Web Marketing Trends: What’s Working in 2016 … and What’s Losing Popularity
PHCC members take note: the website may be 25 years old this year, but hopefully your marketing tactics aren’t! PHCC Preferred Partner Market Hardware has put its team of web marketing experts on a mission to supply you with the top six web trends you should know (they’ve even offered special industry-specific tips for PHCC members). Plus, be sure to read to the end to see which trends 2016 is leaving in the dust!
Strategies trending UP this year:
#1: Responsive Website Design (because mobile will rule the web in 2016)
According to Pew Research Center, 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone, which doesn’t take into account the amount of tablet users. The point is, the mobile trend has shown no sign of stopping and should continue into 2016. So if you’re ready to upgrade your site, then Responsive Website Design is a must-have in order to impress anyone who is scanning websites from their phones or tablets. Studies show that if a visitor lands on a site that is difficult to navigate and requires zooming in/out, they’ll simply exit out and move on to a new site.
Moreover, Google has firmly hitched its wagon to the mobile trend. Since April 2015, mobile-readiness has been considered a ranking factor when it comes to identifying which companies show up highest in search results. In other words, Google wants user-friendly sites to rank highest in search results.
Keep in mind, it’s not as simple as “flipping a switch” on your current site to make it responsive. There are some short-term solutions (such as building a separate mobile site), but if you’re looking for a Responsive Website, you’ll need to start from scratch with a new site.
#2: Proper Email Newsletter Marketing as a Retention Tool
As more businesses invest in digital marketing as a customer acquisition tool, acquisition costs are likely to skyrocket as the marketplace becomes more crowded. Therefore, allocating a portion of your marketing budget toward retaining existing customers is more important than ever. Recent estimates suggest that the cost to acquire a new customer could be five times as much as the cost to retain an existing customer, so investing in customer acquisition will go a long way toward improving your bottom line.
An increasingly popular way to retain clients using the web is email newsletter marketing. That doesn’t mean you should be sending out “spammy” emails with coupons and offers every week. The right way to run an email newsletter marketing campaign is by sending out educational content that your customers will appreciate. The top businesses use a 90/10 rule, where 90 percent of their email newsletter content is purely informational and only 10 percent is self-promotional. Customers appreciate receiving valuable content, and it’ll keep them coming back to your business time and time again.
PHCC Member Tip:
Sample content your readers may appreciate:
Clean your filters. When your filters are clogged with dust and dirt, your system will have to consume more energy while it operates. Clean filters will keep your system running efficiently and will help prevent long-term damage. (Oh, and you’ll breathe better air!)
Keep your family informed. Any type of fuel-burning space heater can be dangerous if the proper safety precautions are not taken. All members of your family should be aware of the importance of ventilation and should know what steps to take in the event of a fire.
#3: Co-op Advertising Programs (Is it time to have a manufacturer pay
for your marketing?)
Heading into 2016, more manufacturers recognize the value of digital advertising, and we anticipate that, over the next year, these manufacturers will fully embrace digital advertising as an approved channel for co-op marketing. They believe that digital advertising is an effective marketing channel that can help their dealers move more products. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, especially the businesses that end up being reimbursed for large portions of their marketing.
Curious about whether one of your suppliers or manufacturers provides co-op advertising reimbursements? Get in touch with one of their marketing/brand managers and explain your marketing expenses. Just be wary of manufacturers that insist on a highly specific marketing strategy/company that may not be a perfect fit for your business.
#4: Digital Advertising as a Polarizing Topic
The digital advertising market is packed with thousands of freelance website designers, countless full-service web marketing firms, and a ton of people who claim to be web marketing experts (but aren’t). With so many options, there are bound to be hundreds of great companies that stand out, as well as thousands of fly-by-night web firms that are out to make a quick buck from an unsuspecting and overly trusting client. For that reason, 2016 should continue to polarize consumers’ opinions about digital advertising as a whole. Those who are fortunate enough to find a provider they can really trust will reap the rewards, while unsuspecting victims may swear off digital advertising forever.
