It’s important to understand the changes in the market facing our industry. If you made your living the last eight to 10 years selling high-efficiency equipment to help your clients escape high energy costs and as a way to separate yourself from your competition, you now face a major challenge.
Oil prices have plummeted, LP and natural gas are relatively affordable, and electricity rates are fairly stable. That makes your job a lot more difficult, especially if you sold your products based on return on investment. How do you continue to sell efficiency when the short memories of American’s have all but forgotten that oil was close to $4 per gallon just a couple of heating seasons ago? Do you go back to selling atmospheric oil boilers in the Northeast and 96 percent hot-air furnaces in the South? Do you opt for 13 SEER instead of 30? How long will these prices sustain themselves? There is a lot to think about. Chuck in the truck is always going to be out there selling cheap alternatives. So, how do you continue to sell high efficiency when energy costs are low? The answer: variable speed.
Variable-speed equipment has changed how we do our work, from circulator pumps that adjust to system demand to inverter heat pumps that deliver the right amount of high-efficiency heating and cooling year round. Variable-speed equipment not only costs less to operate, but it’s usually more reliable and provides a much higher level of comfort to the occupants.
There are many options consumers may begin to ignore because of the low operating cost that cheaper energy provides. If that is the case, how will you survive? High-efficiency equipment comes at a premium and requires more training for your staff, which allows you to charge more for it. All around, it keeps your bottom line healthy. You have less competition in this sector than you realize. Should you abandon your knowledge of those technologies and go back to offering the cheapest solution? I would like to suggest this would be business suicide. If you were the cheap guy in town, you wouldn’t provide as many jobs, drive the nice vans, or have the healthy marketing budget you do now. You would simply survive, if you were lucky. Who wants to play that game? Now is the time to double down on efficiency, but you must market it in a completely different way if you want to catch ideal customers’ attention.
Right now is the time to start marketing. Maybe you offer special financing rates, better terms, and rebates for buying in the preseason. I want you to think bigger. Technology has become something we can’t live our lives without. When was the last time you picked up your phone to check Facebook or read an email? Maybe you’re reading this article in a digital format. Your customers love technology, too, and they pay for it, many times without even considering what it does to their budgets. Imagine marketing your mini-split heat pump line like Apple markets its iPhone. Show how you can control your heating and cooling levels from that phone and manage your energy use while you are at work or on vacation. Tap into the consumer’s need to have instant access by tying in the products you offer with the technology they love. High-end controls are a hot item. Make sure your customers know you offer them.
Another option is to focus your marketing on the green market. Many consumers are very sensitive to their carbon footprints. Whether you agree with man’s effect on the climate or not, you have customers who care about their environmental thumbprints. They are looking for products that use less energy, with little concern for upfront cost. To get their attention, you’re going to have to change the way you communicate your message. When you could save them thousands of dollars a year it, was an easy sell, but when it’s only hundreds, it becomes much more difficult. We all know energy prices are unstable, and the current low price of oil may not last long, but that does not mean consumers aren’t still looking for the most efficient option. If that were the case, then you wouldn’t be passing a Toyota Prius every five seconds on the highway. Make sure you mention in your marketing the low emissions your boiler line offers. Promote the 300-400 percent efficiency of your mini-split heat pump. Let them know your company offers the best options to satisfy their needs.
Consumers are still buying solar, geothermal, air-source heat pumps, and high-efficiency condensing gas boilers. The question is: Who’s going to sell it to them? I suggest it should still be you.
Publication date: 9/26/2016