COVID-19 and the Impact on Your HVAC/P Company

In the last few weeks, one thing has become increasingly clear for businesses around the world: there’s no playbook for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

These are uncharted times for everyone. So if you feel lost or unsure about how to lead your HVAC/P company right now, you’re not alone.

Over the last few weeks, our team has handled questions from our clients such as:

  • How should I be communicating to my customers right now?
  • What does the coronavirus mean for my marketing budget?
  • Should we be rethinking our current marketing strategy?

To be clear, you may not find the answers to those questions at the end of this article.

The goal of this article is to arm you with valuable insights so that you can make smarter marketing decisions that are appropriate for your unique HVAC and plumbing company.

To do that, we will:

  • Reveal trends in HVAC consumer buying behavior up to March 14th
  • Share what other clients of ours are doing in response to COVID-19

Let’s dive in.

The current state of the HVAC industry

Compared to many other local industries, the HVAC industry is doing...well, pretty good.

According to a recent ServiceTitan report, revenue for many HVAC companies “has not been significantly affected to date”.

The report, which was released on March 14th, details the completed job revenue of over 4,000 HVAC companies across the US and Canada.

Other interesting data from the report includes:

  • Completed job revenue (that on average is up 10% YoY) continues to be up 5% for the week of March 2nd and up 4% for the week of March 9th.
  • HVAC companies who rely heavily on big box home improvement store sales or commercial work on restaurants or office buildings were financially impacted the most. However, other companies saw fairly consistent revenue for March.
  • A spike in job cancellations (150%) was seen on March 2nd immediately after the first COVID-19 death. However, cancellations quickly decreased to their normal levels within a few days.
  • Incoming lead calls are only down 2% globally.
  • Future jobs on the books, which was up 3.5% nationally on average, continues to be up 2.5%.

The bottom line? While the HVAC/P industry may not be “thriving” compared to previous years, there is clearly still healthy demand for these services.

See the full ServiceTitan report for more industry trends and insights.

Factors that are likely protecting the HVAC/P industry

HVAC and plumbing services aren’t “luxury” items.

Recent surveys indicate that over the next 6 months consumers are planning to cut spending due to COVID-19. However, most anticipate spending less on “discretionary” items like fashion, luxury goods, toys and games.

Homeowners don’t typically consider HVAC, plumbing and electrical expenses to be “discretionary items”. That said, elective calls like maintenance visits may be lower but you can anticipate there will be demand for repairs and installs.

Home comfort and reliable plumbing is more important than ever.

The majority of US homeowners are staying home more due to the COVID-19 quarantine efforts. With so many Americans stuck at home, we can assume that home comfort and reliable plumbing is not only top-of-mind but essential.

HVAC/P is exempt from “stay-at-home” and even “shelter in place” orders.

At the time of this article, California is the only state to see various “shelter in place” orders from local officials. The majority of US cities and counties are under “stay-at-home” orders. However, in most states, service trades are exempt from these orders and can continue to operate normally.

According to the San Francisco website, “Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers” can continue business under shelter in place and stay-at-home orders.

What your peers are doing

We’ve seen varying reactions from our HVAC/P clients in response to COVID-19.

A few of our clients reacted quickly and tightened their marketing budget. However, the majority of our clients are maintaining their marketing budgets and simply shifted budget to services and products that are more top-of-mind now, such as air quality and water filtration products.

Various clients have even increased spend and are taking a more aggressive marketing strategy in reaction to changes in the industry due to COVID-19.

In fact, Luke Cooper, COO of Cooper Heating and Cooling in Colorado, sees this as an opportunity to increase his company’s market share. While his competitors have pulled back on marketing efforts, Luke and his team have increased their paid search budget for more visibility and are even planning to hire more technicians at this time.

In a recent call with our team, Luke explained that he anticipates demand for his services will eventually bounce back and he wants to be fully staffed and prepared to absorb the jobs in his area.

Our COVID-19 marketing recommendations

  • Invest more in branding, not less (if you’re financially able to). When other brands pull back, you can increase your share of voice at a much cheaper cost because there is less competition for attention and ad inventory.
  • Keep your competitors close. As companies go out of business, competitors can fill the gap. Keep an eye on your competitors and conquest if you sense they're weak.
  • Be honest and ethical in your marketing. Don’t over-promise on what your air quality or water filtration products can do against COVID-19. This can backfire and have a lasting impression on your brand.
  • Prepare to be there when the need is there. Most economists are predicting a bounceback in consumer demand—the main debate is when that bounceback will occur. Our advice is to keep as much staff as you can afford to. The worst thing you can do is make hasty layoffs then not have the ability to take jobs when demand returns. Instead, line everything up so that your team can just flip a switch to turn on. We also recommend that you have creatives ready for instant promotions.

Want more marketing recommendations? Our CEO, Ben Kalkman and our Strategy Manager, Sean Bucher were recently interviewed by ACHR in their recent article, “How to Market HVAC During Coronavirus Pandemic”.

Need help navigating these tough times?

Rocket Media can help.

We realize that a push for marketing in the midst of these hard times seems inappropriate but the reality is that nothing gets better if we stand still. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be smart with your marketing—but we know that will look different for every HVAC/P company.

Whether you’re an existing client or not, we can help you develop a marketing strategy that aligns with your company’s budget and competitor landscape.

We hope your teams stay strong and healthy. We’re here to help in any way we can.

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