SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The 2004 Maytag HVAC Distributor Meeting got off to a fun start with a visit from "Ol' Lonely" himself, Hardy Rawls, and his young apprentice, Mark Devine.

The two actors happily signed autographs and chatted with the Maytag distributors who were in town to discuss business strategies and new products.

After years of market research, Maytag has entered the heating and cooling business under the Nordyne umbrella. Maytag hopes to capitalize on its brand name and the fact that most consumers view their products (e.g., dishwashers, washing machines) as being dependable and of high quality.

Maytag distributors and dealers are affectionately known as the "Men in Blue," in a spoof of the movie "Men in Black." When it comes to doing business, though, the Men in Blue are very serious and have specific plans for taking over a serious chunk of the heating and cooling business.

Chris Johnson stressed that distributors need to make sure the right dealers are selected for the Maytag opportunity.

Why Get Into HVAC?

Most people equate the Maytag name with home appliances, rather than heating and cooling systems. That's about to change, as Maytag has burst onto the scene with "good, better, best" heating and cooling equipment designed for just about every market segment.

Glen Konkle, Equity Management Inc., San Diego, works on licensing opportunities for Maytag and noted at the meeting that Maytag is a part of America's heritage.

He noted that Maytag has 99-percent brand awareness among consumers and that nine out of 10 Maytag owners would purchase another Maytag product. Given that one out of every three American households already has a Maytag product, it seemed natural to offer heating and cooling products as well.

"Consumers expect dependability and reliability, so purchasing a Maytag unit means peace of mind," said Konkle. "In fact, three out of four consumers polled said they would purchase a Maytag heating or cooling system based on the name alone."

Products And Warranties

Marc DeLaurent, HVAC product manager, discussed at length the types of products Maytag offers. The M1010 Series is the top-of-line group of products that includes split systems, heat pumps, air handlers, gas furnaces, gas packs, and packaged air conditioning. These products feature sleek design elements and brushed stainless steel exteriors.

DeLaurent discussed how all research and development on 10- and 12-SEER products has been eliminated in order to focus on equipment 13 SEER and above in light of the recent Department of Energy (DOE) ruling.

A full line of 13-SEER heat pumps will be available during the first quarter of 2005, but DeLaurent noted, "All of our current 12-SEER products will achieve 13 SEER with variable speed."

One of the biggest selling points of the M1010 Series is the 10-year warranty on parts and labor. The products also carry the "Dependability Promise," which states that the unit will be replaced if the compressor or heat ex-changer fails within the first five years of purchase.

Drew Fitzgerald, vice president of marketing, stated "Maytag has a simple core promise. They're known for dependability, quality, and reliability. They build products that live up to that promise. They've stayed consistent. Our job is to talk the talk and walk the walk."

In another development, Nordyne announced at the meeting a partnership with HVAC Agent, an online employment service. HVAC Agent is designed to provide a network of companies that has gained the economies of scale to enable nationwide job listings for employers at a cost-effective price, plus nationwide searches for job seekers for free.

Dealer Network

The distributors at the meeting discussed ways to attract new dealers to the Maytag brand.

But they're not looking for just anybody. As Chris Johnson, director of residential sales for the Eastern region, stressed, "We need to make sure that the right dealers are selected for this extraordinary opportunity. Our image is an elite guy who can let the brand work for him. It has to be the correct fit."

Johnson noted that in order to fully support their dealers, distributors need to utilize best practices in inventory, staffing, advertising, training, planning and growth, and administration. To ensure the dealers perform at a certain level, distributors are encouraged to provide established targets and provide report cards on dealer performance.

When looking for dealers, Johnson encouraged the distributors to look for certain characteristics, such as whether or not they're active in the community and if they have North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified people on staff.

"The potential dealer also needs to have a customer service-oriented staff," stated Johnson. "This includes 24/7 operation and answering service. The dealer also needs to be willing to do brand training for all personnel."

Johnson added that dealers should be willing to wear Maytag apparel, adorn their trucks with the Maytag logo, and promote only Maytag products.

Doug Jones, vice president sales, residential and light commercial, stressed that Maytag is committed to keeping its promise to distributors and dealers.

"No other company is offering the opportunity we are," he said. "We have solid selling systems. We want to discuss best practices with you. We want to make sure everyone has the tools they need. We are the select breed of HVAC. We're bleeding blue."

Publication date: 05/24/2004