It is not always true of the HVAC contractor, whose reputation, sadly, often compares to society’s idea of a typical “grease monkey.” Braving the elements, mastering intelligent systems, and just plain hard work, however, is enough to market the HVAC contractor as an indoor environmental hero.
WHAT MAKES A HEROWhile many manufacturers concentrate their marketing focus on their equipment brands, Rheem Heating and Cooling has begun focusing on establishing the reputation and “brand” of the HVAC contractor. Having a contractor focus required launching a marketing program that set up the HVAC contractor as a hero to Jack and Jill Customer.
In the early ’90s, the company began consumer-oriented programs called the Rheem Team and Ruud Reliable. This early endeavor has evolved into the 2007 Rheem Team and Ruud Reliable Top Contractor Programs - full marketing, contractor-oriented programs. The purpose of the programs is to attract, reward, and retain key local HVAC contractors in markets across North America, said the company. The primary core of this strategy is the contractor.
“The contractor is the lifeblood of our industry,” said Gary Wehunt, marketing programs manager, Rheem Heating and Cooling. “With this program, we have provided a full menu of options that promotes the contractor’s business primarily - our brand stays in the background. This provides significant advantage to the contractor.”
SIDEKICKS ARE VITALHaving been around for about five years in the current format, the Top Contractor Program provides yearly updates to its primary core, continuing the theme of “It’s All About You.” According to the company, all of the programs and services being offered have the following key characteristics:
Sticking close to these characteristics, this year’s new features include a personalized Top Contractor-to-Consumer calendar program, a free air quality solutions training program, customized Web advertising options, a mall banner display program, an Internet Yellow Pages menu option, IAQ certification programs, and new TV, radio, newspaper, and outdoor options. Each piece and each venue promotes the Rheem and Ruud brands; however, it places the primary emphasis on the contractor being the vital source for a customer’s HVAC solution.
“Contractors are all at different levels,” said Wehunt. “It is key to understand where they are and what their business success aspirations are, and then choose the marketing and training pieces that will be the most effective aids in achieving that success for their business.”
Top Contractors currently taking advantage of the free, customized Website are able to use Web advertising to generate site traffic. Adding the Internet Yellow Pages feature matches the third party directly back to the contractor. The calendar can contain customized special offers each month and can be used as a gift and a reminder to current customers, or as a leave behind for potential customers.
Another new feature helps contractors seek fresh market potential. Large banner ads and LEDs, in places such as the mall, allow contractors access to customers in an atmosphere where competition is not as great.
Contractors can choose direct-mail options from postcards, to full, four-page, color brochures and then target mail the pieces to people who have moved into a specific zip code within the last 30 to 180 days if they choose.
Other benefits offered to participants go beyond advertising. The program provides Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) membership funding assistance, an exclusive contractor communications network (Rheem Team Central and Ruud Reliable Network), a field-installed customized Top Contractor equipment label, a consumer replacement filter program, and KwikComfort consumer financing.
“We basically focus on the contractor’s business,” said Wehunt. “We want to promote their business to the consumer and help them grow their business more profitably. In the long run, that’s what will build loyalty with the contractor.”
EARNING A CAPENot just any contractor can become a Top Contractor. “The recognition is a badge of honor,” noted Wehunt. “You don’t have to be a certain size contractor to be allowed in the program, but you do have to be a certain type.”
According to the company, a Top Contractor is a credit-worthy, licensed HVAC contractor who operates a business in a professional, ethical, and customer-friendly manner.
The program is run through local Rheem and Ruud distributors who are responsible to choose ethical and professional contractors for the program. These distributors earn funding to be a part of the Top Contractor program and are able to choose the different marketing pieces they will offer to contractor participants - “although the vast majority will leave most of the program in place,” commented Wehunt.
How much funding distributors earn is in direct relation to how much product they sell. It is the same for the Top Contractor participants. How much marketing they have access to is directly related to how much product they sell.
Using this formula and the prestige of the Top Contractor label provides growth potential for the manufacturer, the distributor, and the contractor, said Wehunt. “We want them to grow both in profitability and in installations. We want to help them do that.
“If consumers trust Joe’s Heating and A/C and Joe offers a particular brand, we want it to be us,” said Wehunt. “It is not about pushing the brand, it is about pushing the contractor.”
For more information, visit www.rheemteam.com or www.ruudreliable.com.