Welcome back to Partner ProTalk, HVAC-ers. This month, we’re profiling another dealer that we felt was worth spotlighting – Vincent Heating and Plumbing in Port Huron, MI. Daniel Squires at Vincent is proof that knowing your audience and your success often means using marketing tools that have long since been rejected by your competitors.
“Print is Dead! Direct Mail Is So Last Century!”
Online banner ads, email newsletters, digital content marketing, Facebook ads, Pay-Per-Click, SEO, SEM. The surge to digital marketing is real. And huge. Real huge. There are so many elements to advertising and marketing online, and so much buzz about where our consumer audiences are getting their information, that some businesses are reducing their investment in, or in some cases, abandoning traditional media altogether.
Big mistake! Nothing beats a hard copy ad to reinforce what you do online. And advertising on local TV news or radio, especially for a local service business, is great for repeating your message to the same viewers or listeners, because they tend to “tune in” at the same time and place every day. Peppering the neighborhoods where you do work with yard signs and door hangers sends a message to the same demographic where there is often a similar need. You’re replacing a furnace in one neighborhood, chances are good there are others in the area with the same need.
Case in point: Daniel Squires, President of Vincent Heating and Plumbing in Port Huron, MI swears by the monthly printed newsletter he sends to customers 11 months of the year. That’s right. EVERY MONTH – except for a combined December and January Holiday Issue – he creates and sends a printed newsletter! Old school? Maybe. Why does he bother with the time and expense? Because it WORKS!
“The newsletter has done more to brand me and my business than just about anything”, Daniel explains. “When I see customers at events, home shows, or in their homes, they often mention something they’ve seen in the newsletter. They actually look forward to getting it! They know me and my business better because of that newsletter”.
Daniel stresses that the content in the newsletter is not overly product- or sales-focused. “I have a pretty standard formula: I lead off with a personal article called ‘Through My Eyes’. I also include a technical article that combines technical information, maintenance tips and industry trends that homeowners can use to keep their house efficient and comfortable. I add customer testimonials along with some fun (clean) humor, human interest, and puzzles to keep readers engaged.”
“The ‘secret sauce’, though, is my ‘Through My Eyes’ article where I relate things that are going on in my life, personal or business, and I am very transparent about it. As I do this. I am sharing my values and I always tie it in to the business to leave my customers thinking ‘I’m glad I’m doing business with Vincent’s Heating & Plumbing.’ The reason it works? – people like doing business with people like them and that they know and like. One month I shared that I had undergone a cardiac ablation medical procedure and I got Get Well cards from customers.”
“Before I started doing this, the ‘voice’ of the company were the customer service reps who answered the phone, and the ‘face’ of the company [was] my techs that visited our customers’ homes. ‘Through My Eyes’ has put me out front and now when customers call, it’s like they know me. The bottom line is that it has helped me and the company develop credibility and trust with our customers.”
“Finally, we don’t include ads in the newsletter itself other than to mention brands that we recommend. Honestly, this is for co-op. But recently, I started inserting flyers which do contain promotions. This has been very successful. For example, this year I started selling Aprilaire Dehumidifiers. In the July and August ‘Vincent’s News’, I included inserts promoting them, from which we have sold about a dozen with a week to go in the promotion. And we had never sold dehumidifiers before! The newsletter gives me the opportunity to actually make the product I am promoting part of the news instead of just being an ad.”
I asked Daniel why he printed and mailed a newsletter instead of, say, email. His answer: “Print media has ‘hang time’ that digital media can never compete with. How much email comes to your inbox every day that you never open? People get enough emails. Way too many. They’re burned out. There’s a place for email, but you have to mix it up. People still like the hard copy approach”.
“Hey, I still get phone calls from Yellow Pages,” Daniel continues. “And now, since so many businesses have abandoned ‘the books’, there is less competition and it cost less. Not going to apologize. It works and I have data to prove it. I use tracking numbers and every year I measure and justify my yellow page spend with my return on investment, both in terms of revenue from first-time customers and revenue from previous customers that call. We like to think that existing customers know us and will call us from the equipment sticker or a previous job invoice. But since these customers called me using a Yellow Pages tracking number, then if I hadn’t had a presence in the book, would they have called someone else instead?”
If you think the idea of sending a print newsletter or Yellow Pages ads is coming from an old-school guy who doesn’t embrace the new digital world because he just doesn’t “get it”, you would be dead wrong. Not only does Daniel preside over Vincent Heating and Plumbing, he is also co-owner of Online Access, an online service company that provides contractors with an entire suite of web marketing solutions. The company provides and manages websites and other online marketing tools for hundreds of HVAC contractors across the country. In fact, with the new Community Engagement System that Online Access developed and is releasing to all their contractor clients this Fall, Daniel had over 15% of his entire local market area engage with his website within two months during part of its testing. Sound old school to you? Me either.
You can view the previous newsletter issues online at https://www.vhpinc.com/gallery