Facebook Advertising 101, with HVAC Experts: Systemized Media
Marketing your HVAC business is an essential part of growing your revenue. After all, if no one knows who you are, how do you expect customers to reach out? HVAC Facebook advertising can help you do just that.
Gone are the days where people only had a few service companies to choose between. Nowadays, you’ve got to make sure that your business’s voice is heard through the clutter of tens, if not thousands of companies, all of which are competing for the same slice of the HVAC pie!
Here, at Commusoft, we always try to let the experts talk. So, in order to get you the best advice there is for your industry, we’ve gotten Lyle Horst, HVAC entrepreneur and marketing expert to tell us a few of his secrets – if you want all of them, you’ll have to get in touch with him here.
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This being said, we’d argue that every service business, from plumbing, to electrical, to fire and security, and more, has something to learn from these tips, too, so keep on reading!
A little bit about Lyle Horst, Systemized Media, and starting a business in 2020…
Lyle has been running Systemized Media, an HVAC marketing agency since 2010. After seeing just how much his advice had helped increase the revenues of his clients, he decided, together with his business partner, to start his own HVAC company.
Fast forward 6 months and Topline Heating and Air has made over $500 000 in revenue! And that’s been Lyle’s 2020 so far, with all the challenges this year has entailed so, clearly, he’s doing something right.
After interviewing Lyle for our web series, Let’s Talk, we reached the unsurprising conclusion that he’s doing a lot of things right (head over to our YouTube channel or hit play below if you want to learn about all of them) but one aspect of Lyle’s success really stood out as valuable advice for anyone running an HVAC business, large or small: Facebook advertising.
If you want to read more about the reasons why having a HVAC Facebook advertising strategy is great for business growth, check out this article. While it mainly addresses plumbing companies, the insights there can be applied to any trade business, so make sure to give it a go.
However, if you’re ready to get down to business and walk away knowing exactly what your first Facebook ad should look like, keep on reading!
“They chose us for a $27 000 installation before we even walked through the door.”
Who wouldn’t want to be able to say that of their trades business? Lyle attributes this to Topline Air and Heating’s excellent Facebook strategy and goes on to add that if you want to grow, you have to invest: there’s no way around it.
Since you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you want to grow. We’re also going to assume this is your first proper step into HVAC Facebook advertising; as such, the first thing you need to do, regardless of the size of your company, your budget, or whether you’ve advertised before, is to sit down and plan a couple of different versions of an ad.
This is so that you can then use these variants to do a split test (also known as A/B testing). For beginners, this is an excellent way of gauging your audience’s reaction and seeing what they respond to better. Sometimes, a variant can be as straightforward as changing the color of a button, or you could alter the whole phrasing of a call-to-action (e.g. Get your free quote! Is a lot catchier than Quoting service available).
However, before you sit down and hit Publish on your ads, you should make sure to gather some nice photos (or better yet, some video) of what represents your business; from your branding efforts, to your employees, customer testimonials, and past work.
These won’t just be useful for your HVAC Facebook advertising strategy but for your website as well. If you haven’t updated your About Us section for a while, or if you want to expand it, new visuals will be the best way to do it and make an impact, compared to just adding new text.
Make sure to keep new images as cohesive as possible (e.g. use the same background, or take photos of staff in their uniform if you’re taking photos of your employees); also, obvious as it may sound, choose photos are personable and relatable (e.g. people should be happy, smiling, friendly: not looking like they’re at the DMV).
Now that you’re ready to create a Facebook ad, what exactly do you put in it? Well, as you no doubt guessed, you’re going to need a winning combo of images and text, so let’s break down what you’ll need to consider for both:
The first element you have to choose is visual – what type of photo or video represents your company? Think of your core values – excellent customer experience, local business – but make it easy for the customer to relate the imagery back to their needs.
A close-up of a boiler or an AC unit is going to draw the attention of another tradesman, but it might go over the customer’s head as to why that’s such a good example of quality work. Instead, zoom out and show a homey space, a clean installation, and a happy customer (if they’ve agreed to it, of course).
