By ROBERT FREEMAN
Indoor Air Quality products and services take center stage in Fenix Heating/Cooling's customer showroom, and at the company's home show displays.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third installment of a five-part series of indoor air quality (IAQ) business "how-to" articles. Part I (CB, Sept. 2006, p. 64) covered why now is the time for the HVAC industry to capitalize on the IAQ market. Part II (CB, Nov. 2006, p. 58) delivered practical tips for starting and building your IAQ business. In Part III, Robert Freeman, president and marketing manager of Fenix Heating/Cooling, Wichita, KS, shares insights on how to market your IAQ business, today and for the long term.
Everyone could use a little good news, and I have some regarding marketing indoor air quality (IAQ): No matter what your business' size or location, it's really pretty straightforward.
I don't mean to say that IAQ marketing is a quick fix. You can't expect big things without being willing to commit to it through time. But getting started is simple.
I've been in the HVAC business for 19 years and growing our IAQ sales for the last three of those years. As president and marketing manager of Fenix Heating/Cooling, I don't hesitate to tell you that there are things we haven't done as well as we should've with our IAQ marketing. The thing is, we're continuing to grow our IAQ business because we plan, we measure, we constantly fine-tune, and above all, we stick with it.
The IAQ Go-To-Market Success Formula
Why is IAQ marketing relatively simple? It's because IAQ allows us to differentiate ourselves. We have a ready-made, very receptive public out there: asthma and allergies are on the rise, and people are becoming more aware of the problems associated with dirty indoor air. We in the HVAC industry must educate our customers that we have the right solutions to their indoor air problems – and that the solutions are not found through some ineffective contraption they pulled out of a box.
The two main keys to IAQ marketing success are:
- Incorporate IAQ into what you're already doing
- Market IAQ to your existing customer base, especially your planned maintenance agreement customers.
The formula for IAQ marketing success is:
- Choose a place to start
- Add IAQ to your other marketing efforts
Let's break down each of these five steps.
#1: Choose a place to start. You want to take advantage of the IAQ opportunity. Ask yourself, "Am I ready for IAQ leads? Do I have the tools and products to provide a quality service to my customers?" If you answered no to either of these questions, see "Getting Started in the Indoor Air Quality Business," (CB, Nov. 2006, p. 58).
If you answered yes, you're ready to take your IAQ business to market. First things first: include IAQ marketing in your budget. You don't necessarily have to come up with more money to market IAQ, but you do have to make IAQ part of whatever marketing you're already doing. If you're not sure about your IAQ marketing plans, don't guess: get support. Take advantage of the industry resources available to you.
Start by marketing to your existing loyal customers. Reach out to your maintenance agreement accounts first — this is the easiest and best target for your first IAQ marketing efforts. B.J. De Waal, general manager and IAQ specialist at BCS Mechanical in Barstow, CA, considers this a core part of her IAQ marketing.
"Knowing that we'll analyze their home's air each year to uncover any potential problems as part of their service agreement with us is a huge value to our customers," says De Waal. "We don't charge for IAQ testing when it's part of our agreement, so they feel like they're really getting full value out of it. It also allows us to send in an IAQ specialist to have a conversation with the customer about the test findings – a conversation that the customer is looking forward to, because it's part of the benefits of the agreement."
If you don't have maintenance agreements, IAQ is the tool to help you build a customer base, because your customers who are interested in maintaining clean air in their home will very likely be interested in maintenance agreements, too.
#2: Add IAQ to your other marketing efforts. The best way to take your IAQ business to market is to add IAQ to what you're already doing. When you include IAQ as part of your heating and cooling message, it adds new value to what you're already offering.
Determine where can you add IAQ to your existing heating and cooling business marketing. Take a look at:
- Your people: sales advisors, service techs, dispatchers.
Your people are a crucial part of your marketing effort. Include them. Service techs and dispatchers help drive the success of any IAQ marketing program. Mike Lister, sales manager and comfort consultant at Norrell Service Experts in Birmingham, AL, knows this for a fact.
"Our service techs are a very important part of the picture," says Lister. "Just by asking the right questions on service calls, they uncover a lot of opportunities and let customers know that we're looking out for their indoor air quality concerns. Along with radio and postcards, our service tech team and dispatchers are the biggest part of what works in our IAQ marketing. We're not in the largest market area in Alabama, but we have more than 100% growth in IAQ sales this year alone."
- Your community: home shows; articles in local publications; speaking appearances (become a resource for local talk shows, volunteer events, or organization meetings on seasonal topics such as allergy season, winter humidification, summer dehumidification, etc.).
If you're not already doing them, consider home shows. IAQ is a powerful motivator. With an allergy/asthma message as the focus at your home show, you draw more qualified homeowners — decision-makers interested in taking action to correct a problem — into your booth than if you focused on heating and cooling alone with no IAQ benefit messages.
