All the elements of a strong customer retention program are based on the key ingredient of any significant relationship — regular contact. And by far, the kind of contact that is most useful to the customer and most efficient for you is through a good, strong newsletter program. The best newsletter campaigns give customers rich, interesting information that is useful in helping your customers run their households safely and cost-efficiently. Plus, they bring your company name and logo right into your customers’ homes. It keeps them informed about new products and services too, but does so in a way that shows the customer benefits therein.

Remember, your newsletter should never be solely about heating and air! The point is to retain customer interest, and 2,500 words on the inner workings of an HVAC unit will not do it. In order to be effective and interesting, you should maintain a 60/40 split of “general interest” to “specific field interest” in your editorial split. Send them news they can use, and turn them into customers you can keep.

You need to become an “advisor” to them, not just a “heating and air guy.” Why? It increases your image and professionalism, and, as we all know, “advisors” outsell “salespeople” 4 to 1!

Get to that level by using a great customer retention newsletter.

September is the beginning of your customer retention push. This means sending newsletters to your active customer base (activity within the last 60 months). In cooler climates, begin preseason tuneup or preventive maintenance offers. Warmer climates need “end of season” or other direct response promos. Final call for getting summer’s “non-closed” sales to respond! Make your offer a good one and it’ll sell. (The Hudson Ink PowerPack has proven letters ready for you to use.)

Media Watch

Newspapers:Cooler climates can use a direct response service ad or insert. Plumbing preventive maintenance offers can begin too. Warmer areas must focus on direct response air conditioner replacement offers to rid inventory and keep installers busy. Discounts or incentives apply. TOMA (top-of-mind awareness) ads should be running.

Direct mail letters: Make sure your letters to non-closed sales have gone out. Target direct mail letters for an end-of-season air conditioner offer (warmer climates) offering reduced price or “last year’s price” to spur installations. Deferred payments work well, too. Send kitchen and bath upgrade offers. Fall is a prime time for home remodeling.

Postcards: Service postcards for tuneups and preventive maintenance can go out in cooler climates to increase service leads. Make hard-hitting value points. Get your service department trained on “up-selling” maintenance agreements.

Radio: Unless you have a radio contract and/or strong radio presence, pull back in this media. Occasionally, a support ad for service or replacement that echoes your print offer can work well.

On-hold messages: These should be about service and preventive maintenance now.

Yellow Pages: Have an ad designed that pulls leads. Fax your ad to us for a free critique.

In our October tips, we will discuss weather changes, which support more preventive maintenance and tuneup business. Any newsletter leads should be worked. IAQ business heats up. Be ready.

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

Publication date: 09/15/2003