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Branding Tips for HVAC Businesses
Whether you’re a business owner or want to create an HVAC education program, you’re going to need to create an identity for your organization and put it out there. That’s called “branding” or “creating a brand.”
Nowadays, we hear the term “brand” thrown around quite often with influencers and large corporations. As such, the word may seem a bit distant and inauthentic to some people. But a “brand” really captures what an organization is, what its core values are, and how it’s presented to the world. Branding matters even to small business owners, non-profits, and educators.
Since so many people rely on the internet and social media to find services in this day and age, branding is especially critical for HVAC/R contractors who want to make a name for themselves and build a reputation.
Now, there’s a lot more that goes into branding than making a logo and slapping a list of services and your business’s mission statement on a website. Branding requires you to make deliberate choices about the way you present your company. We’re going to go over a few branding tips we’ve used for HVAC School and Kalos Services.
Who needs to rethink their branding strategies?
I wouldn’t say there are right and wrong ways to build a brand; you’ll merely get results that match your approach. However, I can identify a few people who may benefit from a new approach to branding:
1. Small business owners with websites that haven’t been updated in 5+ years
Maybe you’ve got a small but respected business that does quality work. That’s great; customers can recommend your company to friends and help you build a good reputation.
However, if your business has a website straight out of 2009 with janky sidebars, obvious stock photos, and Adobe Flash, then that’s not so great. Outdated web designs don’t look good to potential customers who look up “HVAC contractors near me” on Google.
If your website is clunky and outdated, then potential customers may make similar assumptions about the quality of your work—ditto for education programs and the quality of training and mentorship.
2. Business owners who have hired graphic designers or web developers but have been unable to give them any direction
Maybe you were aware that your website needed a facelift, so you hired someone to help you. If the developer did their own thing and you can’t figure out how the website has been made better, then you may need to be a bit more deliberate in your approach to branding.
You need to be able to be specific about what you want for your brand. If you leave a web developer to their own devices, then you might get a design that doesn’t do favors for your brand. For example, if you can’t give web developers and graphic designers pictures of your business in action, they may have to rely on stock photos of people shaking hands, holding dollar bills, and so on.
Moreover, if the web developer takes more than a few creative liberties, ask yourself if the changes are meaningful. What do the changes accomplish? Is the new hero image on the home page a sleek replacement for a crowded sidebar, or does it clutter the page? It may help to take inspiration from others, see what you want to display and how you want to do it, and communicate those items effectively.
3. People who think “brand” only refers to cattle ranchers or Gucci
Branding is not just for the cowboys; it’s for business owners as well. However, the same principle applies; Farmer Joe brands a cow so that people can distinguish his cow from Farmer Bob’s cows. The goal of branding is to give your business something that makes it unique from other companies.
As for Gucci, its reputation for being expensive results from its branding as a luxury fashion house. Its website is full of pictures of models wearing jewelry, Gucci suits and dresses with Gucci bags to match, and posing with fancy birds like white peacocks. Gucci has also partnered with influencers who are well-known for their lavish lifestyles. The web design, content, and nature of influencer endorsements make the brand SCREAM upper-class luxury.
HVAC contractors and educators clearly don’t need to be Gucci, but we need to understand how to appeal to our target demographics, make a good name for ourselves, and show how our services improve our clients’ lives. We need to do those things in ways that make sense to people who want to do business with honest, hardworking tradespeople.
Branding without looking amateurish
Branding is a skill that needs to be practiced and developed over time. As you spend more time figuring out your business’s identity and how you wish to portray it to others, branding will come a lot more naturally.
But if you’d like to get a solid start before you reach the point where you’re comfortable developing your brand, here are four tips that can help you out:
1. Ask what’s important to you and your organization
Purpose, morals, and aspirations are important to a person’s identity. So, it would make sense that purpose, philosophy, and goals should be major points of consideration for branding your company or organization.
I’ll use HVAC School as an example. The purpose of HVAC School is to be a free training resource for technicians all over the world, and our philosophy is to provide education based on real field experience. That’s where our “For Techs, By Techs” motto comes from; we take pride in sourcing our content from experts with years of field experience, including our guest contributors like Neil Comparetto, Genry Garcia, Michael Housh, the legendary Jim Bergmann, and many other great technicians.