At Fenix, we've done home shows, but never had any great success in generating leads until just this year. We did a live demo that showed how our IAQ monitoring equipment picked up on contaminants we introduced into a sealed glass box, and then how our equipment got rid of those contaminants. Folks swarmed us. We got more leads than at any other home show we've done.
- Customer retention: Make your IAQ services a part of your maintenance agreements, on-hold messages, newsletters, and referral incentives.
- Advertising: Create a dedicated IAQ section in your showroom and on your website; send out direct mail postcards and/or flyers; incorporate into your television, radio, newspaper, radio, and/ or Yellow Page ads, and on your signs and trucks.
#3: Review. Once you start incorporating IAQ into your existing efforts, review the results. Look for opportunities to further integrate IAQ into everything you do.
Sending out a tune-up postcard with an IAQ message? Make sure your dispatchers are mentioning IAQ with every call. Did one of your comfort advisors tell you about how happy one of your customers is, now that their child's asthma medication is cut in half thanks to the new IAQ equipment you installed? Ask that customer for permission to share their story and put it in your presentation books – along with that customer's "before" and "after" IAQ test reports. Put it on your website and in your next newsletter, too.
Get that IAQ message out there over and over. You may not get a hundred phone calls on the first day your flyer goes out, but don't give up: repeat your message everywhere. If your last mailing flopped, what was behind that? Was it the message? The timing? Did you send it to your loyal PMA customers – the best choice for getting started in IAQ marketing – or to your entire existing customer list?
Speaking of your customers, reward them for their IAQ referrals. De Waal, at BCS Mechanical, swears by this technique.
"IAQ is absolutely fantastic for building word of mouth," says De Waal. "When we get a referral from a happy customer, I immediately send them a $50 reward. It costs me $108 dollars to attract a new customer using our various marketing methods – so with that $50 referral reward, I'm $58 ahead, and now I have a customer thinking about who else she can tell about her good experience with us."
#4: Revise. Track, measure, and analyze your marketing efforts — and revise them based on what you find.
Each season, analyze where you fall in the following IAQ marketing stages and plan your next steps:
- Get started. Your maintenance agreement customers are the easiest ones to start selling IAQ to: harvest those accounts first.
- Build your existing base. Target customers you have done business with in the past two years. Promote a maintenance agreement / tuneup with IAQ test campaign.
- Expand your IAQ reach. Once you're selling to existing customers, do targeted mailings to affected populations (children and elderly with asthma or allergies) promoting your IAQ testing service.
- Generate leads. Go to home shows and differentiate your company with IAQ positioning. Aim for 100 qualified leads.
- Advance your IAQ message. If you advertise, incorporate IAQ and IAQ testing into your messaging.
Build on what works. Like Joe Needham at Princeton Air Conditioning Company in Princeton, NJ, you may find that IAQ breathes new life into all your heating and cooling go-to-market activities.
"We do IAQ tie-ins with our existing marketing and have now made it the main thrust in all our advertising," says Needham. "Nothing goes out of here – bills or letters or whatever – without an IAQ marketing flyer inside it. No one else in our market is doing this. While everyone else is focused on heating and cooling, we differentiate with IAQ and therefore we stand out."
#5: Repeat. Above all, stick with it. Don't treat IAQ as quick-fix sales booster. Yes, the public is becoming more aware of, and concerned with, controlling and improving the quality of the air they breathe. However, despite the tremendous IAQ opportunity and the already-proven potential for significant HVAC business growth, IAQ is still relatively new to our industry in the minds of our customers. Approach IAQ marketing with a longterm view in mind.
You're either committed to IAQ or you're not. Don't go in halfway. If you invest (or redirect) your time and capital so that you have the incentive to make it work, it will work. Conversely, if you take on IAQ and then treat it as the ugly stepchild and let your IAQ equipment collect dust on a shelf, it won't work.
Needham knows the value of commitment. "We went into IAQ marketing with both feet," he says. "We see a tremendous market here. But we didn't go into it lightly. We know it's going to take us several years to get to where we ultimately want to be. But the rewards are already there. From our first year a little over two years ago, we've doubled our IAQ sales."
One last word about IAQ marketing: it's not brain surgery, and you don't have to do it alone. Talk to the rest of us out here. Learn what's worked for us, and what hasn't worked for us. Tap into the industry resources that are available to you. Now go breathe some fresh air into your business.
Next in the series: Closing IAQ Sales. Dramatic IAQ average sales and high close rates are the result of specific IAQ sales methods and strategy. Get the inside scoop from top HVAC-IAQ owners, sales managers, and comfort advisors across the country, and put those winning tips to work in your own IAQ business.
Robert Freeman is president and marketing manager at Fenix Heating/Cooling, Wichita, KS. Freeman and the other contractors interviewed for this article are using the AirAdvice™ HVAC-IAQ™ Program to grow their IAQ business. For more information, visit www.airadvice.com.