Ask the Experts

How to Keep the Phone Ringing

Question: How do you keep the phone ringing?

James Leichter: You can always have a friend just call your company over and over again [laughs], but besides that. … I don’t think that’s what they meant.

How do you keep the phone ringing? You have to have ongoing marketing. Marketing is an ongoing effort and you have to play all the bases. You’ve got to do pay-per-click (PPC), you’ve got to do search engine optimization (SEO).

So specifically what I mean there is you have to put up your website and you have to do your best through what we call SEO efforts to get yourself at the top of the list when people search for “world’s greatest heating and air conditioning company.” I could go on for hours by the way, but what you’re trying to do is figure out what phrases people use to search for HVAC companies and you want to make sure your company stands out when people search for those companies; you want to be on the first page, you really can’t be on the second or third or fourth page. You want to be on the first page. It’s easier said than done, it’s a constant struggle. As many of our listeners know I’m in the software business, I work with a bunch of nerds, you would think we’d be awesome at it but not so much; it’s an ongoing practice and study to try to get yourself to the top of the [search results] page, and that’s called SEO.

Now you can also write a check to get to the top of the page, it’s called pay-per-click (PPC). You only have to worry about Google, I wouldn’t worry about Microsoft Bing because they have such a small market share. But if you want to pay anywhere from $5 to $15 per click, you can buy yourself a spot at the top of the list. To do that you want to create a free account called Google AdWords and then you want to start studying that. Or better yet hire someone who knows how to deal with that.

You also want to offer something of value so that you can collect people’s email addresses. You want to constantly email people, but don’t email them too much; once a month might be too much. But at least email them quarterly so that they’re getting something of value, like a newsletter that gives them tips on maintaining their HVAC system, or explaining why indoor air quality is important, or just fun facts. But make sure you’re sending them something that you would want to read. Test it out on your friends or neighbors to see if they would care about that kind of email.

And then social media: you’ve gotta be on Facebook, you’ve gotta be on LinkedIn. So really, to keep the phone ringing, you have to just constantly be working on your marketing, and it is a constant thing. If you can afford it, when your company gets to be about 20 people – so with 20 people you should be about $3 million in sales, roughly, you want to do about $125,000 per person – so when you get to be about a 20-person operation, you should absolutely have a full-time marketing person at that point. Arguably when you get to be at about 15 people you need to look for a full-time salesperson and a full-time marketing person at that 15-, certainly at that 20-person level.

Listen to the whole Ask the Experts call: Every week, EGIA offers two Ask the Experts conference calls to allow contractors to ask questions and get answers about the issues affecting their business right now.

This is the weekly Ask the Experts free excerpt. To listen to all of this week's calls, or to see the schedule and register for future calls, click here.