NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A familiar face had a clear message for ISL conference attendees: marketing is a powerful investment. Adams Hudson, president of Hudson, Ink, Montgomery, Ala., presented a daylong marketing seminar titled "High Performance HVAC Marketing."

Hudson said that most contractors market "the hard way." They depend too much on the weather, rely on low customer expectations, and have unreal expectations about great word-of-mouth referrals. They try to "spend their way" into market penetration, but often they rely on those unskilled at marketing to achieve the desired results and forget that co-op ads are a joint venture and not a solo act.

Hudson listed the most common HVAC ad sins. According to Hudson, poor ads often have no goal or direction; no headline; no meaningful, specific benefits to the customer; no guarantees; and no call to action.

"I encourage you to get customer testimonials," he said. "These are real people who have taken time to write nice things about you and your company."

Hudson joked about contractors who use the phrase "lowest prices in town" in their ads. "Do you really want to be the lowest priced in your market?" he asked. No one in the audience raised his or her hand.

Hudson also listed the reasons that customers really buy:

1. People do not buy air and heat; they buy comfort.

2. People do not buy features; they buy benefits.

3. People do not buy from braggers and takers; they buy from servers and givers.

4. People do not buy risk; they buy guarantees.

5. In a buying context, people would rather be followers than leaders.

6. People - in their heart - don't really want cheap. They want value.

Direct Response And Newspaper Ads

Hudson said that direct response ads will "seriously outperform any other lead generation ads." According to Hudson, key elements of direct response advertising include a distinct offer with a limited time or quantity. But he cautioned that overuse of direct response will cause credibility to drop.

Hudson recommended that if contractors decide to use newspaper advertising, there are some positions they should request for ad placement. "In the main section, request page 2, 3, 5, or the weather page," he said. He recommended that the ad should be placed on the upper right side of the page, above the fold.

Hudson stressed the importance of keeping a marketing worksheet that details which ad or message should be run in each month of the year, the focus of the ad, and the media to use.

Publication date: 12/29/2003