Interview with Brian Sloan from TR Miller - HVAC Success

by Plumbing Marketing Profits on July 26, 2019

In this interview, Brian Sloan shares how they have grown TR Miller (a full-service Heating & Cooling business serving the greater Chicago area) from 18 to 45 trucks (more doubling their revenue) over the past 3 years.

Brian Sloan joins us from TR Miller, an HVAC company in Chicago. TR Miller started out without any sort of specialization, but now they are purely a residential service. They have 8 service trucks, 5 installation trucks, 3 CSR’s and a dispatcher. They have grown substantially over the past 5 years and Brian is here to tell us how. Listen in to discover the secrets that Brian and TR Miller have learned about marketing and branding that have helped them grow over the past 5 years.

How did Brian get this role?

Brian’s father started TR Miller and Brian started working there sweeping floors and doing everything he could to learn the business. 5 years ago he was the general manager and wore every hat. He was a generalist, he knew a bit about everything but specialized in nothing. Now he has managers with specialties in every department. He learned to hire great managers who were experts in their field. He meets weekly with all of his managers to ensure that they provide the best service possible to their customers.

Who is TR Miller's ideal customer?

5 years ago they would have said anyone was an ideal customer. They did new construction, commercial and residential. But TRMiller has grown more selective over time and now they work primarily with residential customers. They prefer to work with homeowners rather than rentals or multi-family homes. The more they have narrowed down their niche the more their business has grown.

What does their marketing look like?

They used to use postcard mailers since that was the easiest ROI. Unfortunately with those you can’t be very selective about who you market to. You can only choose the zip code. Over the past few years, they have become more involved in guerilla marketing. Guerilla marketing allows them to become more involved in the community by sponsoring team sports and clubs. Since they are in the Chicago market they really can’t afford mass-market advertising, but they have recently begun using Hulu and IHeartRadio. Brian feels that not only do they have the advantage of targeting their ideal customer but that these marketing choices will continue to grow in the future.

TR Miller also leverages social media. They are active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Brian feels that part of their success is because of their consistent branding. He knows that brand recognition goes a long way when something breaks.

What do they do to attract online reviews?

Online reviews are really about the whole customer experience. Brian feels that the customer is rating everything about the company from the marketing, to the call center, and finally the quality of service. They make sure to have weekly training for all of their staff. This way they ensure they are providing the best service possible from each department. At first they found it difficult to ask for reviews. Now they have a great follow-up system which has increased the percentage of reviews from their calls. Discover Brian’s secrets to success by listening to this episode. Be sure to listen until the end where he shares what has really helped their business grow in the past 3 years.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:22] A bit about TRMiller
  • [3:47] How did he come upon this role?
  • [5:39] Who is their ideal customer?
  • [10:07] What do they do to attract online reviews?
  • [15:17] How do they leverage social media?
  • [17:40] What was the big change that happened with them as a company to get them where they are today?

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect With Josh

There are a TON of insights here:

- How they built up over 600 Google Revies
- What they do to develop their company culture and keep the techs engaged
- The organizations & resources that helped Brian accelerate the growth of the company
- How the owner (Tim) empowered his sons to step up in the business & take things to the next level\
- And much more

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Appended is the video transcript for your reference:

The plumbing marketing profits podcast interviews with million dollar plus plumbing and HVAC business owners on how they market and grow their companies in today's economy. You're directly from the most successful leaders in your business and discover what they are doing to keep their phone ringing trucks running and businesses with your host, Josh Nelson. Well, hey,this is Josh Nelson with the plumbing and HVAC Marketing Podcast. And today I'm super excited to share an interview with you of Brian Sloane from tr Miller. They're a full service HPC company serving the Greater Chicago market. And on this interview, Brian shares how they've been able to grow their company from 18 to 45 employees over the past three years more than doubling their revenue, how they built up over 600 Google reviews using some cool tools and some cool cultural development elements. More importantly, to help just kind of share what they're doing to keep the phone ringing trucks running. And their business booming. Check it out.

Hey, Brian, how are you?

I'm good. How are you?

I'm doing good. So as you know, I'm going to be interviewing you today for our engage newsletter, and our podcast and our weather. So for our newsletter, but will also be using the footage. Can you tell us a little bit about your background a little bit about Dr. Miller and how you kind of got to where you are today?

