Advertising In The Residential Service Business

Electrical contractors who have built a successful business in commercial or industrial construction are quick to offer very standard explanations as to why they never pursue residential service work.

Forget their answers. The real reason they may not engage in the kind of electrical service work ordinarily performed directly for homeowners is that they do not know how to go about it. This is not about new construction subcontracted from home-building contractors. This is strictly “B2C” business.

If a traditional EC decides to enter this segment of the market full force, one of the first decisions that needs to be made is how to advertise. Better yet, how can it afford and justify the advertising expense required to suddenly enter this market segment?

Very few ECs are experts in advertising. Yet, right outside their offices sits an answer to how to effectively promote themselves 24/7 across their entire market area. They can dress up their trucks, vans and company cars with professionally designed fleet graphics, turning those vehicles into rolling billboards. No other form of advertising comes close to fleet graphics in a cost-benefit analysis of the daily impressions that they can produce.

We enjoyed a coffee break with Danielle Lance, account executive at Advertising Vehicles, a respected Cincinnati-­based firm with a nationwide reach, to carry that thought further.

Based on feedback, what is the biggest difference your clients notice after upgrading the look of their fleet with professionally designed graphics?

They realize that they have gone from having conventional signage that does nothing more than identify their vehicles to professional graphics that promote their company’s brand. All of a sudden, the imagery on their vehicles coincides with the image of their company that they want to project. That would include their desire to promote a certain specialty, like residential services.

What are the biggest mistakes service contractors typically make in the selection of graphics?

The typical signage may be OK to identify their vehicles, but professional graphics go a step further to make each van or truck a “rolling billboard.” And it’s a rent-free billboard!

Another mistake is that, with plain old signage, there’s nothing that makes the contractors’ vehicles stand out. They quickly get lost in the crowd.

But, by far, the biggest mistake most contractors make is in putting too much information on their vehicles. There’s too much to read when they’re going by at 25 or 30 miles per hour. And really, there’s too much to read when they’re just sitting still.

So, what are the secrets to creating the most professional appearance? What should the graphics on a service van or truck include?

The company logo should be the focal point. If people catch only a glance of a service van, they still should be able to remember it. It’s all about recall.

As we tell our clients in the consultations that we conduct with them well before we begin our design work, the most important rule to remember is “less is more.” Keep it simple! It’s a fleet vehicle. It’s not your brochure. It’s not your website.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from your customers on how their new and improved fleet graphics have earned them better business results?

Let me put it this way: we’ve never had a customer call and say it was a bad decision to make the switch to a professional design. When our customers tell us that their customers have told them, “We saw your truck and decided to call you,” we refer to our “multiply-by-three rule.” For everyone who’s told you that they saw and remembered your service vehicle, there are at least three others who also saw and remembered your service vehicle. In the pursuit of residential service work opportunities, what could be a more cost-effective solution than great fleet graphics?

About the Author

Andrew McCoy

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Andrew McCoy is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and Department Head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Contact him at

About the Author

Fred Sargent

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Fred Sargent is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at

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