hvac google ads competition

How To “Steal” HVAC Customers From Your Competitors With Google Ads

This magic advertising technique is known by many names and is an industry standard practice in the online marketing world.

It’s sometimes called brand or authority jacking.

In this post, I’m going to show you how we ethically “steal” customers from the “big mouth” local service companies AND use their marketing budgets like their ours.

Sound too good to be true?

Let me explain how.

However, first a quick story.

Introducing Pete The Plumber

Where I live, we have residential HVAC and Plumbing company called “Pete The Plumber.”

Pete is a real person, and he owns one of the largest HVAC and plumbing service companies in town, but that’s not the exciting part.

Pete is an absolute advertising machine.

His face is everywhere.

He’s on bus stops and billboards.

He’s on the radio with new wacky ads each week.

He’s on television appearing as a guest on local news segments.

He’s taking out full-page ads in our most prominent newspapers.

He sponsors sporting events and does live giveaways during intermission.

He also gives his time and money to local charities.

Pete’s advertising is good. It makes you laugh, it’s memorable, and it’s everywhere making it hard to forget.

Everyone in town knows who Pete the Plumber is. You can’t find a single person that doesn’t know his name OR his face.

That ladies and gentleman is called brand recognition.

Big, fat, loud, brand recognition, and it sells like crazy.

Also, Pete? He’s probably paid (and still pays) an ungodly sum to build that brand recognition over years and years in the local market.

Pete has been systematically buying real estate in his customer’s minds for years, and with each new ad, he gains a little bit more ground over the rest of the market.

Pete’s advertising has become an unstoppable force with a momentum all it’s own, and it’s paying off big time. With over 30 employee’s he’s capitalizing on all this marketing, and no doubt is cashing in big time.

Where I come from, the word Plumber is synonymous with the name Pete.

You probably know a Pete too

A “loudmouth” service company in your area that’s always running wacky radio, television, or print ads.

You know who I’m talking about.

I bet their name is popping into your head right now, and why’s that?

Because you’ve seen and heard their ads a million times.

I bet you’re even humming their stupid radio jingle because you literally can’t escape it unless you move into the mountains and become a hermit.

Drives you nuts, right?

Relentless self-promoters can be annoying but the data doesn’t lie, they get what they want.

If you aren’t promoting yourself to an extreme degree, it’s hard to become top dog. These big service companies are doing something the other local service companies can’t do even if they wanted too.

Their allocating vast sums of money to their marketing because they can afford it. They’re able to hit a critical mass within the market very quickly, and the sales take off.

However, all of this costs money.

Big money.

So how do we turn that “loudmouths ”companies advertising budget into your own and “steal” a piece of their brand recognition, for your benefit?

All while spending less than a few bucks to do it?

Moreover, I’m going to show you how tiny local service companies are stealing it right out from under their noses and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Every day, these tiny service companies are saying:

“Thanks for doing all that expensive advertising! It’s gotten me a ton of customers. Keep up the good work!”

Why can’t that be you as well?

Here’s how you do it

Let me set the scene.

A potential customer wakes at 5 AM to find that their furnace went out in the middle of the night.

How inconvenient, it’s the middle of winter, and they don’t have the money to replace the unit right now. The credit card is still maxed out after Christmas, and their cash savings are tight.

However, this purchase is non-negotiable; they can’t go without heat in this climate.

They’re cold, tired, and have a family that’s going to be awake soon.

They’ve got a big problem, and they need a solution now.

You tell me which option automatically pops into their head?

Call the company with the big “loudmouth” ads, right?

The company that also happens to offer that attractive financing deal you heard about on the radio last week.

Something about no money down and 0% interest for the first 18 months?  

Sounds good, right?

All the customer has to do is find the companies phone number and give them a call.

Boom, problem solved.

The house will be warm again, the kids will be happy, and they didn’t have to dip into their savings.

Why not give that company a call?

So the customer does a Google search for “Pete the plumber” hoping to find their phone number and give them a call before they have to take off for work.

This is where the example begins, and I’ve included a screenshot of that exact search below.

pete the plumber example

(Click image to view expanded version)

There are a few important things to note here.

The first listing on the search results page is an ad by Pete himself!

This is very smart.

Pete being the advertising genius he is, bids on keywords related to his brand name to prevent anyone from scooping up that digital real estate and stealing a sale from him.

However, more on that technique later.

Next up, we have another ad from Instant Plumbing, and this is a prime example of brand jacking.

Instant Plumbing is bidding on searches that include Pete’s brand name.

I’d be willing to bet they are also bidding on the brand names of their other competitors within their service area.

This is also smart.

The ad itself is not well written and could use improvement. The ad could also be positioned above Pete’s ad if they optimized their bidding strategy, but it still serves as a great example of brand jacking.

Could you imagine having your ad show up at the very top of the page every time a customer searches for one of your competitors?

How sweet would that be?