There’s a sub-trend worth noting: More plumbing and HVAC businesses will invest extra time and energy to find companies that can deliver quality customer service in addition to strong results. The days of falling for cold-callers and SEO email scammers are numbered. We call it the “fool me once, fool me twice” phenomenon and expect more businesses to be willing to pay a premium for recommended service providers they can trust – all so they can avoid some of their previous pitfalls.
PHCC Member Tip:
Do your research when selecting a marketing provider. Ask for industry references, and find someone that comes highly recommended … even if it means spending slightly more than you’d like.
#5: Online Video as a Marketing Tool (that might also support your
According to Cisco’s Visual Networking index, video makes up 64 percent of all Internet traffic, and it’s forecasted to grow to 80 percent of all traffic by 2019. Web users today prefer to watch videos rather than read content, so service businesses have begun to react accordingly. Some have chosen to provide informational videos about their companies or basic DIY repair instructions, while others have moved straight to advertising on other videos. Both of those strategies are likely to become more common in 2016.
As for how video relates to SEO, Google and the other search engines surely are aware of the fact that web users like watching videos, and they’re beginning to take that into account when ranking websites by relevancy (not to mention, Google owns YouTube, so there’s a clear correlation there). Videos as a marketing tool definitely will continue to increase in popularity in 2016, and its impact on your website’s search rankings are likely to follow suit.
#6: Call Rating/Lead Scoring (Now is the time to become smarter marketers.)
To become smarter marketers, a small percentage of plumbing and HVAC companies began using call recording software over the last few years, and there appears to be a significant uptick on the way. It’s an important tool for marketers who want to make sure they’re getting the most value out of their employees’ inbound calls, measure employee performance, and more. An increasing amount of companies are providing these services – and at an affordable price. They’ll record your calls, report how many you received and from where, and even rate the calls for you. It used to be a strategy that only the top 1 or 2 percent of plumbing and HVAC companies employed, but moving into 2016, that number is sure to increase significantly.
PHCC Member Tip:
Not sure where to start? Check out PHCC Associate Member Service Hook for affordable call tracking/rating solutions, and be sure to mention you’re a PHCC member.
Strategies losing popularity this year:
While these strategies may have been highly successful in the past, the experts at Market Hardware predict they’ll be less popular this year as plumbing and HVAC businesses move their marketing funds into other approaches.
Social Media as a Lead Generator
Social media still serves a major purpose in the HVAC industry, but, after its growth phase a couple of years ago, businesses quickly learned that social media content cannot be relied upon for a steady lead flow. Dollars, time, and energy are all better spent on other marketing strategies (like the ones listed above). Note that paid advertising on social media is on the rise and could be huge one day. We expect it to be as large as Google Advertising in the near future.
Here’s a simple social media plan that is becoming increasingly popular: At the beginning of each month, plan out some tips and ideas to post on Facebook and Twitter. That way, you can spend no more than a few minutes each day, or even each week, posting interesting, engaging content on the two most popular social media platforms without exhausting too many resources to do so. Post pictures of your facilities/staff, and include occasional offers. There is certainly value in being active on social media and staying in front of your existing customers, but look elsewhere if you’re focused on growing your business.
PHCC Member Tip:
PHCC—National regularly provides members with timely sample social media posts that you can customize for your business. If you’re ever looking for extra suggestions, however, contact Market Hardware and mention that you’re a PHCC member looking for some advice; they’ll provide additional tips and suggestions for the most popular social media platforms.
Yellow Pages/Newspaper Ads
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Consumers just aren’t opening up Yellow Pages books or newspapers to find service providers like they used to. They are far more likely to type a search online and scan a company’s website to solicit a service. Businesses have been picking up on this trend for years and, understandably, have pulled their marketing dollars out of those marketing channels. While there is still a small audience that uses Yellow Pages and/or newspapers to find local businesses, that draw is dwindling. Consider focusing the majority of your dollars on more modern channels.