Marketing Magic: IAQ - Marketing Myth or Money Maker

April 27, 2009
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Too many HVAC contractors tried unsuccessfully to offer IAQ to help the equipment instead of offering IAQ to improve health.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. You know that energy-efficient homes can also seal in and recirculate germs, allergens, and chemicals. You know this can cause health issues for occupants within the home. You know during a recession, people stay home more. You know that indoor air can be several times more polluted than outside air and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consistently ranks indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.

And you know when you look inside the air return and see what appears to be a weasel in a Snuggie, the homeowners:

a) Have not changed filters since Clinton redefined what “is” is, and

b) Have nostrils that look like tiny versions of the air return. But I’m not going there, in any fashion.

See, you know all this, but your customers don’t. Thus, the largest issues facing IAQ in HVAC are your credibility and their awareness. No one wakes up saying, “Man, what a beautiful day to have my ducts cleaned.” Unlike preventative maintenance - which people recognize as a plausible need - IAQ has both the specter of skepticism and the lack of evidentiary need to go along with it.

You can tell customers their ducts need cleaning or that UV lights will protect their coils all day and still have a hard time convincing anyone without an acute sinus problem, smoke/dust/pet allergy, or other health issues that this is a valuable service. Silly them. And considering how the HVAC industry initially sold IAQ, silly us.

When IAQ first hit the residential scene, most newly minted “duct cleaners” sold the service by saying something to the effect of, “If you don’t have your ducts cleaned today, your lungs will probably explode and gross everybody out.”

The same type of ads pervaded the hearing aid industry too, but that doesn’t mean people don’t lose their hearing - me included. The industry, however, has finally adopted far more medically and technologically credible approaches. Here’s why selling healthy air doesn’t require a degree in molecular science. Ever heard of asthma? About 23 million Americans wish they hadn’t. A full 6.8 million of those who have asthma are children who - in case I need to point this out - have parents who are worried sick as well. They’d much prefer to collectively avoid the 19 million doctor, hospital, and emergency room visits spent trying to avoid death by asphyxiation. Ask them if clean indoor air is about microbes and formaldehyde and the technicalities of UV treatment.

Nope, it’s about clean air. Now consider the fact that asthma is just one of hundreds of problems linked to IAQ. As a heating and cooling professional, this makes you uniquely positioned to both build your business and provide a beneficial and potentially life-saving service. It’s good to have living customers. Before we get too dramatic, consider the following:

Are families who are directly affected by breathing disorders the biggest market for clean air? Before answering, ask yourself this: Is every person swilling bottled water doing so because they had a nasty bout with lead-laced tap water, or because they saw weird things floating in their glass, or because they can really tell the difference in taste from their tap or any brand of their choosing? Almost certainly not, yet you’d think municipal water was plumbed in straight from the Black Lagoon. So what are they buying?

They’re buying problem avoidance. It is not a “thing;” it is a benefit that erases sizeable doubt, fear, and concern with a healthy alternative - kind of like breathing clean air.

You’re poised to offer problem avoidance and even a cure for certain airborne menaces. Aside from the obvious health benefits, a shorter supply of recession-era leads points toward maximizing each with higher transaction sizes. Further, with the maintenance of UV lights, super-filtration, humidifiers, and other better air solutions, you can lock in more customers.


HOW TO OFFER IAQ NOW

Recessions don’t improve IAQ or health concerns. Allergens and molds refuse to invest in a 401k. Spring will dump tons of pollen in the noses of subprime mortgage holders and lenders alike. So please, don’t let the economy’s condition or your frightened competition make you think these concerns are equated.

A parent might not buy the latest Xbox during a recession, but they’ll almost certainly invest in the safety and security of their child. How far would you go to bring your child relief if you knew you could ease their suffering even a little? My point exactly.

Position IAQ not as equipment, but as a packaged path to better health. Sell it against missed work, doctor visits, pharmacies, medication, and family wellness - not microns and density depletion.

On a service call, you can offer a point-of-purchase healthy air solution based on an IAQ survey. Ours is one page, but I’ve seen some that are eight pages long - too lengthy in my opinion. Many of our clients sell humidifiers, UV, or filtration - with or without duct cleaning jobs - straight from this survey. For more complex solutions, try these three concepts on for size.

1. In-home IAQ monitors help remove the doubt factor with scientific data. The sales cycle is a bit longer, but the monitors can make the sale for you while they collect the data. Offering a free IAQ test has opened thousands of doors for our clients, who merely park the monitor for the appreciative prospect, and return with a diagnosis and options. Pick one; it’s sold.

2. People will get what they want, either from you or your competition. I find it sad to go into so many homes with $499 alleged room air purifiers while stacks of superior solutions lay at the distributor’s warehouse. Once again, technical supremacy, greater reliability, and more longevity will not sell if poorly marketed.

Though the HVAC industry has had IAQ solutions for years, it took Sharper Image and Oreck to show us how to sell over a billion dollars of it, and all without a single service appointment. How? Fact-based fear, evidentiary proof, and piles of compelling testimonials positioned their solution as an easier and less expensive alternative to illness and poor health. Oreck’s infomercials are marketing seminars; take notes.

3. What are you selling and why? Are you selling technical features or practical benefits? IAQ benefits are huge for homeowners and contractors. This is especially true while others pull back on marketing or lower their prices just to get the sale, eventually creating their own worsened recession. But when you offer the upsell, you create differentiation, enhance margin, and increase the average transaction while winning a longer-term customer with a higher lifetime value.



According to Hudson, the value and benefits of health and clean air are far higher. (Courtesy of Hudson Ink.)

TURN DOWN $105,000?

For every 1,000 service calls, if only 25 percent accepted a healthy air solution at a $420 average ticket, that’s $105,000 more in high-margin, healthier customers. Perhaps it’d be worth it to communicate this IAQ message in multiple marketing facets.

Customer Service Rep: Ask every service caller, “And would you like a free Indoor Air Quality Review with your service today?” Few say “No.”

Newsletter: Since 60 percent of your customers are affected by allergies, lead articles during allergy season should be about allergies.

Spring Tune-up Postcards: Include an IAQ check in spring service calls to add sales, increase margins, and differentiate between “unshoppable” value and cheapo competitors.

Stand Alone IAQ Marketing: Offer free IAQ exams, monitoring, testing, or other low barrier of resistance offers to gain warm prospects. This is another differentiator.

Website: Here you can pile on more proof, facts, customer testimonials, and honest critiques of other IAQ methods. Yours should be the clear winner, of course.

Press Releases: We advise clients to send four to each media outlet - two each during April and May - about IAQ, allergies, tune-ups, and a combination. Once published, you get leads for free.

IAQ is right for the times. Customers are more health-conscious and want to preserve dollars wasted on unnecessary doctor visits, medications, and unpaid sick days. You can offer a superior whole-house solution easily, silently, and out of sight. They’d rather pay you for this anyway; all you have to do is effectively market it. And isn’t that a breath of fresh air?

NEWS Reader Freebie Bonus This Month: “How to Get More Leads and Sales Right Now - Literally Out of Thin Air.” Learn how to sell your IAQ so that your business and your customers can breathe a little easier. Send a polite request to freestuff@hudsonink.com or fax your request on company letterhead to 334-262-1115.

Publication date: 04/27/2009

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