How do you stand out in an industry jam-packed with competition? For years, Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning faced this challenge, and for years, they chose the same path: We can do it cheaper than the next guy.
As a small HVAC company in Columbus, Ohio, there was never a shortage of other companies offering the same products and nearly identical service.
Cynthia Hutson, communications manager at Fire & Ice, remembers those days. She joined the company back in 2011, when it was a scrappy band of five or six employees. To survive, they needed to get some distance from the competition.
“We offered discounts, free gift with purchase, or buy one get one free,” she remembers. But in the end, she kept coming back to the same conclusion: Why are we trying to discount value?
She knew there was a better way. When she happened upon Marcus Sheridan’s book They Ask, You Answer, she knew she had found it.
She shared the book with Scott Merritt, the owner, who read through it in a single night. Within days, they were set on a new direction.
“Scott came back the next day and was like, ‘this is it,’” Cynthia says. “He said, ‘this makes sense. This totally makes sense.’”
Scott and Cynthia were ready to go full-throttle. The approach they learned from Marcus was simple: Use your website to answer every question you’ve ever heard from buyers. Be radically transparent and helpful.
They knew that to commit to this new framework would require a lot of work. First off, there were a lot of questions to answer. In a field like HVAC, you’re talking about hundreds of questions. Maybe thousands.
But every great journey starts with a single step.
They started getting team members to write articles that answered buyers’ questions. The results were sporadic, and the already-busy employees were getting spread thin.
Fire & Ice needed help. And they needed an internal team.
Enter IMPACT — and Mark Wilson.
In 2020, as the pandemic started spreading, Fire & Ice signed on with IMPACT. Suddenly, they had a dedicated coach and trainers to help kick They Ask, You Answer into overdrive.
Around the same time, they hired Mark Wilson as a content manager. Fire & Ice had been in business for more than 15 years, but Mark was the first full-time marketer on board.
Now, the pieces were in place. But inbound marketing success can be slow to develop. How long would it take to see results?
When Mark came on, he set a goal: He wanted Fire & Ice to get 10,000 organic website visitors per month.
At that point, such a big number seemed unfeasible. The company was averaging several hundred visitors per month — and close to a thousand during the busy seasons. Mark thought he’d be able to get to 10,000 within two years.
With IMPACT’s direction, he started pumping out trust-building, unbiased content. Three articles a week, every week, starting with The Big 5.
And traffic came pouring in.
It seemed Fire & Ice had stumbled onto something. Even in the crowded HVAC industry, very few businesses had actively tried to educate their customers. There was a notable trust deficit, and the content Mark was producing filled in this gap.
That 10,000 organic visitors goal that Mark thought would take two years? They passed it within four months.
Today, the Fire & Ice website brings in 150,000 organic visitors per month during the summer — and this isn’t just a fluffy vanity metric.
Mark and his team have concentrated efforts to attract local, high-intent visitors. And their work is paying off.
[They Ask, You Answer] has changed how we do business...in every department. It's changed how we even look at business. Our competition doesn't like it. By what we're doing, we're raising the standard 10 fold in the industry.
Scott Merritt Owner, Fire & Ice
Fire & Ice began its They Ask, You Answer journey in the spring of 2020 — just as the pandemic was beginning to upend life as everyone knew it.
By committing to the framework and using IMPACT as a guide, the team was able to produce staggering results.
Traffic increased tenfold, with local traffic more than doubling.
But it wasn’t just traffic. That traffic was driving revenue.
In the last six months, more than $400K in sales came from visitors who first found Fire & Ice by landing on one of the team’s helpful blog articles. That number is more than 10 times what it was in the entire calendar year of 2020.
Since going all-in on They Ask, You Answer, Fire & Ice can trace more than $1 million in revenue directly to organic sources.
Like Mark’s initial traffic goal, the team keeps setting goals and surpassing them. And as exciting as the growth is, what’s even more powerful to see is the cultural shift, which has sent ripples through the entire company.
Fire & Ice doesn’t just sell to inbound leads. The company still runs radio, TV spots, and billboards, as well as paid ads on search and social.
But even these traditional outbound marketing tactics are informed by They Ask, You Answer. No longer does the company offer free gift with purchase or other gimmicks, which diminish the value they provide.
“Our display ads are not always talking about the latest deal or buy one get one,” says Mark, which he sees as a race to the bottom. “Instead, we’ll say ‘Find out how much an air conditioner costs’ or ‘Find out what a furnace costs’ — and then we’ll link to our pricing guide.”
The goal with any ad, he says, is to educate. “In the ad, we offer a direct link to start learning.”
As recently as the spring of 2020, Fire & Ice did not have a single team member focused on marketing.
Today, the marketing team is six strong, including Mark, who serves as marketing manager. Under him are a content writer, a two-person video team, a marketing coordinator who specializes in graphic design, and a specialist focusing on social media.
And the company has grown to keep up with all the demand generated by its They Ask, You Answer efforts.
No longer is Fire & Ice that small, scrappy company with just a half-dozen employees. Today, the team is nearly 10 times that size, with a headcount that hovers around 50. Traffic keeps climbing, sales keep increasing, and revenue continues to go up.
Today, Fire & Ice has graduated from IMPACT’s services. It’s fully self-sustained with a brilliant in-house marketing team that can handle any challenges that come its way.
But the team has no intention of slowing down.
“You have to keep your foot on the gas,” says Cynthia. “You really do.”
At the rate they’re going, we can all expect even bigger success from the team at Fire & Ice in the future.