HVAC businesses are one of the only year-round service businesses.
Roofers, landscapers, contractors, builders, painters… they are all beholden to the weather and the seasons.
HVAC, as an industry, has A/C installs and repairs one time of year, furnace and heating installs and repairs during the Fall, Winter and Spring months, and duct work and servicing literally 12 months of the year.
However, lately, I’ve seen a dangerous thing happening on Facebook. Specifically, I’ve been getting served (and we should say over-served) ads for HVAC businesses that are not only not working, but really screwing up businesses.
Now, don’t get me wrong here…
I love that local businesses are turning to digital marketing for growth. Facebook Ads are a simple and affordable platform to reach new customers and to grow your current brand. For HVAC marketing strategies, lead generation is THE best marketing strategy to use – copywriting, landing pages and Facebook Advertising.
However, looking deeper, these ads aren’t working. Without myself talking to the business owners, going over their numbers and running their campaigns, I know this for a fact.
In this article, I’ll tell you why. We’ll look at the issue I’ve noticed, what it might be costing your business and, most important, how to actually fix it!
Does your HVAC marketing currently budget for Facebook Ads? Have you just started Facebook advertising on your own, or have recently signed up with a new Facebook Ad provider and want some support to know things are working correctly?
Then grab a drink, kick off your shoes and let’s get into it!
The New Problem With HVAC Businesses And Facebook Ads
So, I want to show you all of the screencaps I received in a single scroll of like ten minutes on my Facebook Feed. This isn’t an exaggeration. These were some of the 20 ads I passed.
And, just to be clear, these are only a small handful of the ads I’ve been served. Every day I have nearly 50% of the ads I am served on Facebook being HVAC ads.
From these, and many like them, I came to a simple and clear conclusion:
HVAC business owners are burning through advertising money on Facebook Ads that they will never get back!
Here’s the punchline of what you’ve seen…
Only one single HVAC company in these ads are what we could consider ‘local’. I am not only considered outside of the rest of these companies’ service areas – I’m states away! That means, for the companies serving ads to me, someone who will never call them, they are being charged for nothing. There will be no return on their advertising investment, at all, when it comes to me.
Now, I need HVAC techs every now and then. Personally, I use an HVAC company in New Castle that is only a few blocks away from my house.
But these other companies have no chance of gaining my business. They are too far away. Even if I were in love with them, and asked nicely, they would tell me no, right?
One question popped into my head as I saw all of these companies… “Am I the only error?” If you noticed, some of these ads have 10+ comments. Most of them are telling the company that they are, indeed, serving ads to people outside of their service area.
So, not just me. Not just one HVAC company either.
The cost of setting up an advertising campaign with one error
Before we dive into how much money could be wasted with this error, let’s look at what the actual error is.
Without detailing the depth of the course-worth of info that are on the subjects “Facebook Ads” and “Digital Advertising”, let’s start by understanding some things about setting up an advertising campaign.
In an advertising campaign, we have pieces of information that we need to collect. These are like boundaries for how we perform, make choices and refine the campaign over time.
For many advertising campaigns we need:
- Target demo
- Ideal customer
- Regional and local boundaries
- Budgeting information
- Time frames
- Advertising platform
- Ad copy
- Ad creatives
These are usually the bulk of information we gather and plan before and during an advertising campaign.
The two items that stick out the most here for our conversation are “regional and local boundaries” and “budgeting information” (with “time frames” a close third).
I mean, we need to know who these ads are being served to, and what our spending barriers are. Our target demo and our ideal customer gives us a lot of information to answer “who” when it comes to the regional and local boundaries that we must define.
Your budgeting restrictions and information allows us to dictate the speed at which your goals can be met. For instance, let’s say you spend $100 per month and get 2 new leads. If you need 20 leads, we can either increase the monthly ad spend to $1000, or let the ad campaign go on for 10 months.
Makes sense, right? This is just an example, but it helps you to understand the bond that time and budget have in a campaign.
And now, let’s talk about your regional and local boundaries, your target demo and your ideal customer.
This is the part of the campaign that lets us answer the ‘who’ and ‘where’ of the campaigns.
