Those in HVAC, field services, or really any service-based industry would probably learn something from a recent chuckle-worthy post by Patrick Peterson of ZenHVAC titled, “Am I Advertising To Customers, Or Feeding My Ego?”. Effective marketing and advertising has certainly shown to be a great way to drum up new business, publicize products and services, and give one’s company an identity. However, advertising can also expensive. And done poorly, ads can do more harm than good.
Peterson lists 14 forms of advertising, and put them in three different categories: “great,” “good” and “bad.” While a simple discussion regarding return on investment would be a way to rank these 14 methods of getting a company’s name out there, Peterson went a step further with some funny takes on specific ways ads can truly fail. His advice boils down to one thing: is the advertising method going to encourage people to become customers, or is it just a way to make the person and/or company writing the check feel like a big shot?
What advertising methods does Peterson consider “great”? He listed two specific practices that cost the least but arguably require the most effort:
- Professional networking: Peterson suggests not just joining groups like LinkedIn, but also contributing, starting a group and being a leader in the space.
- Word of mouth: The key according to Peterson is to be active — ask your customers to tell their friends if they appreciate the services you provided.
After only two “great” advertising methods, Peterson lists six “good” ways to advertise. None of these are perfect, but they can all be useful … if done correctly.
- Yellow pages: Only if your name and number come free with a business number. “Don’t waste your money on even the smallest ad,” Peterson writes.
- Newspaper ad: The advice here is to write the ad for the homeowner. Tell them about specials, timeliness, neatness, and other things they’re worried about. Don’t boast about things homeowners don’t care about, like fancy tools or how modern your service vehicles are.
- Truck/van signage: Peterson says to keep it simple and small: the company’s name, logo and number is all that’s necessary. The more your truck or van is covered with advertising, the lower the resale value will be on that vehicle.
- Manufacturer advertising/website listing: Only necessary if the manufacturer advertising your company is well known and not also promoting your competitors.
- Company website: Every company should have its own website; Peterson recommends keeping the site simple and clutter-free. He also says if you aren’t technically inclined, hire someone who can create a good-looking site, as poor quality sites turn customers off.
- Event/charity sponsorship: It might not always be effective advertising, but helping others is always a good practice, according to Peterson.
So we’ve learned that networking with people is “great,” and some forms of advertising are “good” as long as they don’t waste money. But what about the “bad” advertising, the stuff that boosts egos but not revenues? Peterson doesn’t just list forms of advertising that are expensive, but risky mediums that can come off as “hokey” or, even worse, annoying:
- Billboards: Apparently people “hate” them. That might not be universally true, but the ROI probably isn’t worth it.
- Television: If you only have money for a low budget TV commercial, don’t bother.
- Cold calling: Most people are aware of how unpopular telemarketers are. Plus, most field service companies are too busy to spend time calling strangers.
- Door knob hangers: More of a tree-killer than an effective advertising tool.
- Postal mailings: Direct mail campaigns have the same effect door knob hangers do. Just more paper for people to recycle or toss into the trash.
- Trinkets: Stuff adorned with your company name like pens, screw drivers, keychains or any other kind of “low quality plastic junk” is a terrible way to advertise your company.
One way to advertise that Peterson didn’t mention was social media. From the tone of his article, we assume he probably feels like social media would be either a “good” or “great” way to promote one’s company, since it might fall under the umbrella of “professional networking.” It also isn’t the kind of advertising that Peterson advises against: throwing money at something that may boost the ego of whoever’s business is being advertised, but will probably be scoffed at or ignored by customers.