How do we achieve goals to reach, educate, and help technicians at scale? We use many different educational media, including podcasts, videos, and articles, as well as providing industry resources like calculators. We focus on accessibility to information, regardless of how people prefer to learn (aurally, visually, or by reading) or where they live.
So, if you’re having trouble branding your business or organization, ask what you really want to do and what you want your company to accomplish. Then, ask how you plan to do it. The pieces will come together when you know what you want to achieve.
2. Have a consistent, clean, appealing visual style
Logos, websites, blogs, and even the graphic design on your contracting business’s vans all represent your brand. So, you need to plan out how everything will look. Better yet, you can hire an expert to help you.
In many cases, it’s better to see what other people are doing and how it works for them before you get carried away with your own style.
For example, it may be tempting to use script fonts (cursive-looking ones) for headings on your website, but any self-respecting graphic designer would advise against it. Why? Despite trying to look classy and unique, script fonts are stale and nowhere near as easy to read as other fonts.
Even though a font like Montserrat isn’t fancy, it’s not going to be distracting and dated like script fonts. (Plus, customers are looking for straightforward, hardworking tradespeople; we don’t need our sites to look like life coach blogs.)
To the amateur, it may also seem like a good idea to have a few different fonts on promotional materials to make the design pop. However, that just makes the promos look like they have too much going on, and they’re harder to read as a result.
So, this is all to say that it’s better to focus on what people will find visually appealing, not what looks fancy. The same goes for logos and web designs; the best logos are memorable because they reflect your brand and don’t have too much going on.
Web designs that stick to a single font, two base colors, and keep the verbiage concise will look a lot more appealing than a website with clashing colors, textures, and fonts all over.
Also, using Comic Sans on your van doesn’t make your business look like a superhero HQ. Just sayin’.
3. Remember that you can’t please everybody
One of the hardest lessons in marketing is that you can’t appeal to all markets. I know that it can be easy to think, “Well, I am pretty good with tools and my hands. I can help fix people’s cars, garage doors, and all sorts of things!”
That’s not quite how it works. Yes, Kalos started with three guys who would do whatever you asked. We installed residential A/C units, fixed pool heaters, did commercial construction projects, painted garages, you name it. But we narrowed our focus on specific markets. When we focused on our existing grocery renovation connections and residential HVAC (mostly for vacation rentals), we began to define our brand and see growth.
When your scope is too wide, you can’t give enough time and dedication to the business segments that your brand would excel at. So, being a “one-stop-shop” has its disadvantages; you risk spreading your skills too thin and losing your brand’s identity in the process.
It’s better to be just an A/C contractor and be extremely good at it than to be okay at working on HVAC, refrigeration, auto body repairs, cleaning pools, landscaping, painting houses, and so on.
Also, people may see how “versatile” a company is and think of the phrase, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” If that could ring true and show up in the contractor’s work quality, why should customers be willing to take that risk?
4. Stay in a continuous state of learning
I know we talk about this all the time on the podcast and in videos, but it really is important to keep learning and working towards continuous improvement.
There will be times when you perceive failure. Maybe you bit off more than you could chew by offering pool heating services and ended up with some dissatisfied customers. Maybe a customer complained that your website was too slow and difficult to navigate. Those things happen when you try to grow your business and define your brand.
In any case, you can turn those situations into lessons. The pool heater disasters could signify that you should narrow your scope back to residential HVAC only. The website feedback could be the final nudge you need to hire a web developer or graphic designer. We need those moments where we can see how we fall short so that we can figure out how to improve.
Also, when you make mistakes with customers, how you handle those mistakes says a lot about your brand. If you respond to negative feedback on social media by showing your concern and trying to give the customers a better experience, that reflects positively on your brand.
Or you could roast customers, but don’t expect that to look good for your brand. (Not everyone can be the Wendy’s Twitter account manager.)
All of this is just to say that branding requires a lot of work and takes time, but there are a few things you can be doing right now to build your HVAC/R company’s brand. No matter what, clean designs and positive communication will work wonders for your organization’s online presence.