Summer is here - finally. But even as the calendar reminds us that the season is officially here, some of us wonder when the weather will catch up. As I write, the weather has been unseasonably warm in Michigan. Yet that can all change by the time this column appears in print. Face it; some people are slaves to the weather.

The question is - are you?

In some senses, HVAC work cycles can be weather-dependent. Your customers move their thermostats up or down and switch from heating to cooling depending upon the weather outside. You are the indoor weather specialists and what you do keeps people comfortable. And as long as your customers are comfortable, your cash flow picture should be comfortable, too.

So I have a two-part question. Are you happy with your cash flow and how the weather is treating you this summer? If not, would you like some ideas to help you attract customers and close on the leads that you have?

Linking Up Your Web Site

My first assumption is that all of you have a Web site, correct? And my second assumption is that you promote your Web site in your company literature, advertising, marketing campaigns, and on your trucks and signage. Are you still with me? If you answered no to either of the questions, please attend to these points right away. But keep reading.

Let's say that I represent your typical computer-savvy new customer and can provide some added perspective on the importance of the Internet. I love to research products on your company's Web site, as do many of your potential customers. Sometimes I need to know more than what is on the screen in front of me.

Enter links.

An effective marketing tool for any business is to have a link back to its Web site from another, cross-marketed site. For example, does your manufacturer or distributor have a link to your Web site from theirs? If you are a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, does it have a link to your Web site from its own? If you work with a local charity or sports league, is there a link to your Web site from one of those?

Getting a link can be as easy as asking. Don't be surprised if most of the replies are in the affirmative. If these businesses or groups want a link to their Web site, be sure to reciprocate. Cross-marketing is inexpensive, and it can be a great source of new customers.

Visually Closing The Sale

Many people - including yours truly - get their information from CDs and DVDs. These magical plastic discs can pack a lot of text and graphics, which makes them ideal for sales and marketing tools. So consider this the next time you or a member of your sales staff makes a presentation at a customer's home or business: Leave behind an impressive business card - a DVD describing your company and its products and services. I don't have the space to describe what you should include on the DVD. You probably have a good idea anyway.

Your potential customers can view the DVD at their leisure, or even better, while you're performing a load calculation in the home or business. You now have an extended marketing piece that can tell your story even after you've left the premises to go on to the next lead.

Some have even gone as far as leaving portable DVD players behind with the prospects; you can always get them back a few days later, which makes a good reason to go back if your one-call close technique is a little off the mark.

Got any other ideas? Drop me a line.

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

Publication date: 06/20/2005