Tim Evans of Evans Mechanical in Redding, Calif., believes in brand recognition. On a Friday evening, he changed all of the signage, trucks, and literature to Maytag blue, and he opened for business Monday morning displaying the brand.
Don't feel sorry for the lonely Maytag Repair Man - or the busy Maytag dealers.

Just ask Tim Evans of Evans Mechanical in Redding, Calif. Ask Bruce Rayfield of Rayfield Heating and Cooling, Manchester, Tenn., or Rick Kunze of Jupiter Tequesta Air Conditioning, Jupiter, Fla.

These men are Maytag dealers, and each is happy he became one.

"The dependable, reliable recognition of Maytag gives us the edge over other brands out there," said Kunze. "Our sales leads and close rates have gone up 20 percent and overall our profits have increased up to 30 percent since becoming a Maytag dealer."

"I don't believe I would be as successful using only my name or another HVAC brand name as I am with Maytag," Evans stated.

Rayfield was just as vocal.

"The Maytag name recognition and reputation sells itself," he said. "We don't have to try and sell. People come to us who understand the quality and reliability that has been associated with the brand over the past 100 years."

Now, wait a minute. Before you get the wrong impression, just slapping the name "Maytag" over everything in your shop and vehicles will not make you Super Contractor. Even if you sell a brand with high consumer recognition and appeal, one still has to work at gaining and keeping customer loyalty, these dealers emphasized.

"Oh, yes," insisted Evans. "You just can't hang your hat on a sign. You have to prove yourself. You have to prove to the customer that you are good. That means giving them the complete package. Being presentable when you arrive, wearing booties when you walk in, talking to the customer about the product, being courteous. ...

"Because Maytag is recognized for its quality, we have to treat it as being sacred. We have a reputation to uphold, and we go all out to provide our customers with great service."

Two Schools Of Thought

As a contractor, there are many ways to go to market. There are at least two schools of thought: (1) Sell yourself as the brand, and (2) promote a certain brand. For Evans, he opted for the latter and has never looked back.

"I'd say we did a good six months of research before we decided to go to only selling Maytag," he said. "I feel fortunate to now have that brand differentiation. We were a top company before, but now this takes us to the next level. It is a pedestal piece, and you can stand on it."

According to Evans, he has yet to meet anyone who doesn't know the Maytag name, but every day he meets someone new who does not know his name. He realized the drawing power of the recognized name and capitalized on its pull. Therefore, after being in the HVAC industry for 10 years, he made the move.

Over a weekend, Evans changed his heating and cooling business to Maytag. On a Friday evening, Evans Mechanical began to change all of their signage, trucks, and literature to the Maytag blue, and the company was open for business Monday morning displaying the brand.

"Most consumers don't deal with HVAC every day," said Evans. "They don't know the companies that have been doing this for 60 years. But with Maytag, you have the familiarity with the customer ... you have the trust of the Maytag brand."

Before going into a customer's house, Evans' team members place a Maytag rug in front of the door to show that they care. They advertise the Maytag name through all media - radio, TV, and newspapers. They install Maytag thermostats when installing a system to keep the name forever in front of homeowners. They provide service 24/7. Because he believes Maytag is the drawing power, Evans makes every attempt to keep the logo and name in front of the public.

"After 100-plus years of advertising, people just know the name and what it stands for," said Evans. "You have to recognize that it is a powerful tool. That's the purpose of doing this. That is why we put Maytag on everything. If we can put a sticker on it, we do. Why would you sell Maytag and then hide this fact?"

Help With Sales

Prior to the switch, Evans said he had a difficult time selling a system. "I had to testify for the brand," he said.

Not so now.

"The sales process has become much easier for us," he said. "Women are making purchasing decisions about HVAC equipment in approximately 60 percent of our sales, and they understand the value of the Maytag brand for reliability and dependability."

To prove his point, he noted a young couple that purchased a system recently.

"I gave them an estimate that was higher than some they had received. The wife said that the Maytag system was what she wanted and nothing else would do in her home. Needless to say, we installed Maytag in their home."

Even his sales team, technicians, and installers do not complain about wearing a shirt and coat embroidered with the Maytag logo.

"I would have had a hard time getting them to wear a coat, but they are proud to wear their Maytag coat," he said.

Like Evans, Rayfield has seen his profit margins significantly increase since becoming a Maytag dealer. In fact, he said the atmosphere at Rayfield Heating and Cooling changed since the business became a Maytag dealership. All of the company's business operations are consistent with the Maytag brand, from the blue roof on the building to the blue uniforms the technicians wear.

"Everyone in our organization is proud to have the Maytag name on trucks, shirts, and equipment," said Rayfield. "Not only are we proud, but we are doing the same amount of work and our profits are increasing dramatically."

Rayfield noted that dealers could leverage the perceived strengths of their own brand in order to increase sales.

"I didn't understand the power of Maytag before I saw the name on the trucks. We wanted our logo tied to the Maytag logo," he said. "The Maytag name is an established icon that made the image of our company even stronger."

In other words, Rayfield Heating and Cooling was doing the right things prior to taking on a brand name - and now it continues to do the same. Rayfield believes a contractor needs to have a key message and make it known. In other words, what is the most important thing about your product or brand that you want people to remember?

"In our case, we sell Maytag and that's the message we state on every promotional and advertising piece," he said. "We are selling Maytag. We are selling the reputation it brings with it."

Sidebar: You Still Have To Work At It

Even if you sell a brand the public may not recognize immediately, there are still ways to help your cause along, said Maytag dealers Tim Evans and Bruce Rayfield. They offered the following suggestions:

  • Ask questions and listen to the customers' needs. Remember, you are selling solutions to their home comfort needs.

  • Be knowledgeable and provide resources, but don't be overly technical. Sell the benefits of your product, not all of its technical features.

  • Set your brand apart from the competition. In other words, what is the relevant difference your product offers?

  • Deliver the brand promise. If your brand stands for quality, then you must be able to deliver quality installations, service, and support.

    Other Promotional Tips
    While Evans admitted that not everyone knows his name, he still believes that each company has a brand. In his estimation, it is important to live up to the reputation of the brand that you sell and also build a strong reputation for your own business. According to Evans and Rayfield, here are a few things you can manage locally:

  • Arrive at your appointments on time.

  • Give written proposals.

  • Leave sales literature.

  • Recommend inspecting the home, including the duct system, hot and cold spots, and airflow.

  • Check back with your customers for testimonials and referrals.

  • Send thank you notes.

    In the end, having the brand name in their favor from the start, Evans and Rayfield believe they have a competitive advantage. However, they also know that they have to work hard in order to keep that customer for a very long time.

    - Mark Skaer

    Publication date: 11/15/2004