Awesome. Yeah, great question. So, um, a little bit about us. We are a residential heating and cooling contractor in the Chicago market have been in business for about 11 years now. We started off with my father. He's our founder. He purchased a new construction company at the time is a 2008. economy was a little rough. So you purchase a new construction company. When we first started, we did new construction, like commercial and residential and 11 years later, we're pretty primarily 99%, residential service and replacement. So I guess a little bit about us. How many? Yeah, so we only do heating and cooling. And so we have, I believe, eight service trucks, five installed trucks and three dedicated copper consultants, and one technician who sells so that's a little bit on our fleet.

So we have three CSRS a dispatcher, a call centre manager. We have a market mark and marketing. We're currently onboarding right now. We have a controller starting next week. And then maybe three or four other people trade administrators, myself, my brother, he's our instal manager, we have a service manager and in my dad warehouse guy, so quite a few a few guys anyways.

I guess to raise the entire company.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, take a lot to keep the guys busy and, and support really, you know, we're really, you know, the office is here to support the guys in the field.

So then, can you tell us? So you're obviously not one person in charge? There are a couple different people wear hats? How did you get into the role that you are in? You tell us yeah.

Yeah, great question. So about five years ago, I was the general manager. And so I want every hat. So I, you know, as a service manager, the instal manager, marketing guy, the finance guy, the office manager, the call centre manager, and we've had some really great growth over the last three to four years. And so with that growth, we, you know, we've onboard those those positions. And so I was General Manager for, up until recently, I moved into the president role. So yeah, it took it took a while. But yeah, it's a little bit about how I got where I'm at.

So what can you say to somebody maybe who is juggling, like all of these different positions? And I know, it's hard to sometimes we let go of giving different parts of your business over to another person to kind of handle for a while. But isn't it green? Or at least Did that help you guys? In the last two years?

Yeah, yeah, it's been awesome. So we have some of the ideal some of the best managers in our in our area anyways. Our service manager, he's probably one of the reasons that we get as many reviews as we do. They need weekly, our instal managers saying they need weekly talk about their process, how they're going to instal a customer relations, call centre, they need often one on one, stuff like that. So it's all important. If you if you grow without hiring those managers, one, you get really stressed out into the people that need the attention, don't get the attention they deserve.

So I'm going to ask you a couple of questions regarding some.

Well, five years ago, everyone was our customer. So anyone that wrote a check with our customer five years ago, we've kind of become more selective. So five years ago, we did commercial, new construction, residential, especially with with the challenges of getting good tax, we decided that we want to be more selective. So we really kind of only narrowed our customer to a residential customer, customers who are the homeowners, so we kind of stay away from rental situations, multi family homes, and then your you know, your general demographics of 35 to 55. Female, and then obviously, your median income, we look at all those as well.

So what are some strategies?

Yeah, so so we've recently we used to, we used to be real heavy with the postcards. So like Chicago markets, it's really expensive to get into mass media. And, you know, we were like, you know, we were a lot smaller five years ago. So our marketing budget was a lot smaller five years ago. And so we wanted to be super selective. And so, you know, five years ago, we really just marketed direct mail to our existing customers, because that's the easy ROI. And then, you know, as we grew from there, we looked at math, postcards, I guess I'll call it, you know, like flipper has a great postcard very affordable. Not as selective though, you can just really choose zip codes, and it goes to homeowners from there. We moved from there and to say, the last few couple years, we started getting more involved in our guerrilla marketing, which is probably my favourite so you can be involved and give back to the community and call it guerrilla marketing. Like how cool is that? So you can go you know, sponsor events, sponsor baseball teams, the you know, really give back to the community in college girl, and they call it guerrilla marketing. So I love guerrilla marketing. And then recently, we got it, we're getting more into like your traditional metal, not traditional, but more into mass media. But we're looking at streaming services. So your hulu's your, you know, I Heart Radio is things like that.

That's interesting. That's fun. That's a whole different market that I

yeah, yeah, we're exploring it. You know, I want to be where the market will be in five years, I want to position myself there. And so, you know, statistically speaking, your traditional mass media, your TV, your radio, it's really star, you know, I think the split recently is maybe you know, 50% of users are on traditional TV, maybe in our market. 40% are like your hulu's, and you're streaming TV. And so in five years from now, you know, where's that split going to be? And so I don't, I don't have the funds to invest in the Chicago area and mass media, but I have the funds to be real selective on my demographics in the streaming TV world, and the streaming radio world, so.

So I know, it's Neil, but have you seen maybe any return on investment.

So we're currently onboarding?

A gentleman by the name, he'll be full time marketing, lot of community outreach, branding. And so what we're doing we're currently doing is we are measuring our market share over the last three years. And so he's currently working on that project. And then because with streaming TV, and streaming radio, you can be real selective on your, you know, your audience. And so, we're going to do with a zip code analysis and CRA will these are the zip codes we targeted? And then what's been our have we, you know, what was the percentage of the increase in sales in those zip codes. And so we've only been doing it for a little bit now. And so it's just now I would say, starting to get traction where you could get good measurement.

