Question: Should we advertise during the peak season or turn it off?
Gary Elekes; Founder, EPC Training:
It depends on your budget and your ability to develop advertising. One thing that the question doesn’t presuppose is what kind of advertising you’re doing. If you can afford to, it is generally a good idea to advertise during the peak season. If you’re at full capacity, you’re obviously not going to want to run discounts. You wouldn’t want to run a promotion that would give a customer a reason to call in. The call to action is already occurring with broken units, which is driven by the weather. It could be a plumbing repair, a broken HVAC unit, or in some cases hail storms that absolutely wreck outdoor equipment. So, the idea of promoting doesn’t necessarily help us. One of the things you want to do is look at your marketing and advertising calendar and define when your ramp-up season starts. Typically, your media campaign will begin two or three weeks before your peak season begins. That’s when you would use traditional media to support your digital platforms. You want to drive traffic to your website and you control the promotional side based on your capacity. If you have a full dispatch board, or you have a backlog of service calls, you don’t want to go out and promote. However, the idea of brand awareness – creating and positioning a dominant brand in the marketplace – should be a real goal. So, if you’re in a competitive marketplace and have the budget, I would suggest continuing to advertise your brand to remind people that you’re the company of choice. That could be affiliated with a case based on social media, that could be tied into a brand strategy, or the launch of a new product or service as part of a new vertical. I have a good friend who is launching a plumbing service in 90 days. We looked at his database and he doesn’t have enough emails to launch an effective email campaign. Rather than deploying his resources there, I told him it would be more effective to call center those folks with a coupon and go out with some broad-based media to the marketplace. He needed more customers and more visibility on his brand strategy that ties into the new vertical of plumbing. That’s a good example of advertising in a peak season because there’s a reason to do it besides just selling an HVAC system. If you don’t have the budget, you should obviously turn off your advertising but if you can advertise year around and be the dominate media player in the markets that you’re in, that’s always preferable. That’s the mindset that you have to have.