This is also where the biggest error in Facebook Ad campaigns happen. And, a reason why I don’t like business owners handling their own marketing (D.I.Y. digital marketing).
If you are serving your ads to the wrong region, you are wasting money. If you are serving your ads to EVERYONE, you are wasting A LOT money.
“What do you mean I’m ‘WASTING’ money?”
Let me give you an example to better illustrate this point.
Let’s say that you are in New Castle. Let’s say that you sell HVAC services like A/C installs, ductwork and emergency furnace repair. What can we assume about the people that you are targeting?
First, it’s clear that they are homeowners, right? So, at the very least, we need to consider them being 18 years old. For marketing purposes, the real age of home ownership is usually 22 or 23.
We can also assume that they own a home or have a mortgage. After all, they would be calling their landlord for the heat going out in the middle of the night, right?
Can we assume anything else?
Here’s the big one – they live in and around New Castle. We don’t service people who live in San Diego or Tallahassee, right? If you are a New Castle HVAC, you need to have clients in this area.
When these current rounds of ads that I’ve found were made, the targeting was off – likely seriously wrong.
The only Audience settings were for ages 18 – 65+, lived in the United States and their affinity showed they liked home repairs (and other similar household themes). Affinity is another way of saying that we can predict a person’s likes, hobbies, interests or extreme dislikes based on what they like.
This now explains why, while being in Western Pennsylvania in Lawrence County, I received ads for HVAC companies in California, Indiana, Florida and Oregon to name a few.
The region wasn’t specific. A default “United States” was used.
Now, you may be wondering, ‘how much of a difference is that really?’.
I’m glad you asked! Time for the math portion of this article…
According to the U.S. census, there are about 124,000,000 households in the United States. About 58% of households were owner-occupied houses – meaning a separate, one-family home. This adds up to about
72,000,000 people live in a house.
One person does not live in one house, but we can figure out the averages for the number of people per house. If 2.6 people live in a home in the United States (that’s from the Census data linked above), that means that the actual number of houses is approximately 27,000,000.
So if you are targeting every homeowner in the United States with your company’s hvac ads, you are looking at a potential 27 million people! That’s a lot.
Let’s look back at our previous example – myself being in New Castle. Now, Lawrence County has a population of about 85,000 people. The number of households is about 55% that are owner-occupied, or 46,750. We know that there are 2.6 people per household, which leads our math to say there are approximately 18,000 homes in Lawrence County Pennsylvania.
27 million versus 18,000 is a crazy comparison, right?
But, what are we spending on each? In the larger pool of 27 million, our cost per ad is cheaper, because the pool is larger. But that pool actually only has less than 1% of the actual people that can be serviced by our example company (maybe even less than a half of a percentage point). So, 99 out of 100 people are wasting our ad spend budget, right?
However, in the other example, where we target ONLY Lawrence County, we have far less people at 18,000. But all of them can be customers. Meaning, we are literally hitting a 1 for 1 ratio of viewers to possible customers.
Makes more sense, right?
When you start to think about how much ads actually cost, the real loss of income starts to mount up.
In a normal advertising campaign, without any optimizations, bells or whistles, you can expect to spend about $12 to $14 per 1,000 impressions on Facebook.
Now, we’ve already said that we are getting less than 1% of possible clients to see our incorrect ad, right? So, for every 1,000 impressions, we are only catching the eyes of 5 to 10 people that could actually use our service. This means that the true impression cost is $0.14 per view.
But, for our regionally correct ad, we see something different. Those 1,000 people at $14 are all possible customers. It could cost us less than $2.50 in ad spend to get a new lead the correct way.
Conversely, we would need to spend nearly $500 to get that same 1,000 with the incorrect way.
Now you can start to really see the difference. I could spend around $200 and get nearly everyone in my service area to see my ad if I do things correctly. If I don’t, I’ll have to spend close to $10,000 for the same level of exposure to the correct region and the correct marketing demographic – and even then, it’s not guaranteed.
And that, my friends, is a lot of wasted money. For one month, it could be a brush-off. But imagine if you are using advertising 6 – 12 months a year!
How To Fix What You Don’t Know Is Broken
I know, I know… your brain might be a little tingly and melting from all of the math.
But, don’t worry!
