How Contractors Can Stand Out While Buyers Evaluate Alternatives
By John Tyreman
After homeowners search for solutions to fix their heating or cooling units, the next step is to evaluate their alternatives.
A recent survey conducted by Silverback Strategies looked at how homeowners approach finding a contractor. The study reveals some key marketing actions service professionals should take. This article is the third of a five-part series exploring each phase of the modern customer journey for buyers of plumbing/HVAC services.
An Overview of a Service Buyer’s Journey
It’s helpful to understand the process a customer goes through before they contact you – and what they do after. We identified five phases to this journey:
Realization — when customers recognize they have a problem.
Education — when customers gather the information they need to make a decision.
Evaluation — when customers compare service providers.
Decision — when customers decide on a contractor.
Advocacy — when customers leave a rating or review online.
How do Consumers Evaluate Plumbing/HVAC Service Providers?
When my AC unit was low on refrigerant last summer, I had two separate HVAC specialists take a look and give estimates. Both said my entire system was old and needed to be replaced—a significant investment. It then came down to our alternatives: hiring one of these companies to replace the system, or hiring one of them to refill our refrigerant while we punt on replacing the entire system. Since their prices were fairly similar, my wife and I looked at pros and cons to evaluate between the two companies.
This story illustrates one of the key findings in our research. While price was the number one evaluation criteria, focusing solely on price may put contractors at a disadvantage. Outside of price, the top three criteria consumers use to evaluate contractors were 1) customer reviews, 2) past performance and 3) responsiveness.
More than 53% of plumbing/HVAC buyers identified customer ratings and reviews as a top evaluation criteria. We will dive deeper into ratings and reviews in the “Advocacy” part of this series, but contractors may have an opportunity to use marketing resources to generate reviews for profiles on Facebook and Google My Business. Boosting ratings and reviews will give contractors the social proof they need to sway the minds of consumers as they evaluate their alternatives.
While customer reviews are powerful, they are to some degree outside of a contractor’s control. Another way to stand out to buyers in their evaluation is to showcase past performance in marketing collateral and digital media. Skilled estimators and sales reps will come armed with stories of successful work, but these stories can also be showcased on a company’s website and in paid advertisements on social media, reinforcing brand differentiators early in the buying process.
Responsiveness is another evaluation criteria within a contractor’s control. Heating and cooling can be an urgent matter. In 2020, about 25% of U.S. adults worked remotely from their homes. But even if the pandemic subsides, the work-from-home trend could continue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 37% of jobs could be performed remotely. With more homeowners working from home, there is more schedule availability. This could give some contractors an advantage, especially in peak seasons like summer and winter.
If plumbing/HVAC contractors don’t stand out with help from customer testimonials, a track record of performance, or responsiveness, they run the risk of competing on price alone. Contractors have an opportunity to stand apart from other providers in their market, putting them in a better position to attract new buyers and win more business.
John Tyreman is a seasoned marketer with experience conducting market research focused on buyer behavior. John has appeared on webinars, podcasts, and authored hundreds of blog articles. Connect with him on LinkedIn.