LAS VEGAS, NV — What’s the first thing a contractor should do if he/she is planning to use the Internet to attract new customers? According to one expert, the answer is “Don’t give up your traditional customers.”

Jim Bierkamp, vice president of commercial unitary marketing for The Trane Company, is one person who believes in maintaining a solid business model that doesn’t depend entirely on the Internet.

Bierkamp made his presentation, entitled “Using the Internet to Improve Your Business,” at the recent ACCA convention held here.

“Ask yourself these questions,” he said. “Will your dot-com model change your prime relationships? Is being on the Web going to bring you more business?”

Bierkamp suggested that contractors evaluate what they want out of a dot-com model. He said one thing to consider is how to set yourself apart from other similar businesses.

“Differentiation is what will build volume through a website, such as having a strong name brand.”

Bierkamp listed several different business/consumer portals available via the Internet, including:

  • Procurement sites, e.g., or Ariba Network. Bierkamp said some of the benefits of procurement sites are that buyers and sellers can match up via the Web while maintaining access to multiple numbers of each (buyer or seller).
  • Auctions/reverse auctions, e.g., or Equalfooting .com. Bierkamp added that both sites are good for users looking for the best price. However, reverse auction sites tend to drive down the price of goods because suppliers are bidding against each other to win a “bid,” making it less profitable for manufacturers and/or suppliers.
  • Vertical portals (market), e.g., or Bierkamp said, “These are portals for business owners to find all of the solutions for their facilities.”
  • Vertical portals (customer), e.g., Carrier DealerLink or Lennox DaveNet. These portals provide tools for customers to improve their business processes.
  • Project management, e.g., or SmartContractor .com. Businesses pay to be members of these portals, which are used to transfer information and manage construction projects via the Web.
  • Service sites, e.g., RepairNow .com or ACDoctor (Watsco). Homeowners can select the services they want and schedule times for service calls via the Web.

  • Sidebar: Recruiting Via the Internet

    LAS VEGAS, NV — Hvacr contractors don’t have to be reminded of the woes of recruiting employees for field work. Many can tell stories of spending hundreds of dollars on “Help Wanted” ads, with little or nothing to show for the investment. The emergence of the Internet as a source for finding technicians and salespeople has been a welcome sight for business owners. And the price is right too. Now contractors can log on to a website (often as a free member) and browse through lists of employees who are finishing up their schooling, looking to jump-start their careers, and hoping to find a change of scenery.

    Here are some of the facts to support the cause for Internet recruiting:

  • Over 30,000 websites are devoted to recruiting.
  • Over $15 billion was spent on electronic recruiting in 1999, which was expected to grow up to 50% in 2000.
  • There are 148.8 million overall Internet users in the U.S.
  • Average cost per hire via the web was $183 vs. $1,383 for traditional methods.
  • Spending for online recruiting is expected to increase by 52%, and print ad spending to decrease 31% by 2004.
  • 74% of people with Internet access 18 years of age or older have used the Internet to search for a job in the past 12 months.
  • Electronic recruiting is now running just slightly behind print advertising, the second most effective means of recruitment behind referrals.
  • “There has to be a more efficient way to marry work seekers with employers,” said Jim Gustafson, vice president and general manager of “It has now become a buyer’s market for the job seeker.”

    Gustafson and Marc Sampson, president and ceo of MECHdata Inc., talked with contractors at the recent ACCA convention held here.

    They cited three dynamics that are driving online recruitment:

    1. A robust economy (demand for workers);

    2. A tight labor market (supply of workers); and

    3. Strong disposable income to purchase PCs and have web access.

    “A tight labor market and healthy economy puts more pressure on contractors to use innovative ways to find workers,” said Sampson.

    One way for contractors to get the attention of new recruits is to put up an attractive website with plenty of company information and history. This saves the time and money it takes to advertise in traditional print media and have someone fielding phone calls from prospective recruits.

    Sampson said that Internet recruiting can be done 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And there are websites, like and careers, that are specifically targeted to the hvacr trade.

    “There are master sites that are a mile wide and an inch deep,” he added. “The targeted sites are an inch wide and a mile deep with good recruits.”

    Publication date: 04/09/2001