the need to add that managers should “at least be able to do the job. Whatever it is, try and do it. You’ll have a better understanding of what that person is going to do and you’ll be able to design a role that will be more interesting and, hopefully, more rewarding, which ultimately leads to staff staying longer.”
Even if you’re not hiring specifically for a smarketing role, you’ll still have to direct your team (or do it yourself to set an example!) if you want to start off on the right foot. Research the internet, attend a short course, or discuss with other entrepreneurs – anything that will get you closer to a clear vision about what your own smarketing efforts should look like.
2. Work together with your teams to create sales & marketing communication (then automate it).
Of course, teamwork is essential to a good smarketing strategy, that goes without saying, but we want to highlight the plural “teams” because this is not just about one department working well but the whole HVACR business acting like the well-oiled machine it is. In order to do this, you need to sit everyone down together and work on ironing out the customer communication process.
The basic smarketing step-by-step happens when marketing gets visitors to come onto your website (perhaps through excellent field service content marketing) and they convert via a gated piece of content (e.g. they share their contact details in exchange for a best practice to caring for your AC system guide).
The sales team gets notified of this new contact and the information gathered about them (what pages they visited, which article converted them, the information they shared) by the marketing team, then puts together an email workflow that makes the qualified lead feel acknowledged and creates a brand association in their minds.
It’s the same with sales tools like service reminders and estimates. The marketing team provides the contact information, while sales crafts the pitch, using content that the former produced at their request. However, Jason acknowledges that all these actions take up a lot of time and attention to detail, as well as a reliable system to track when what, and to whom has been sent. As a solution, he suggests automation software:
“For example, instead of sitting there and thinking of every single job that your operation manager creates and should send a job report out to the customer, […] if you send service reminders as a smarketing strategy the way many companies are doing now, do you do it consistently?
Are those reminders going out every week, every month to the right person or is it whenever you get ‘round to it and press the button? Automation software does it all for you.”
3. Software isn’t magic and will not replace your team.
This being said, Jason does acknowledge one major thing every HVACR business manager should keep in mind:
“Software isn’t magical. I curse Steve jobs and his comment that it is. It’s not magic, it’s someone sitting there, programming a code to do something in a very specific way. This misconception that it’s easy to do anything with the software does come up and it’s an unfortunate side effect of selling a service. People come with a set of expectations that are or are not correct.
In a perfect world, you would just put your hands up and say, well, we never said it would do that but the reality is that clients are important to us and clients’ feelings are essential. Therefore we do our best to accommodate them. The idea that a piece of software is something you just set and forget, that’s one of the myths to dispel.”
Your smarketing team, regardless of its size or experience, will be quite overwhelmed at first since it’s not easy to build a smarketing strategy from scratch but automation software can be there to support them.
Any repetitive task, at the end of the day, can fall back to a good management software and clear out entire blocks of your team’s schedule, leaving them free to devise better plans and take care of tasks that involve more creativity or empathy.
This being said, any good HVACR business manager will be aware that in order to stay on top, you need to review software periodically and, according to Jason, “not just the first year, but review it constantly. Not only is technology changing, but your business is changing and you know, you will not implement 100% of the system in the first 3 months. It just will not happen.
So what you need to be doing is sitting down with your team quarterly or biannually, however often you can, getting feedback from them, and then going back to someone like us to say: “Hey, this is the feedback. Are there solutions to the types of problems we’re experiencing? And most often, there are. This is why we have a software update almost every week, there’s always something we’re working on and that’s what you should demand as a customer from your software provider: constant innovation.”
4. Customer experience should be the driver of your HVACR business smarketing strategy.
Enriching your customer experience should be the be-all and end-all purpose of your smarketing strategy. Customer satisfaction is what strengthens a company and builds a reputation that can withstand any market fluctuations and any good HVACR business manager will know that customer retention is much cheaper than acquisition. Jason confirmed it with his extensive experience, too:
“They invest in the journey of that customer in their business and how they treat them. And ultimately, uh, you know, giving that customer summary a very solid, very consistent experience with where automation plays a massive part. Um, and I think that’s where we’ll see, you know, good companies thrive and companies that don’t invest in those things maybe fail in terms of further, further not definitely challenges but opportunities.
I think over the next few years we will take a slightly more Americanized model in terms of sales. I think that, uh, engineers, because they are the front line will, it will be more and more important for those people to upsell and to explain the benefits of, you know, further work or further jobs and things like that. And do more and more onsite sales and more and more onsite upselling. And I think, um, you know, that’s going to be vital to see really healthy growth for field service companies.”
5. Listen to the data telling you what to do.
We can’t say this often enough: analyze, optimize, implement! This should be a motto for any HVACR business manager. Jason expanded on the topic:
“I’m talking about following up. I’m talking about, you know, really focusing on sales as a thing. Not just say, okay, it’s just quite, I’m just quoting. That’s all I’m doing. No quoting is selling. And if you’re not treating it with the level of respect, then you’re not going to necessarily grow the way you want to.
You know, it’s very typical that small businesses stop quoting when they get really busy, they’ve got too many jobs, they stopped quoting. Uh, but that staffed because by the time that those all those jobs that you’ve got to do are done, you haven’t got any more jobs, you know, you have not been quoting for new works.“
Not to mention the fact that again, if you are getting that many quotes and you are good at winning them, then you should be expanding and thinking about how to, how to do that efficiently. Jason mentioned it’s selling, actively selling it as quoting. But if customers are then waiting weeks and weeks for a quote to actually arrive, no one can fault them for shopping around and choosing your prompter competition.
It’s vital in terms of your customer experience to empathize and think ‘Well they requested it. That means they’ve got a need now.’ Can I get them a quote out quickly? Because in most cases, if other businesses are also gonna waste three weeks doing this and you get a quote with them to them within two working days, then aren’t they more likely to go with you? Jason’s data says yes:
“It says the faster you send the quote, the more likely it is to be accepted. Um, and also, uh, what does your quote say about you as a business? Is it professional? You know, what’s the language like what are you presenting to your customer? How easy is it for them to accept that quote, if they’re busy people, how easy is it for them to pay for that work?”
All in all, your HVACR business smarketing strategy can be a tough challenge but we’ve seen so many businesses succeed with a bit of help from some powerful software that we can’t imagine any reason why your company shouldn’t try. It’s a tremendous opportunity to maximize your profits with minimal investment!
Check out the HVAC software that’ll help you achieve all this and more!
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