To consumers, most HVAC contractors look alike. They sell the same stuff, make the same claims, and run the same promotions. Often, it boils down to a very small difference that is the tipping point in selecting one contractor over another. Here are nine ways to give your company a tipping point.

1. Offer Airline Miles — Frequent fliers are loyal to their preferred airlines. Nearly every airline offers companies the opportunity to buy frequent flier miles to give away to customers. They are surprisingly affordable. For $15 or less, most airlines offer 500 miles. If the only difference between one contractor and another is frequent flier miles, who do you think the frequent flier will choose? Typically, there is no more than one or two dominant carriers in every major market, which greatly simplifies the process.

2. Practice Affinity Marketing — Similar to taking advantage of a frequent flier’s loyalty to a particular airline, affinity marketing takes advantage of people’s support of an organization where they share a common affinity. For example, you can strike an agreement with a neighborhood homeowner’s association to promote a special offer from your company to donate $10 to the group for every service call performed in the neighborhood. You can provide the parent teacher association (PTA) with coupons to send home with school children that can be redeemed with your company to raise money for the organization. There is the sanctuary agreement, where a church offers a form of service agreement from your company that results in a donation to the church’s building fund or general fund. And, of course, there is the pink truck that is cobranding with a cancer charity that pledges a percentage of its profits to charity. Affinity marketing is a relatively painless way for a church, choir, school, sports team, animal shelter, veteran’s organization, garden club, alumni association, or any other group to raise money. The group is tasked with promoting your business, which becomes a tacit endorsement.

3. Build Relationships — Most contractors are too “busy” to get involved in community organizations, like service clubs, networking groups, or alumni organizations. This is a mistake. A service club, for example, usually meets over breakfast or lunch. Rather than eat on the run, eat with community members of influence who others turn to for recommendations. Similarly, spend time on social media to connect with more people in your area. Instead of viewing it as a waste of time, see it as a very efficient networking tool. Do not “sell, sell, sell.” Build relationships, get to know people, and let them get to know you. Socialize.

4. Take Out Newsletter Ads — Many churches, clubs, and homeowners associations publish newsletters. Most of these will accept advertising (sometimes you might need to persuade them). It is usually incredibly inexpensive, under-the-radar advertising, but it’s powerful. People pay attention to these newsletters because they provide information about an organization they care about and cannot find elsewhere. Advertisers are often presumed to be members of the organization and are viewed as more trustworthy.

5. Bundle Consumer Electronics — Who doesn’t like consumer electronics? Offer some of the new home automation products with a changeout, such as a White-Rodgers Sensi coupled with an Amazon Echo. Or, give away Google’s $35 Chromecast with any service call of $500 or more. The objective is to provide something people may not have that will tip them your way over another contractor.

6. Concentrate Your Marketing — Most contractors have limited marketing budgets and enormous service territories. Do not spray dollars thinly. Concentrate them in a few zip codes, or, better yet, target specific neighborhoods. As you build volume in a tighter geographic area, you will build more impressions, more consumer relationships, and appear to be the safer choice since a lot of people seem to use you.

7. Wrap Your Trucks Well — Marketing concentration works best when you have well-wrapped trucks. Not only does a good vehicle wrap stand out and build your brand, it makes your trucks safer. Women shy away from white trucks, which are seen as abduction vehicles. Your mobile billboard is your single-best advertising vehicle (pun intended). Take full advantage of it to make your company recognizable and familiar.

8. Offer Unmatched Guarantees — Do not be afraid to offer strong guarantees. Most contractors are quite willing to stand behind their work, yet hesitant to put that guarantee in writing. For example, why not offer a lifetime repair guarantee? Unless you fix symptoms and not root problems, you’re unlikely to face the same problem again, though people will call you back for the next repair just in case it’s related. If necessary, stipulate that the guarantee is conditional based on annual maintenance. Offer a no-breakdown guarantee through the rest of the season when you provide a comprehensive tuneup (i.e., thorough maintenance that may cost a little more). Guarantee same-day service for service agreement customers and that a furnace will heat to 72°F at the outside design temperature or you will upgrade to the next size free (i.e., guarantee you can run a load calculation). Offer a one-year, unconditional money-back or replacement guarantee. Also, offer a higher-priced concierge service, where you guarantee specific appointment times. People who value time more than money will pay you a premium to save time.

9. Be Available — Leading contractors today are reorganizing their companies operationally to be able to offer extended hours and weekend service at standard rates. When you answer the phone at 8 p.m. on a Friday and your competitor sends calls to voicemail, who’s going to get the work?

Publication date: 9/26/2016

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