Well, I wish you the best of luck there, you know.

So for everybody watching, I'm his personal account manager. And so I've been working with me now for almost

two years now.

And so, um, so I know a lot about how you guys function, everybody.

What it is that you guys do to attract online reviews.

Yeah.

It put off, you know, online reviews is really about the customer experience. It's not about just going, they're putting a part on as fast as you can, and just leaving right away. And so the online review starts when the customer sees your marketing piece. And so what's the quality of your marketing? And then what's the quality of when they call your customers? You know, your your call centre, whoever's answering your phone? How, what's that conversation look like? Are we asking the right questions? are we sending the right technician? There we dispatching the right technician? Finally, you know, when you get the opportunity to get a technician out there, it's what's the quality of the service, like when he gets there? What's that follow up process look like? And so we invest heavily in training. So, you know, again, each department has weekly trainings, just working on both, you know, rotating soft skills, one week, technical skills, the next. And so so I guess our strategy for reviews is really just providing the best service in each department. We've been very blessed on it, reuse to rewind to talk like three years ago, I, we would measure and we still do both, you know, we were probably like every other contractor scratching our head, you know, we have three bad reviews out there. It's really tough to get good reviews, what can we do. And so, you know, we partnered up with, you know, plumber, and a track SEO, I think you guys have a great platform, we partnered up with some other review management systems that integrate with our operating system. And so, you know, if you go out there, and you provide all these great services, I think every contractor cruelly wants to provide a great service. And so when you go out there, I think the trick is just have to. And so that was like, the hardest hurdle for us to get over is like, how do we ask for reviews? And so if you're asking for reviews, and you got a great follow up system, and and you know, and you partner up with people like plumbing and Apex SEO, I mean, you can you can drive those reviews. And so we used to measure, you know, like, all right, well, what's our review percentage of calls are and and so we used to look at all calls ran. And we thought, right, well, we got 20 reviews, around 100 calls, that's the 20% Review conversion. And so I think for a long time we were on a platform, and our conversion was around 14%. I haven't seen the numbers, since we recently switched to a review management system that's really geared towards more Google reviews. However, I know, I think last month, we added maybe 80 Google reviews, just last month. So before with the old one it was it took a lot long time for a customer to leave a review. So they got email the survey, and then they got to fill out this five minute survey and then at the survey was good, they would send you to a review place. I think Google's put some checkpoints in place where you can't do that anymore for one. But we wanted something super simple where a customer got a text message on their phone and send them straight to Google. Like how was our service? Craig? Cool, Google, here you go. And so it's really our conversion of Google reviews has been we had gotten some awesome traction these last three months.

Yeah, I mean, overall,

to generate so many positive reviews,

award for our company to produce the most reviews. And I want to say that you were in the top five, I'm not mistaken. So yeah, that was fun. And that's, that's good. And so you can definitely agree that it's not just a technician, it's all aspects of the company. So from the moment of only to the moment, that person receives an invoice and then maybe even a follow up call couple weeks.

So I think sometimes I think people think it's the reviews lucky because of the service provided, when really it's about the customer experience, like the whole experience, like from the time they call till the time you leave, like, it's everything in between every everything matters. And everything you you know, even if maybe you know, you're one person, your office and they're doing, you know, bookkeeping, answering the phones dispatching. Really, you know, just set a metric like, Hey, you know, our goal is to get 10 10% of the calls, we run this month, try to get, you know, 10 were, you know, 10% of the calls, you ran reviews, and then each month just raise the bar a little bit, just the percentage, you know, alright, cool. We did, we got 10 reviews last month, because we ran 100 calls, let's try to get 12 and just, you know, gradually raise it, you know, each month, I think is kind of the trick.

One more time, social

media in this, where social media is so important these days, your online presence. So besides the customer experience, are you channels like Facebook and Instagram, things like that?

