Manufacturing, distributing, installing, and servicing equipment aren’t the only responsibilities of the HVAC industry. As the political, environmental, and socioeconomic arenas rapidly change, the need for information and the understanding of public perception becomes vital to this industry’s success. Research is a way to hear and be heard as marketing messages and new ideas struggle to make a dent in the current advertising din. Clear Seas Research, a newly developed business-to-business market research company, offers a captive audience, industry knowledge, and relevant insight as it begins to service the specific information needs of the HVAC industry.


Knowing the audience is a key factor when considering the data results of a research study. Clear Seas has access to a research audience that is strictly pertinent to the HVAC arena.

“Because we already have access to their captive audience and they don’t have to spend time educating us about the industry, our customers save time and money,” said Beth McGuffin, executive director, Clear Seas Research, Mechanical Systems Division.

This access allows the HVAC community direct contact with professionals from each facet of the industry. Manufacturers can test new products and marketing ideas before investing large sums of money in a potential flop, and distributors can question contractors about the value of their current marketing and training programs. Associations can also get involved with market research that can assist with member services, industry perceptions, and training effectiveness.

The research conducted doesn’t guarantee a company’s success; however, it does effectively measure the industry’s temperature about specific topics.

Beth McGuffin


The ability to provide broad or specific information can save research customers time and money. “It has to be usable information,” noted McGuffin. “We are not going to deliver any research that a client can’t use.”

Using multiple data collection methods and data analysis techniques, the results of Clear Seas’ research can reveal customer need for a product or service; pricing information; brand awareness, image, and preference; ways to increase customer satisfaction; industry trends; regional marketing analysis; purchasing trends; and the effects of government legislation.

Data collection methods currently offered include Internet surveys, mail surveys, central location testing, Internet bulletin board groups, traditional and online focus groups, and mystery shopping.

Clear Seas has recently developed an HVAC advisory panel, CSR HVAC Talk, which will include a minimum of 500-1,000 panelists from across the HVAC industry. “The larger the panel, the more representative of the industry the information is,” said McGuffin. “Previously launched panels have proven to provide a higher return rate and yield better quality information; the same is expected for the HVAC panel.”

Although online focus groups miss the in-person reaction of participants and are typically shorter than a traditional focus group - 45 minutes versus 90 minutes - this method of data collection allows researchers to interact with individuals across the region or country at one time in a common arena.

Bulletin board groups, however, are a slightly different online concept that compensates for the loss of initial reaction and time constraints. Conducted over two to three days, a bulletin board group can be much larger than an online focus group. It doesn’t allow participants to see what others are answering until after they have entered an initial response. This helps capture a better initial reaction. Another benefit of the online bulletin board group is the ability for the research client to observe the process as it happens, allowing them to refine questions or discussion topic flow through a third-party moderator.

Regardless of the data collection method, once it is gathered, the data must be analyzed. Operating with a variety of advanced statistical techniques, including but not limited to, conjoint, regression, and correlation analysis, Clear Seas is able to provide custom information to customers.

Conjoint analysis allows research participants to identify what combination of a limited number of attributes is most preferred. This technique is often used in testing customer acceptance of new product design or in the evaluation of advertising appeal.

Regression analysis looks at the relationship between one or more ratings taking into account dependent and independent variables. It can be used to understand what factors are primary contributors to brand loyalty.

Correlation analysis is used to understand the relationship between two variables that appear to increase or decrease together, as if they are connected.

“People get excited when you listen to them and we essentially take this concept a step further,” said McGuffin. “Clear Seas doesn’t do research just to check a box.”

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Publication date:03/05/2007