People in many parts of the United States have been –– in the lyrics of Buster Poindexter –– "feeling hot, hot, hot" all summer. The demand for air conditioning service and replacement has come at a time when the industry has really needed a boost, coming off of a few years of cooler temperatures and subpar profits.

I've been following the many stories in the general media regarding the demand for air conditioning service and replacement throughout the country. A lot of service technicians are becoming "rock stars" this summer and enjoying new notoriety, thanks to some very positive media stories. Gee, isn't it nice to feel loved for a change?

For example, a report in the Jacksonville Daily News cited a contractor who got 117 calls in one day and the business owner said it was almost impossible to satisfy customers who wanted same-day service.

A North Carolina television station carried the story of an A/C contractor whose technicians were working six days a week, sometimes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Because of the high demand, customers with regularly scheduled maintenance had to be pushed back.

One Nebraska contractor enjoyed an influx of new customers brought on by the summer heat. In a story in the Columbus, the contractor said his calls have doubled from people he had not done business with before. A contractor from Columbia, Mo., was quoted in a newspaper article as saying that his average of 20 to 30 service calls a week were being handled each day.

That's the A/C biz –– feast or famine. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Keep Momentum Going

It would be nice to think that A/C contractors can keep the busy pace through early fall and then get hit with an instant winter. Dream on. While technicians are logging lots of overtime and business bank accounts are getting much healthier, it is too much to think that this great ride will last long.

I'm not sure how many contractors had their weather almanacs and forecasts spread out on their desks this past spring, seeing (and hoping) if the summer would be hot. I don't know about you, but I don't trust long-range weather forecasts. Too many acts of nature can throw weather out of kilter.

Therefore, here are some ideas that may still help you this year and, if not, could be part of your hot weather planning next year. Some of these are obvious, and you may have heard me talk about them before –– but they all bear repeating.

When the weather heats up and the local media needs to report timely stories, who do they call? In many cases they call A/C contractors. You can get a jump on your competition by calling your local newspaper, radio, or television station and getting your name on a "source list." You can become a media star (and enjoy free, positive advertising) by making a simple call. And when the media calls you, don't keep them waiting!

Send your local media a press release advising home and business owners on what they can do to maintain their HVAC equipment. Maybe you can develop a regular "Ask the Expert" column.

Into The Fall

Before the fall rolls along, try to line up some work during the slower times. Make sure your technicians pass out service reminder cards to all of the new customers you are making during the hot summer months.

Don't pass up the opportunity to market your company, simply because you are too busy keeping up with the demand for service. You are in the homes of many new customers; leave some materials with each one describing your service and maintenance plans and offer a discount as a show of goodwill.

A suggestion: Don't just offer a discount without a little incentive. Ask each customer for a referral or letter of referral. If a friend or neighbor responds and hires you, spread the discounts around to everyone involved. Then you have a referral letter you can use to market your company to prospects prior to the heating season.

The point is, think about the marketing opportunities while the market is hot. Don't let sweat and frustration kill your chances to increase your customer base.

John R. Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-464-1970, 248-786-1390 (fax), or

Publication date: 08/15/2005