For better or worse, “Today the customer has so much access to good and bad knowledge, access to instant feedback from friends, etc., as to something being good or bad,” said Larry Taylor, president of AirRite A/C. It also opens up vast possibilities for online marketing and connections through social networking.

Lenny Delius is vice president of Service Heat & Air, Chattanooga, Tenn. He’s been doing Facebook since Feb. 2010, sometimes posting nothing more than a cheery “Good morning Chattanooga!” though frequently more (like seasonal info).

He calls networking through Facebook the “greatest thing we have ever done. We sold $100,000 the first year direct from Facebook,” he said. And it once led to making a $25,000 sale via one customer through his home, his business, and his partners. When it comes to social networking, “I always follow up with any comments so I can interact,” he said. “Within minutes it normally comes straight to phone.” He compares free Facebook leads to leads that are paid for. “The only cost I have is my time,” said Delius.

The company was founded in 1977. Through owner David Burd, it serves Chattanooga and the tri-state area’s residential and light commercial markets.

Positive Tweets

The company started Tweeting this year, “so far only for service calls,” Delius said; “however, there are instant and positive responses as soon as a technician has left.

“I say with almost certainty that every day, even Saturday and Sunday, someone has called because of Facebook,” Delius continued. “At the same time, I have been privileged enough to talk with industry leaders. The knowledge that is passed on to me is invaluable.” He said his company now fields questions about social networking from manufacturers.

“A lot of work is involved at first,” he admitted. “However, I tell folks this one thing: The most popular app on Facebook is Farmville. It pays nothing. My ‘farm’ (Service Heating and Air Inc.) puts money in my pocket, plus it makes my Google search greater than any company in Chattanooga. So the seeds I plant I can also harvest for many years to come.”

“In 2006, I connected up on LinkedIn with a client who retired in 2003,” said Jim Hinshaw, owner, Sales Improvement Professionals Inc.

“We started working with his new company, did $30,000-plus that year with him. We saw another client who retired in 2008 (all I know are old guys); he had an updated bio on LinkedIn, he was back in the game. I wrote to congratulate him, and he is now looking at several training programs. It does work for me.”

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Publication date: 09/19/2011