Contractors Try Direct Mail Alternative

December 16, 2004
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HVACR contractors looking to get a leg up on their competition have turned to a popular method of direct mail advertising. Valpak® money-saving coupons are mailed monthly to targeted markets using the familiar blue envelope to call attention to the consumer coupons inside.

According to Meg Forehand, public relations liaison for Valpak (an affiliate of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises Inc.), "Advertisers like HVACR pros are using direct mail. The cost of remodeling has made it [HVACR services] a top-10 requested Valpak offer.

"Offers of a free estimate and design consultation with a dollars-off discount on the primary business have been found to work the best."

Contractors Who Like It

Angela Salabsky is marketing manager for Lancaster Plumbing & Heating, Lancaster, Pa. She told The News she likes Valpak because it gives her company the ability to target prospects.

"The blue envelope is known nationwide as one of the top direct mail vehicles," she said. "Valpak targets high-income households with educated adults and households with children. I choose [it] because it offers reasonably priced packages that allow me to easily target my customer base by mailing to locations I choose.

"Because response rates are easy to track, I can adjust my plans to create a successful ad campaign."

Stephen Korff, president of Front Range Mechanical Services, Littleton, Colo., turned to Valpak because of phone calls. "I kept speaking with prospective customers that had called my competition from their Valpak offers, people who were already getting estimates from all of us," he said.

Paul Getz, president of Rocky Mountain Air Solutions, Centennial, Colo., said he is impressed with the coverage area.

What Ads To Choose

Salabsky said that her company plans specific ad campaigns. For example, "All of our mailings have included four coupons along with basic company information. Standard coupons include $10 off a service call and $10 off a heating or cooling tune-up. We usually offer a coupon with money off a new comfort system or water heater.

"From our experience, $10 off a service call has received the greatest number of redemptions, with 57 percent of the return, while 88 percent of our profit has come from new HVAC system installations."

Korff uses both a general ad and a coupon. "We use both types of offers, but Valpak is more effective with a coupon offer of a discount or an additional product with the purchase of a furnace or air conditioner, such as a free humidifier or thermostat," he said.

Having an effective ad goes beyond the type of discount or merchandise involved; it is important to track the success of each promotion.

"I closely monitor Valpak's effectiveness by tracking phone calls and the use of coupons," said Salabsky. "I record and analyze the type of coupon, service performed, when it was used, customer's address, and the service call's value."

"We ask every customer that contacts us how they heard about us and if they are acting on a specific offer," said Korff.

Cost Versus Benefit

Valpak markets its products as higher returns on investment compared to other means of advertising. "The cost is pretty daunting," said Getz, "but I do get a good return on my investment."

"Lancaster Plumbing & Heating Co. has enjoyed sustained growth and success with this coupon program," said Salabsky. "The cost is justified given that each mailing has delivered a positive return after costs. After seven mailings, our profit from coupons has increased from $1,420.57 to $19,036.23."

Korff said he is happy with the results, with one exception. "Most of the time the ads justify the cost," he said. "This past summer was the coolest season in seven years, and it was tough to motivate any customers to consider A/C in Colorado. It really didn't matter what type of ads we ran, the customers were too comfortable."

It is also possible to tag along with some Valpak national programs, like the one that ran this past October.

"For October, a peak sales month for home building material and supply dealers, Valpak supplied home improvement-related retailers and service providers the perfect tie-in to entice consumers," Forehand said, referring to a recent promotional offer that involved hardware, appliance, electrical, A/C, plumbing, home remodeling contractors, flooring covering, and other home improvement-related advertisers.

Publication date: 12/20/2004

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