In spring, we tend to turn our thoughts toward the warm-weather sales coming soon. But if you sit around and wait on the weather, your competition will be closing the sales you never even had a shot at. Get busy with some spring marketing to make the phone and cash registers ring.

Seven Top Spring Lead Generators

1. Maintenance agreements toward equipment upsales.The smartest contractors have maintenance agreement (MA) customers to serve all spring, and that’s fantastic. According to our research, on average, one in 24 MA customers will need additional repairs or equipment. Advice: Train your techs. Tell them exactly what to look for, what to say, and how to present the upsale.

If your techs don’t sell equipment, inform them of the keys to look out for before they call your salesperson: older equipment, repairs over $500, problematic refrigerant leaks, or other “red flags” for replacement.

2. Maintenance agreements toward IAQ sales. This is another huge, yet untapped, opportunity for techs. While performing the tune-up, a cursory view inside a return air duct will lay the most important foundation for an IAQ sale. Have the tech introduce the need for duct cleaning or other IAQ services, and either call the IAQ salesperson, try to sell it himself, or leave behind a brochure that tells homeowners about the ills of impure ductwork. This is a “free” marketing opportunity, and if you’re missing it, you’re walking by wads of money in the street.

3. New customer mailings. Direct mail for direct response is a tremendously valuable resource. High targetability coupled with superb efficiencies of travel time make direct mail a profitable performer — with one exception: a junky offer. Please don’t bore your prospects with being the “oldest, best, biggest” — just tell the poor soul how calling you is going to help him.

Start with a good headline. Walk him through the offer. Paint a clear, logical path that leads right to your phone. Follow that with one “P.S.” (Forget that hokey “one more thing” multiple P.S. It’s outdated.) Just briefly summarize either the “free” thing he gets, or your limitation to the offer.

4. New customer newspaper ads. Finance ads do well in spring. If you’ve got a “6 Months No Payment” ad, you can push payments back until well after your customer has saved a ton of energy money through the summer. This single focus for sales and marketing is among the strongest of the seven types of basic direct-response ads I have for spring. I also like validated rebate ads. (Validated just means you’re not saying “$500 back” without justification. Give a reason, and you’ll get a better response rate.)

Headline your ad with the primary reason a prospect should call. Let it follow the “Z” pattern (upper left to lower right) of eye and logical movement. Don’t make prospects guess what you’re offering or how they benefit: Tell them, explicitly and in simple terms, or don’t bother. If I see a picture of a condensing unit or a Penguin in your ad taking up valuable space, I’m going cite you for ad abuse.

5. Your Yellow Pages ad. If yours renews in spring, have it redesigned for leads. Don’t mess around with pictures of all your vans or your company name dominating the top of the ad (bad idea). Get it to pull leads, since that’s presumably why you’re paying through your nostrils for it in the first place. I’ve got about 33 different formats for Yellow Pages alone! No matter who you choose to design yours, get someone who understands hvac lead generation to create the right ad for you. This is money well spent. Hey, it’s your most expensive ad, and it lasts a year! Make it pay you back.

6. Your customer retention program. If you scoff, “Ha! I don’t have a retention program and I don’t need one!” Here’s my response: This attitude means you don’t care too much about customer relationships. Your customer translates feelings toward the relationship into loyalty, or the lack thereof. In your case, no relationship equals no loyalty. Your competition is excited about your hopelessly shallow customer assessment. Why? Because 55% of your customer turnover is walking out for someone who doesn’t share your attitude.

The bottom line: Get a customer retention program (newsletter or other) or you may as well send them your competition’s business card. This is the single biggest oversight in hvac marketing right now. It costs very little and pays handsomely. Spring and fall are perfect for retention programs.

7. Other superb “alternative” marketing tips. When you do any service (especially after a neighborhood mailing), use your yard sign. This is a gentle reminder of your ad or letter and that you are the company of choice for their neighbors. Believe me, anything with your company name on it is better than nothing. You’ll spend $25 on a sign that’ll last you years. That’s the best $25 you’ll spend this year.

Put copies of your direct mail letter in each service van to distribute to the neighbors. (Don’t put them in the mailbox; that’s illegal.) Just put them inside the screen door or have them printed as a door hanger. If they’ll do this for two more houses on each trip, you should triple your mailing penetration for exactly zero cost. (I thought you’d like that.)

Always have extra newsletters printed. Two reasons: 1) Put “Free Newsletter with Money-Saving Tips” in your ad and you’ll send a few that way to callers who love anything free. 2) Let techs take them to new customers with the message, “We wanted you to have this. It’s got great info on saving money in it.” That’s it. The customer likes it, the tech doesn’t have to get into a long conversation, and what better way to start a relationship than with a gift? When do you think was the last time that happened to this customer?

Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink. He can be reached at 800-489-9099; 334-262-1115 (fax); or (website).

Publication website: 03/12/2001