ACHRNEWS

Chasing the IAQ Carrot

August 14, 2006

RICHARDSON, Texas - "We tend to forget about the ‘V' in HVAC. It goes well beyond thermal comfort," said Jennifer Shelby, product manager, IAQ/IEQ, Lennox Industries. "And the market could grow from $5.5 billion in 2005, to $9.9. billion in 2010," Shelby cited from a recent Frost and Sullivan report.

"It's a shame, then, that HVAC contractors are only netting about 2.3 percent in profits from this lucrative niche," she said. "Change must be a grassroots effort." According to Shelby, products need to be easy for contractors to sell, install, and service. Lennox believes its latest offerings in humidity control, filtration, and purification provide those benefits.

The HVAC system manufacturer also is promoting contractor and consumer IAQ awareness through a program that centers on the "Healthy Advantage" message.

BEYOND HEATING AND COOLING

Contractors are used to fixing problems with staying warm or keeping cool. In addition to temperature control, Shelby pointed out the need for contractors to address their customers' humidity control, ventilation, and air quality needs.

Humidity control in particular is a critical part of the IAQ puzzle. However, "Many consumers are surprised at the role humidity plays," Shelby said.

The company's Humiditrol® product is a fully integrated humidity control system that sits on top of furnaces and uses refrigerant for dehumidification. It shares a common refrigerant line with the air conditioner, she said, reducing the amount of labor required for its installation.

The company refers to dehumidification as "IAQ you can feel." The product is able to dehumidify the home without impacting space temperatures.

If they don't know that the product is available, however, how is a homeowner supposed to know enough to ask for it?

"Once they are introduced to the whole-house opportunities," said Shelby, "they can make the decision. They need to have the information in front of them.

"What are we doing to promote contractor profitability? We are helping dealers build profitability by supplying true solutions." Educated contractors, she said, can easily and quickly install appropriate IAQ solutions.

EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION

Lennox is looking into a multifaceted approach to raise contractor and consumer IAQ awareness.

Merchandising (dealer promotions) includes:

  • IAQ products in national print, TV, and online advertising.

  • Customized, distinct IAQ promotions.

  • IAQ information in all stocking and consumer promotions.

    Messaging (to consumers) includes:

  • Making IAQ simple to understand.

  • Focusing on solutions to problems, not individual products.

  • Using psychology to drive the consumer buying/decision-making process.

  • Focusing on targeting the audience "with gender consideration," Shelby said.

    Training and communication are key to making these steps happen, she said. Dealers need to be positioned as HVAC professionals and as IAQ experts. "We want to focus the dealer on providing solutions to problems, not products."

    The goal for consumers, she continued, is for their buying decisions to be influenced by education - "establishing the buying criteria with knowledge; enabling them to make an informed buying decision."

    Communicating these goals to dealers, Shelby commented, requires a message that is "simple to understand and to articulate to dealers. It should focus on solutions, not individual products." When dealers communicate with consumers, the message needs to remain "simple-to-understand and articulate," Shelby reiterated. "Our strength is in our programs, promotions, and our solutions portfolio, not one single product."

    One of the communication tools is the "Healthy Advantage" newsletter, said Terry Johnston, vice president, marketing and product management, Lennox International Inc., Worldwide Heating & Cooling. "It gets back to awareness," he said. The consumer-targeted, four-color newsletter is customizable with dealer- and market-specific information.

    "It's a home-run piece," Johnston said. "It looks like it's coming from the dealer." It will be sent out to Lennox-targeted customers twice yearly, during spring and fall - peak IAQ seasons - with everything "from recipes to educational stories." Its target audience are 35-plus-year-old homeowners, predominantly women.

    "Women want more detail in the buying decision," said Shelby. The newsletters and educational campaigns help consumers identify their IAQ problems, and realistic solutions to those problems. "Silver bullet solutions are not realistic," she commented.

    Dealer training includes:

  • How to incorporate IAQ into an existing HVAC business.

  • How to identify sales opportunities.

  • How contractors can feel confident in the solutions they recommend.

  • How to differentiate the business with IAQ.

  • How to build sales value to a consumer.

    "We are positioning contractors to be experts in consumers' homes," said Shelby. "We're raising the baseline."

    "IAQ is challenging," noted Johnston. "It requires robust marketing and products."

    Healthy Advantage, they pointed out, is an entire IAQ selling process. It includes air evaluation, problem diagnosis, and solution identification, as well as product recommendation.

    "We're driving it to the consumer level," Shelby said. "We're making sure dealers understand it. They need to offer it on every job. Healthy Advantage is a selling process plus customer service."

    Publication date: 08/14/2006