I have always been very proud of our company. We are 123 years old, we have received a number of awards — both locally and nationally — and our customer reviews are generally very good. As a result, I often feel like we should be sitting on the top of the group of 725 HVAC contractors here in the St. Louis area.

I was recently brought back down from my lofty perch by a few events that occurred on a plane trip returning from Florida. It started when the woman next to me struck up a conversation.

She had lived in the St. Louis area her whole life. Turns out, she lived right by our office for a few years, and she met her current husband at a restaurant just up the street from us. As we departed, I told her my name, gave her a business card, and proudly explained our company is 123 years old. I might as well have said we install equipment on the moon. No interest. No response. I asked, and she said she had never heard of us. Strike one.

While waiting for our luggage, I recognized a family we had seen a few miles from the Tampa airport while refilling the rental car. The young boy — I’d say around 8 — had on a St. Louis Blues jersey. I mentioned that I was a Blues fan and asked where they live. His mom, listening in, said they live in a community that is just west of where we live. She mentioned the subdivision, and I recognized it as one in which we installed all of the HVAC systems about 20 years ago. I mentioned that, and she asked the name of our company. I told her Welsch Heating and Cooling Co. Her response was a blank stare, followed by, “I’ve never heard of you.” Keep in mind, our sticker was on the equipment, and our name is on the thermostat. Strike two.

That family was travelling with another family, so I went through sort of the same process. I didn’t find out where they live, but I discovered they had never heard of us either. Strike three.

By the way, my best guess is that the parents in these two families were in the 35- to 40-year-old range. The most disheartening fact to this whole scenario is that it is clear the message we are bragging about and are sending out about being an old-time, experienced company means absolutely nothing to this younger generation.

When I arrived at the office and explained the episodes, our staff just said my sample size was too small and to quit worrying. But I am worrying. My message to all of you — myself included — is to make sure that the impression you are sending out is one that is going to win and attract today’s new buyers.

I believe today’s buyers are not as interested in what you did in the past or how well trained your people are. They want to know how those facts are going to make it better for them to do business with you. We have to impress upon them that our longevity is only important to them because we will be around in the future to take care of them. The fact we have trained technicians is only important if we can assure the customer that the techs can solve their problems.

The new customer is looking for what you can do for them — right now. And they want the transaction to be done with as little effort as possible on their part. We — and by we, I mean me — have to make sure we promote the proper messages. I learned that what was important yesterday is no longer important today. Hopefully, there won’t be a strike four.

Publication date: 6/4/2018

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