Yeah, so our social media, again, three years ago, I think was right when Facebook started releasing ads, maybe not, but I think it was about three years ago, I wanted to, you know, I knew is gonna be I saw, I didn't know, but it kind of panned out, I thought reviews, Facebook would be a great place, I wanted to put ourselves in the market. And so three years ago, when they first released, I think we jumped right in with our Facebook ads then. So we do the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, we're on all the social media platforms. I don't look at it, as you know, someone's different as well. We're very successful. I've heard were very successful on like, the moms of the local cities here. I heard like, I mean, we have some awesome referrals, I would say a lot of our business comes from referrals, it really does. But with that being said, I think Facebook's more of a branding, it doesn't really get a lot of direct response. But I just want people to you don't see our logo, the car trucks us on Facebook when they're looking at their phones. And when it when it finally comes time that something breaks, unfortunately, you know, it's unfortunately it's something breaks in their home, I want them to go to Google search for you know, heating repair Plainfield, Illinois and see us in the, in the top three, I'm you know, on the SEO side, or the Google local service side or the Google Maps and say, I see them everywhere. And I want to click on them and give them a call. And so I really look at it as a branding effort anyways,

going back to those referrals,

talking to your friends, and they wanted to send a profile as some sort of presence on these platforms, they can at least send that over. And although we don't necessarily

it's there for that reason for the branding, like you were saying,

Oh, yeah, yeah.

Perfect. And so Okay, so two more questions.

If any, are you a part of that may help you with training? And then the second question that I have kind of like burning inside because you keep referencing five years ago, something happened five years ago to today that it kind of pushed the company forward. Can you talk a little bit about that? What changed in the DNA of the culture of the company that got you to?

Got it?

So I guess for us, we're part of, you know, your traditional the ACA, you know, the forums, I guess it for me is, you know, five years. Five years ago, I got more. You know, my dad gave me more reins in the business, I guess. Me and my brother got more involved in the business as far as the functionality goes, because I started off sweeping floors that started off doing instals fabrication. About five years ago, our father was blessed enough to give us enough, you know, some inside positions, so we're not out there hauling furnaces in the basement. And so we started looking at like the ACA forums. And so what I would look for is all right, who are some great marketing companies. And so I you know, I looked at the top three, and you guys were you know, you guys have been very a pillar of that success. And then I also looked at all right, well, you know, I need a business coach. So we looked at, you know, what are some great organisations out there I without listening on my, I think like roundtables. One next are, there's maybe a couple more I'm missing. Sorry, if I forgot a couple. But we joined nexar, about three years ago. They've also been a pillar, I got a great business coach out of that. They have coaches, again, I was wearing every hat five years ago, or three years ago. And so I got, you know, it's kind of like a handyman. I wasn't a master at any of them. But I was pretty good at all of them. And, and so really, we've been able to pillar that and, and get people to master them. And it's like I said, Our instal and service managers are great. Yeah. And so, over the course of five years, I think five years ago, we had about even three years ago, we had maybe 18 employees. And now I think we're going to be pushing 45 here pretty soon, so we're in that ballpark. Anyways, so so great success,

doubled in size.

Yeah. Yeah.

That's, that's exciting. So congratulations on that.

Thank you.

Is there any, you know, like Golden Nugget that you want to give to anybody listening that place where they're trying to grow their business,

any insight that you have for them?

I guess my insight would be

find great partners. So so people that specialise in the trade, when I first started this road, we looked at maybe local vendors, we realised they didn't have the capacity to get us to where we went, we need to find the best in the nation. And so really, just try to find, you know, go to a forum on ACA and look at whatever it is you're trying to accomplish, you know, whether you know, online, you know, review management systems who are the top three, reach out to all three of them and whoever you feel is best for your company or you connect best with, you know, move forward with no matter what, whatever the services online, business coaching, review, management system, stuff like that.

And thank you for the last couple minutes. Had a pleasure interviewing you, I know that you have a lot of information and knowledge that people can take home with them. And graduations again on doubling the size of your company in such a short amount of time.

Thank you so much. And it was great talking to you and let me know if anything.

Weiss I really hope you enjoyed today's interview. Lots of amazing insights. If you'd like to listen to other interviews just like this with highly successful plumbing HPC and home service, business owners on how they're growing, scaling and expanding their business. Go to plumbing marketing.net that's plumbing marketing that net, though, you'll find over 20 interviews with highly successful business owners that you can listen to and other insights that you can sink your teeth into. So go to plumbing marketing that net, check it out, and we'll look forward to seeing you there.

 

Plumbing Marketing Ideas, Tips & Strategies

Josh Nelson is a marketing expert that specializes in helping Plumbing Business increase their sales & grow their business by more effectively MARKETING. He is a recognized speaker, author and regularly presents at PHCC, ACCA and Plumbing Contracting Associations. His articles have been published in Plumbing & Mechanical Magazine, Contractor Magazine and HVAC Insider. He is the author of The Complete Guide To Internet Marketing for Plumbing Contractors.

Plumbing Marketing Profits – who has written posts on Plumbing Marketing Tips, Ideas & Strategies for Plumbers | Plumber Marketing.


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