A Canadian contractors association is looking to prove its worth to its members by actively promoting them to the public as “contractors of choice.”

The Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Contractors of Canada (HRAC) has named its highest priority, the development of a “marketplace distinction” program for members.

The program will promote the criteria that contractors must meet in order be association members — trade licenses, business and fuel safety licenses, workers compensation, training, and more.

The association’s plan is to let consumers know, through aggressive advertising and marketing, just how good these contractors are.

Valuable referrals

Consumers looking for a contractor are only too glad to get a referral. Although referrals from family and friends may have more credibility, third-party referrals from, say, a local utility still wash.

Union Gas, for example, sent a bill insert to all of its ratepayers in the southwestern, northern, and eastern Ontario, with tips on how to hire a heating contractor. The pamphlet includes a recommendation that homeowners select HRAC members because they meet industry-defined training and licensing standards.

The association also is discussing lead referral programs with other organizations, including Enbridge Consumers Gas and the Green Communities Association.

Now, the other side of the coin is that member contractors identify their HRAC involvement; since third parties are endorsing a rather general reference to HRAC member contractors, in order for the referral to work, those contractors need to promote that membership to consumers.

Truck decals, business cards, and other means can be used to show membership. However, a targeted direct mail campaign would probably get better results.

In addition, a “membership I.D. kit” is being developed and should be available soon, the association said. Other promotions from HRAC will be directed at:

  • Local press and cable TV;
  • Participant-funded co-op advertising; and
  • A public Web site.

Well thought-out

Like other aspects of a business plan, this marketing strategy did not spring up overnight. The association said it’s been working on it for a few years.

“This program is the culmination, in many ways, of HRAC’s three-year strategic plan,” known as Plan2000, said HRAC chair Rick Carmichael.

“This is where the rubber hits the road.

“In addition to the various benefits that contractors get from their HRAC membership,” he added, “this new benefit will go directly to their bottom line.

“Being a member in good standing should now translate into increased sales.”

The association can be reached at 800-267-2231; 905-602-4700; 905-602-1197 (fax).

Sidebar: Canadian Ozone Depletion Cards extended one year

The Ontario Ministry of Environment has extended the expiration date on existing Ozone Depletion Prevention (ODP) cards for one year, to December 31, 2000.

The extension is being justified so that cardholders can buy and use ozone-depleting substances, such as CFC-based refrigerants, and to allow cards to be issued to people who have completed the appropriate environmental training in handling ozone-depleting substances.

The ministry said it intends to consult with “stakeholders” over the next year, to determine the future direction of the ODP card program.

The ministry has a special Web site devoted to ozone-depleting substances, located at www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/ Ozone/home/html. A toll-free information line at 877-689-6110 gives people an opportunity to comment.