Twenty years ago people bought either price or value. Today's shoppers are more diverse. Value buyers now prefer to spend their money improving their lifestyles. Minimum-solution buyers comprise about 20 percent of the HVAC residential replacement market. Homeowners who buy the low-cost minimum solution usually do so because they either can't afford it, prefer to spend their money elsewhere or don't realize they'd be happier with something better.

This group is most likely to make decisions based solely on logic, shop around, and buy the lowest price. The number of minimum-solution buyers is expected to grow as entry-level equipment costs and credit card minimum payment requirements increase significantly.

Lifestyle buyers make up over half of the replacement market. Everyone in this group is willing to pay more money to be more physically and emotionally comfortable.

Lifestyle buyers are more happy at home than anywhere else; feel their home is the emotional center of their universe, believe the money they spend on their home is never wasted, spend discretionary income on their home first, buy status features for their home first, and look at home improvement as an investment.

The Right Balance Of Logic And Emotion

The biggest difference between minimum-solution buyers and lifestyle buyers is emotional involvement. Logic can turn needs into wants, but emotional commitment is required to turn wants into desires. The level of desire determines the likelihood, size, and margin of all sales.

Like snowflakes, no two lifestyle buyers are the same. One will buy a $2,000 suit and stop at Wal-Mart to pick out new socks. Another, who never cooks, just remodeled the kitchen with the best appliances and cooking utensils. Each buys for the unique and individual reasons. The first step in helping lifestyle buyers own premium products is a firm understanding of how comfort impacts their home, life, and lifestyle.

Lifestyle buyers share a common need for customization in everything from color schemes to cell phone ring tones. When buying comfort, lifestyle buyers typically choose the firm and sales consultant who does the best job of helping them customize comfort around their specific requirements and desires. Once desire touches the right level, they almost always find the money to buy it.

Look For The Premium Buyers

Lifestyle buyers hate false sincerity, phony games, and manipulation. Because they offer limited choices, sales approaches like good-better-best can have a negative impact on lifestyle buyers. When they are asked to choose from three package deals, most start feeling manipulated then quickly realize:

  • It's impossible to get exactly what they do want.

  • They must pay for things "included in the package" they don't want.

    The top end of the replacement market is comprised of premium buyers. They have amazing buying power.

    People born between 1946 and 1964 make up a large chunk of premium buyers. These baby boomers account for more than half of all remodeling expenditures. Sixty percent of boomers also complete some type of home improvement project every year. For many, the kids are grown, the house is paid for, and they have the time and money to improve their home and lifestyle.

    A large number of premium buyers keep their financial resources well hidden. Many live in middle-class neighborhoods, drive older vehicles, and cut their own lawns. The key to helping premium buyers own top-flight comfort is the same for all lifestyle buyers: Offer the level of comfort that best meets their logical requirements and emotional desires.

    The HVAC industry is experiencing the greatest changes in its history. What HVAC contractors sell, how they sell it, and who they sell it to will determine their odds of being in business in the next 20 years.

    Steve Howard is the founder of The ACT Group. He can be reached at either 602-678-1055 or

    Publication date: 10/24/2005