This is how you ethically “steal” a piece of your competitor’s offline advertising dollars (radio, print, television) for yourself.

All of those radio and print ads they invested tons of money in?

Well, it just funneled a bunch of customers straight to your Google search ad.

And the kicker? It’s cheap because no one thinks to bid on these keywords.

If this technique is appropriately employed, your competitors will never be able to get out from underneath your shadow online.

And their customers, become yours.

Here’s why it works so well

It’s all about understanding “intent” or knowing what the customer really wants.

The customer searched on Google because they have a problem.

The furnace is broken, and the kids are cold.

What the customer really wants is a warm house.

Also, there are tons of service companies that can do that for them.

However, they do the first thing that comes to mind and goes searching for the phone number of that company they heard about on the radio.

Remember, they want a warm house, that’s it. If you can swoop in and provide that for them, then the customer is yours.

This works so well because it opens your company up to a whole market of buyers that weren’t thinking about you and wouldn’t have hired you because they didn’t know you exist.

The first rule of sales?

Make sure people know you have something to sell.

Other reasons this works so well

We’ve already covered the phone number example.

People can hear a radio ad or see a TV commercial, but they’re almost always going to have a hard time recalling the phone number in the commercial.

People are paying attention to the ad; it’s unique offer, or how entertaining it is, not writing down the phone number.

However, when the time comes, the ad pops into their mind along with the brand name, and now all the customer needs to do is find the number to call.

However, there’s another reason this technique works so well.

Customers today are spoiled for choice when it comes to service providers. There is a ton of competition out there, and companies are going to crazy lengths to grab up a share of the market.

All of that competition means customers are much more selective about who they hire.

On average a customer will reach out to 2-3 companies to get quotes or estimates before they make a decision.

They also want to read reviews and testimonials.

They want to see what other customers are saying about you.

Were you reasonably priced? Fast? Efficient? Polite? Did you correct an error quickly?   

Customers want to see how you stack up, and it’s easier than ever now to do a quick Google search and look at a companies reviews.

An example below.

action furnace example

(Click image to view expanded version)

The above image is a Google search for Action Furnace.

Another local HVAC company that advertises heavily around the city. I see their public transit and billboard advertising almost daily.

As you can see Action Furnace is doing the same smart thing as Pete The Plumber.

They are bidding on keywords related to their brand name.

However, so are two other companies highlighted in the red boxes.

Both are another excellent example of brandjacking.

It’s very common for a customer to search for a companies brand name so they can read their reviews, and I’ve highlighted those on the right side of the image.

Consider that this is a potential customer doing research, and they’re shopping around, getting quotes and estimates, and reading reviews.

You tell me how likely they are to click one of the two ads I highlighted?

Pretty likely.

Another benefit of brand jacking is the transfer of authority that comes with association, even if it doesn’t really mean anything.

Those two companies advertising on this page are small, but they appear substantial and credible because they’re ads are showing up right next to Action Furnace, the big company.

I could share a multitude of other ways to utilize this strategy, but I’d like to show you how we actually do this.

How We Set Up Google Ad Campaigns To “Steal” Traffic

Google Ad (formerly Adwords) campaigns are broken out into what is called “ad groups.”

These ad groups contain the keywords you want to bid on, and the ads you want to show for those specific keywords.

We break ad groups out into three distinct categories:

  1. Intent-based keywords.
  2. Brand keywords.
  3. Competitor brand keywords.

Intent-based keywords are just that, intention based. They make up the bulk of your campaign. They include keywords like “furnace repair near me” and “air conditioner repair” etc. These can be anything that a potential customer might type in to find a service company.

Brand keywords are your own brand name.

In the screenshot examples, you saw Pete The Plumber and Action Furnace bidding on brand keywords so when someone searches their name they can be found quickly.

This also helps to counteract brandjacking that another company might be doing to you.

Finally, we build out an ad group full of your competitors brand names. So each time someone searches for a competitor online, your ad appears.

This is an easy technique to employ and costs next to nothing as far as ad spend.

That’s it!


I hope you gained a better understanding of the impact a well executed Google Ads campaign can make for your business today.

There are a million ways to use the platform to gain new HVAC customers, and brandjacking is just one of them.

In closing, at HVAC Engines we focus on the techniques that result in conversions. Brandjacking might seem like a strange concept to someone that hasn’t seen it work, but it converts very well.

Because at the end of the day, all that matters is the result.

If it helps you get more sales, you should be doing it.


How can I help you?

If you're here reading the blog I'm going to guess you're interested in generating more leads and growing your sales. If that's the case, I'd love to know how I can help you. You can submit suggestions for blog content at info@hvacengines.com or just drop me a line to ask a question. 

I also have a free training video that walks you through my exact process for generating leads using Facebook Ads.

Check it out and let me know what you think! 


thomas eder

Thomas Eder, Founder @ HVACEngines.com