Back in the day, advertising was relatively simple. You’d buy an ad in the paper and maybe one in the Yellow Pages. But does that really cut it today? To reach potential customers, you need to be where they are, and that’s not in the phone book or newspaper anymore.

Be where your customers are.

First, make a plan. Understand the who, what, why and where of your target customer. It’s so easy to say “everyone with air conditioning is a potential customer”. While it may be theoretically true, guess who else is probably thinking that? Yes, your competitor. find out what your specialty is, what makes your business special and what makes people want to come back and do business with you.

Then put that to the test. A small investment can reap valuable rewards. Try some of these ideas for spreading your message.

Locally published niche magazines – Many cities and towns have a great little tabloid that covers the local food scene – with an emphasis on quality and sustainability. No one picks up this tabloid to look for an HVAC company. But the readers are affluent home owners, environmentally conscious and are willing to spend a little extra for what they believe in. Sound like they could be your customers? An ad emphasizing the benefits of quality HVAC maintenance could be a good investment. But don’t go off the rate card for the price. Negotiate, negotiate,  negotiate.

Real estate agent partnership – When people are buying or selling a home, they focus their attention on maintenance issues. Ask a reputable agent or firm to refer you to their clients for HVAC concerns that come up in home inspections. You can also offer a deal to their new buyers on the first year of a service contract.

Hand-delivered flyers or brochures – This is an inexpensive way to educate the public about HVAC matters and get the word out about your company at the same time. A rudimentary knowledge of desktop publishing can produce a nice-looking product. With a digital camera, shoot before and after photos of an air conditioner or furnace that you’re servicing. A picture speaks a thousand words. Show what you can offer in your flyer. This type of advertising lets you start small – blanket a neighborhood and gauge the response.

Home and garden shows – What a great place to offer visuals. There’s nothing like seeing photos of a filthy furnace or humidifier filter to motivate someone to address their maintenance needs. Show views of an air conditioner before and after cleaning, or show clear graphs detailing energy savings from using well maintained equipment. This is also an ideal way to introduce your employees – put the most personable of your personnel in the booth to work the crowd.

Many of these are tried and tested, and many are pretty unique, and some yes are consider “old school” marketing tactics, but look around you. There is opportunity everywhere for you to tell your story.

Now that we’ve covered this part, you can’t ignore your digital web presence or social media. We’ll deal with that in the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, we’d love to hear from you. What’s been your best investment of advertising dollars?