Don’t worry if you don’t have such a specific photo – pictures of your employees will do just as well, if not better. Giving potential customers a better idea of who they might be letting into their homes is incredibly effective, since they can see your techs looking professional and confident.
Are you noticing the theme here? The thing these examples have in common is that both feature people and that’s because all of us, as humans, have a much easier time relating to other humans than to even the best of logos or coolest appliances. Why do you think we’ve got me flailing my arms at the bottom of the article and trying to help you download our resources?
While stock images can work in a pinch, it’s better if you have authentic photos of the real people you work with; terrible stock photos can stand out like a sore thumb and, even worse, take away from your credibility if you’re not careful.
After the visual, comes your text bits. It shouldn’t surprise you, but these might take some time to perfect and you’ll most likely tweak them for every batch of ads you publish. A good place to start is with telling a story that’s relevant to the customer and which appeals to their emotions. Self-preservation is a good one.
For example, no one wants to go without heating in the winter, but that’s precisely when most people discover that their system is broken or malfunctioning. The solution? Put out an advert that suggests they get a specialist to check their boiler before it’s too late! After all, why should they find themselves sitting with icicles instead of fingers, when you can help them avoid an emergency visit?
At the bottom of the ad goes your hook. What’s in it for the customer? This could be a free quote, a 10% discount, or a next-day/same-day appointment. Anything goes as long as you’re able to follow through followed by a “Book now!” button.
Are you thinking “next-day appointments” sounds cool? Dynamic scheduling software is how you do it!
Budgeting your marketing expenses is a tricky thing because it obviously comes down to how much you’re willing to invest in your business’s growth.
Many HVAC managers are tempted to spend money on advertising only in times of “famine” – when they can see metaphorical tumbleweeds blowing through their schedules – and forget about it during busy periods when it feels like the stream of customers will never end.
However, when it comes to spending on HVAC Facebook advertising, consistency is key.
Systemized Media advises, generally, to look at approximately 10% of your annual turnover as a marketing expense. Now, in terms of traditional advertising, that might buy you a highway billboard and a local radio spot, depending on where you operate, but at the same time, 10% of your turnover could be consistent, highly-targeted social media ads.
While traditional advertising does have its advantages (like reaching a high number of people), with digital, you can make sure that it’s targeting the right people.
When calculating your HVAC Facebook advertising budget, it’s good to start small. If you’re following our previous advice of creating a few variations of the same ad and A/B testing it, then $20 – 50 spread over a week should be enough to gauge which one does better.
After you’ve perfected a few ads that really seem to get people clicking, take that 10% of your annual turnover, divide it by 12, and you’ve got a monthly budget for your Facebook ads. If you want to advertise on other social channels, the process is pretty similar: A/B test a few versions on a small budget, select the best performing one, then schedule a month’s worth of ads.
At the end, analyze what went well and what didn’t, then improve and repeat for the next time. A Facebook audit will always come in handy. According to Databox’s article on performing Facebook audits, “this is an analysis of an Ads account’s best practices and effectiveness. Someone who performs an audit aims to look for strengths and areas of improvement to inform their strategy moving forward.” Always paying attention to your numbers will ensure that you’re not wasting money on a channel that isn’t ideal for your audience.
As with anything else, great things come at a certain risk. HVAC Facebook advertising is a matter of trial and error. Sometimes you’ll get it right and sometimes you won’t. At the same time, advertisements look like any other post, where pretty much anyone can like, share, and, most importantly, comment.
Potential for negative feedback
Getting a lot of engagement on your ad is ideal, as this will push it even further, potentially getting you more bang for your buck, but at the same time, feedback can also be negative. A disgruntled customer (don’t worry, everyone has them) or even a troll can try to upstage your ad.
