Marketing in Her Own Words: Key Points With WHVACR's Colleen Keyworth


Jessica Brant
September 19, 2019
minutes to read

Like many women in the HVACR, electrical and plumbing industries, Women in HVACR Board Member Colleen Keyworth’s professional journey begins with her family roots. As the Director of Sales and Marketing for one of her family’s businesses, Online Access, she grows contracting companies by training hundreds of contractors across the country on how to better integrate web design and search engine optimization into their marketing plans. Keyworth recently shared some quick tips on how she approaches marketing in the HVAC industry from a family-owned perspective. 

Shake hands with your industry.  

“Working with contractors is great because they are some of the best people I know. Maybe it’s that family background or work ethic, but they are some of the most giving people. Sometimes you don’t see that until you’ve worked in another industry. The medical field, which I’ve worked in, is very dog-eat-dog and competitive. In the HVACR industry, it’s very rare to feel like you’re isolated.”

Coach clients correctly. 

“Because Online Access is so niche, and we only work with HVAC, electrical and plumbing contractors, a lot of what we do is coach the clients that we work with. Marketing is not just about providing a client with a website. Everyone working in marketing has a different opinion about how to navigate the process, but navigating it for this specific industry is very different.” 

Think bigger picture.

“You need to be able to create relationships with your clients outside of an immediate need, and it's very difficult to do. It’s not the same as having a hunting and fishing company or a hair salon, things people are passionate about following on blogs and always looking at. Trying to connect what we do, make it interesting to people, and bring them into our world is a big part of our industry marketing.” 

Build legacy through best practices. 

“There are a lot of families that we work with that have kids coming out of college and are joining the family business for the first time. When you graduate college, you think you know everything, because I was there once. But then you learn what marketing techniques actually work in the real world. So I will say there’s a discrepancy there, and we do spend a lot of time working with families on that. Through marketing, we do add to business legacies by being able to bring them into the industry through educating them on best practices. And a lot of what we do is partner with our contractors. That also goes back to being a part of their legacy.” 

Keyworth will speak at a breakout session during the 16th Annual Women in HVACR Conference in Boston, running from September 25-27. Watch for our follow-up interview with Keyworth, in which she will offer more information on the resources available through Women in HVACR and how the conference speaker line-up was organized according to the theme “Connect. Cultivate. Grow.”

For live conference updates, visit us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram!

Look at Pricing

The start of the year is a great time to look at pricing. Usually, you have an idea of how your company fared the year prior, and you want to ensure you will continue to grow in the months to come. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions with respect to spending or saving in our personal lives, and it’s no different for business owners. Making sure your pricing is in line with where it should be is one of the strongest ways to start the year the right way.

Part of looking at your price book is finding where the issues are, and that can take time. An HVAC company in January is going to be very busy, so it’s a difficult time for a close look. However, a plumbing company might not be as busy. Whenever you tackle this job, your best bet is to look at what your labor rates are. Start there, and let it trickle down across the board. Ask yourself, “Are my labor rates helping my business stay profitable?”

Remember, there are many different services out there and many different groups or communities that you can engage. Never hesitate to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner in Florida. What should my labor rates be?” You can build your price from there. There are also some great billable hour calculators available.

Set Goals

There is no better time of year for looking inward than January. Set your personal goals and company goals for the following 12 months. If you can break those down into departmental goals, even better! Perhaps that means a CSR booking closing rates a little better, or a truck doing 250,000 a year rather than 200,000.

Many companies have found that using an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) goal-setting system pays off. Looking for a guidebook when it comes to OKRs? Check out Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr. 

One key question is the best way to handle setting goals: Is it smarter for business owners to handle this solo, together with staff, or to delegate completely? 

The best approach is to set goals at the department level. As an owner, you need to take the time to understand what the goals are in each department, and make sure they are in line with your goals for the company. No one likes to set unattainable goals for themselves, so make sure you push your departments to set goals that are lofty, rather than simple ones to feel good about hitting. Entrust your staff to aim higher, and watch how they respond.

Pass Along these Points

There's more where that came from.