I’m a sucker for good ideas. A recent visit with members of the AirTime 500 HVACR contractor group inspired me to think of ideas that might help some contractors gain a marketing edge over their competitors.

The contractors at this St. Louis, MO meeting had a catchy title for their idea session: “Brainstorm Brilliance 2002 — Bright Ideas for Bright Futures.” Some of the ideas were simple and to the point; others went into great detail. The winner, voted on by session attendees, received a $1,000 award. I’ll have more details in a future issue of The News.

Sharing ideas is nothing new. In fact, it is probably the number-one reason why HVACR contractors look forward to national and regional meetings: to brainstorm.


In addition to offering new ideas, these types of sessions often lead to more creative thinking. So it was no surprise that while I was sitting in the audience, I came up with an idea of my own.

Say you just installed a replacement 90%-AFUE furnace in the home at 123 Main St. You’d like to market it to neighbors around that customer’s home. A postcard with this message might raise an eyebrow:

“Your neighbors, the Smith’s at 123 Main, just raised the value of your home! How?

“They contracted us to install a new high-efficiency furnace in their home. This energy-saving system will undoubtedly make their home attractive to a future buyer when they decide to sell — even if it is five or 10 years from now. A higher value for their home means a higher selling price than they would have asked with an older, less efficient furnace.

“If they command a higher selling price, how do you think this will affect the value of your home?

“A high efficiency furnace can make your home more energy-efficient and more valuable! Think about it — and please give us a call for a no-cost system evaluation.”

Now send that card off to as many people in the neighborhood as you can and see if you get results.


Please note that I am basing this scenario on “cookie cutter” urban/suburban neighborhoods. This type of promotion would have a harder time flying for an HVACR contractor who just installed a new furnace in a farmhouse on a 100-acre farm.

So, what is the rural contractor to do?

I am picturing a contractor who serves a rural community of 1,000 people vs. an urban contractor who has 1,000 customers in one neighborhood alone. Maybe the rural contractor has higher sales figures, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that our rural contractor is lower volume. How does this contractor market his/her services?

Let’s say that this contractor also offers plumbing and electrical services. Now the businessperson can offer whole-house solutions. (“Mrs. Homeowner, while I was replacing your water heater, I noticed that you might need new circuit breakers”; or, “I noticed a lot of dampness and rusting in your basement, may I suggest a dehumidifier?”)

In one way, the rural contractor has an advantage over his competition: There might not be another contractor within a wide radius. On the other hand, news of one poor installation could spread like wildfire in smaller communities.

I’d be happy to learn how rural contractors market their businesses and then share these ideas with our News’ readers, so please drop me a line. I believe that if it works in a small town, it can work anywhere.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); or johnhall@achrnews.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 08/26/2002