In this situation, the best thing to do (and what we always recommend) is to transform the challenge into an opportunity. Answering a negative comment with a thoughtful response that acknowledges the situation can demonstrate that you’re making an effort to put the customer experience first. Responding in this way is a great way to provide strong social proof of your professionalism and that can make a big impact on any customer who’s looking to hire you.
Another thing that Lyle highlighted, not necessarily as a risk, but as a decision you’ll have to make by weighing the pros and cons, is whether Facebook advertising (and other social outlets) is worth choosing over Google Ads.
The general view is that social media marketing is more preventive, targeting customers that can take their time making a decision, without being rushed by an emergency. On the other hand, paying for Google Ads is what ensures that you’re at the top of the results page when someone’s in a hurry (maybe a pipe just burst) and have little time to dilly-dally with comparisons.
This decision is going to fall down to the type of business you’re running. If you’re able to handle emergencies and unplanned appointments (possible because you’re making full use of your intelligent scheduling system), this can be quite a lucrative business, as people won’t be thinking about money when their house is getting flooded. Not to mention the good will gained from being the one to get them out of a mess.
At the same time, Google Ads are getting more and more expensive, as is the competition for the same keywords (e.g. Chicago HVAC company, emergency HVAC technician, etc.) grows.
From Lyle’s point of view, there’s hardly any discussion on the topic: he’s firmly in favor of HVAC Facebook advertising, as it helps establish a company in the customer’s mind both in preventive and reactive situations.
“If you’ve already seen our ads on Facebook, maybe you’ve even had a free quote from us, when there’s an emergency, we’re going to be top of mind.”
The question of Googling an HVAC company won’t even arise. As always, you can test out both and see which one does better, and either choose one or split your budget between the two.
Curious about SEO vs. PPC? Check out Databox’s expert insight round-up!
An influx of leads
One particular risk many HVAC managers oversee when advertising on Facebook is that the potential for success is higher than they expect. Now, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all, does it? Lots of leads coming your way is great, but only IF you have a way of storing their information and converting them into paying customers.
For example, Facebook ads make it incredibly simple to add a “Book now!” button – all a lead has to do is click it, right? However, if that button takes them to a page where there’s only a phone number listed, they might not want to go any further (for reasons we’ve already covered here). As a result, that means you’ve paid Facebook for the click through on the ad, but lost the potential customer because the follow-up was optimised. That’s money down the drain.
Before you even start HVAC Facebook advertising, it’s important to have a plan for the incoming leads. Otherwise, you might end up wasting a lot of money and confounding customers who saw your advert but couldn’t actually get a booking.
Automatic booking portal
If you’re in the situation highlighted above, where the only way to book is via a phone call that interrupts the digital experience, then linking an automatic booking portal is ideal. This is because it makes the customer journey frictionless: the lead can be booked in quickly and get back to scrolling mindlessly through their feed before they even know it!
Think of the process like the equivalent of Amazon’s “1-Click Buy” button. At the same time, the experience is cohesive: everything is done on the spot, via their phone and, because it’s so simple, there’s never any chance they’ll start checking out the competition.
It’s the same if you’re trying to collect emails to contact later via other marketing practices (like service reminders, news updates, etc.): you’ll need a database to store and organize them so that you know where you’ve acquired their information.
This is especially useful when running re-targeting HVAC Facebook advertising. A lead that might not have converted at first but shared their details with you can be re-targeted with improved variations of the ads, giving you a much better chance of converting them.
The Takeaway On HVAC Facebook Advertising
More and more HVAC businesses are advertising online and on social media, specifically. This means that the more you wait, the more expensive it gets since everyone will be fighting over the same leads.
In Lyle Horst’s words, “This train is leaving the station. The time to get on is now!”. The HVAC industry starts resembling retail: you don’t want to be amongst the ones who remain stuck exclusively to brick-and-mortar service: not in an increasingly digital world.
All in all, regardless of the strategy you choose, there’s no doubt that advertising your HVAC (or trades business in general) on Facebook is a tremendous opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.