‘Tis the Season!
by Richard Rutigliano, PriMedia, Inc.
It’s the most wonderful time of year! By now, you are (we hope) in the midst of a busy winter season. You’ve successfully integrated the new customers who rushed your phones and websites after the first cold snap, and are now deep into deliveries and service calls all while keeping an eye on your gallons, prices and hedge accounts. With all your spring and summer preparations (and a bit of luck), everything should be going as smoothly as possible.
If you’ve been in this business for more than a day or two, you know that you’ll face challenges at some point during the season. Over the last few years, we’ve all seen a lot of different types of severe weather. We’ve had polar vortices, bomb cyclones, and blizzicanes, not to mention several storms of the century plus par-for-the-course winter storms, flash freezes, storm warnings and watches, blizzards, and wintry mixes. Through it all, what we’ve learned, year after year, is that preparation and communication make the difference between strengthening relationships and losing customers, between 5-star raves and thumbs-down rages.
Open two-way channels can save your customer relationships despite the service delays, misunderstandings and fuel shortages that can challenge even the best managed companies. Opportunities abound to pick up new business, too, even in the depth of winter: will-call customers who forgot to check their tanks, again; price-shoppers who finally understand the value of full service; and homeowners who are tired of being disappointed repeatedly by “the other guys.”
In honor of the season, it is only fitting that we give you a list and hope you check it twice. Any of these suggestions can be executed quickly enough to make your winter season jolly and bright, and put your company on customers’ “nice” lists!
The Nice Company List
Online Services: All you want for the holidays is for customers to order more fuel and pay you more quickly. These online services can be added to your website in just a few days, to deliver your holiday wishes wrapped neatly with a bow!
COD/Online Sales Platform: A simple Online Sales Platform like PriMedia’s DealerExpress, consisting of a home page, order form, pricing structure and payment gateway, can be launched relatively quickly and inexpensively. We’ve implemented these sites for many full-service companies looking to capture the transient will-call customer.
Local Search Optimization: When customers look for “heating companies near me,” is your company lost on the Island of Misfit Toys? Search engines continue to evolve and fine-tune their contextual understanding of user queries, and your website, Google My Business account and other major directory listings may need to evolve as well. These listings can now be enhanced, in many cases, with more information, links to specific pages, and even limited-time promotions.
Search Engine Marketing: On Search Engine Result Pages (SERP), the ads appear on the rooftops of the listings, high above any organic or local results. An SEM campaign (also known as Pay-Per-Click or PPC because of the bidding structure) puts your company among the first results they see. As a Certified Google Partner, PriMedia has demonstrated its expertise and skills in managing digital marketing campaigns.
Website Pop-ups: Like Rudolph’s nose, a pop-up can direct your site visitors to the information you need them to see. Your web manager should be able to quickly add pop-ups to your website, so you can communicate to customers and site visitors about power outages, phone issues, or delivery restrictions and delays, as well as sales promotions or storm warnings.
Social Media: Social media has evolved into a search engine, review site, advertising platform and communications tool. Your feeds should be kept current with regular posts about your services as well as your community, participation in charity events (event announcements, donations, team or individual photos and fund raising, etc.), staff updates and announcements – and also cultural or seasonal posts and memes. You build community with your followers with an array of messages, but can also use the platform for emergency announcements or alerts. Social media is also becoming the platform of choice for customer communications – where they post reviews as well as messages regarding service. During this busy season, make sure you have someone keeping an eye on your feeds at all times.
Text Messaging: The average text message travels almost as fast as Santa’s sleigh. Texts are read, on average, within 90 seconds of being received, and many consumers, especially millennials, would rather hear from you via text than any other format. When integrated with your enterprise software, your text communications system can also remind customers of service appointments, accept payments, alert will-call accounts to check their tanks for deliveries on days you’re in their neighborhood, and communicate during storms.
Traditional Marketing: Like beloved holiday TV specials and carols around the piano (or karaoke machine), traditions became traditions because they work. The same is true in marketing – there is still a strong, viable place for TV, radio and print advertising to reach your local audience. While many people think these programs need a long lead time, PriMedia has launched full campaigns, from initial creative concept development to publication/broadcast, in a matter of days.
Message on Hold: Spread holiday cheer through the phone lines, with a seasonal on-hold message! Update your messaging to include holiday greetings and music, as well as any seasonal specials or service reminders you feel are necessary.
While sugarplums may be nice, these tactics result in happy customers who gift you with their trust year after year. And while PriMedia is staffed not with elves but with experienced marketing and communications professionals, we too work all year long to prepare our clients for this all important season. If you’re ready to learn more, or have a winter wish list of your own, please give us a call.
PriMedia has weathered winter storms with our industry partners for more than 26 years. We are here to help you make the most of the opportunities available, with ready-to-use and custom solutions for your customer communications. Call 1-800-796-3342 or contact us online at goprimedia.com to get started with a free consultation.