In this part of this article we are going to fix what is broken. We are going to go over the steps you can take to see if things are not working correctly for you. And, the simple steps you can take to fix it all.
First, we need to get you familiar with the Facebook Ads console. You can get there one of two ways. The first way is to be at your page and click on the Ads link on the left-hand column. The other is to visit your Facebook Business URL here: https://business.facebook.com/latest/ad_center/ads_summary.
Once inside of your panel, you can see the different ad campaigns you currently have running.
Click on the campaign you have running. Then, click onto the “Ad Set”. This is where things like your budget, your audience and more are selected for the ads running inside of these Ad Sets.
What does your audience say for Location? Is it the general area of your service area? Or is all of the United States?
What about the age groups it has selected? Is it 18 – 65+, or is the age range in a better range?
The easiest way to fix this is to stick to the statistics we had discussed before.
Choose your county, city or region as your service area. If you don’t service the area, don’t pay for them to see ads!
You can filter down the potential clients that see your ad by also focusing on ages. I usually recommend 22 or 23 up to 65+. You can also run campaigns to focus on different age groups as well. For instance, a 23 year old likely has a first time mortgage, and it’s their first home. But a 55 year old might have their home paid off fully or be on their second or third.
If you do see an incorrect Audience selection for Location, don’t change it if you are already working with a marketing company. They should be changing this and tracking it anew.
Plus, you might break your contract with that agency or consultant by doing this. There are some contracts that clearly state that if you perform any contrasting digital marketing, your contract is broken or fees are incurred. This might not seem like a big deal, but there may be a lot of moving parts that can impact you.
However, if you are doing your own HVAC digital marketing, definitely, alter the Location in your Audience settings for your ads.
You just saved yourself a ton of cash!
There is one thing I should address
One question I have been asked is “why do digital marketing companies do this?” Basically, why do they set up an ad campaign like this, knowing that it likely is incorrect.
So, it’s hard for me to answer, because I don’t like to talk negatively about anyone’s work. So instead of specifics, I’m going to talk more in generalities of what I’ve seen, heard and third hand conversations I’ve had shared with myself.
The main culprit is “initial perceived value”. So, for many people in the digital marketing and digital advertising space, we know getting traffic is relatively easy. Getting the right traffic is harder. And getting the right traffic that converts gives the Rockstar status.
These companies and individuals want to start by showing that they can pull in large numbers of impressions. They want to show all of the metrics of conversions and impressions and views.
The digital marketer then shifts their focus on converting those numbers down. The business owner sees this as being awesome because you have taken huge numbers and big traffic, and focused them down further and further into future calls or emails.
Finally, the digital marketer explains the need for an optimized lead generation funnel and the actual results start to occur.
Instead of simply telling the HVAC company owner ‘hey, this is going to take some time, but I’ll make this as affordable as possible – here’s what I think you will spend’ at the beginning, they don’t. They instead boast numbers, talk about optimization and then finally, after getting paid for months and months, do the actual work that develops leads.
Now, not every marketing company is like this. In fact, there are fewer and fewer each day – thank goodness! Technically, the marketing company you hired might have just made a mistake that likely would’ve been corrected when they noticed it.
While it’s hard for me even to make an iron-clad ‘here are the exact numbers you are going to get by this time’ type of guarantee, I can state some minimums with certainty. And even now, performance based advertising campaigns are something I offer to prevent any feelings that myself, as a digital marketer, is trying to take advantage of someone.
You deserve to not be taken advantage of, as well as not be dealing with problematic marketing companies.
What have we learned about HVAC marketing, digital advertising and Facebook Ads?
Today we looked at a negative trend in the HVAC marketing space – wasted Facebook Ad spend dollars. These amounts are budgeted monthly, but really just get burned up into smoke They are a phantom ROI that will never come to pass because the ads simply are not correct.
We also pinpointed the specific problem. Your Facebook Ad campaign must be targeting the people living in your service area. We don’t need to target everyone in the U.S. – just the people we can actually help. By doing this, your ad spends will be more effective, yield more results and will save you a lot of money each month.
We wrapped things up by walking you through the process of checking for this issue in your own Facebook advertising.
Have you been using your advertising incorrectly on Facebook? Has this article helped you to fix it?
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