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Avoid Discomfort By Marketing Total Comfort

June 1, 2007
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As you become the company that brings the benefits of total comfort to market, you'll force your competitors to duke it out over, lower-priced jobs.

But I don't want speakers in the kitchen" I said with more feeling than I'd planned, but attacking the sales rep with a ballpoint pen seemed like an over-reaction. "And I definitely don't need the ‘power manager' thing you're talking about."

I was sure I was right, especially since my wife was equally sure I wasn't. The odds were not going my way.

The sales rep was doing his best to help us "design the right sound system" for our weekend home, but all I wanted was tunes. You know: CDs in the slot, a radio dial when I felt lazy, and a volume button to either console or convulse the neighbors.

Nothing fancy.

But, it seemed the sales rep had other plans — mostly his. It sounded like his thought was to have vast amounts of equipment air-lifted to the property, remove a section of roof and drop them in.

"No, I want a volume increase — as in, the dial goes to 10, I want 11. That's it. Just keep it simple," I said.

I'd pegged the sales rep as a bad guy who was only interested in a meaningful relationship with mywallet. Turns out, I had him all wrong. My wife even told me so.

"Mr. Hudson," he professionally stared into my distrusting eyes, "I just want you to get the music system that makes you glad you're up there enjoying time with your family and friends, and that you're comfortable knowing you made the right decision once, instead of the wrong ones a little bit at a time."


There was a long pause while a blinding flash of the obvious gave me instant sunburn. He was right, darn it. He was trying to get me the "music system" I really wanted, as shown on the notes of our first conversation (I hate when note-takers deny my right to be demanding and cheap).

I had thought, in my old-think mind, that I wanted "music generating components." Nope, what I wanted — and he was correct — was a total music solution: speakers where they made sense, the ability to turn components off and on independently, and the ability to force my neighbors eight miles away to become instant Switchfoot fans.

I took his advice, and invested in the total system that solved those problems.

‘People Don't Want Heating and Cooling'
The more you deny that phrase in your mind, the closer you are to the dreaded "C" word, as in "commodity." Because, if you're just selling heating and cooling, then you're just like every schmo in the Yellow Pages. But, if you want to differentiate yourself from them, you've got only two options:

1. Price distinction — In this manner, you reduce your prospect's decision to a choice of meeting the generalities of their desire (heating and cooling) at a lower price. That's it. Basically, you must admit and concede that all equipment is the same, does the same, and installations are interchangeable. Thus, a commodity.
2. Quality distinction — In this manner, you expand your prospect's decision to a choice of specifics of their desire, befitting a broader range of comfort options, regardless of price.

Many contractors openly and wisely believe in the second option. However, this belief is often not manifest in superior marketing and sales efforts that reflect the belief. Translation: You're making it too hard for prospects to see your "total comfort" solution. You've got it and can offer it, but it's too tough to trudge through the resistance for a "maybe" sale, or worse, bore the prospect while trying.

Customers want total comfort, but don't know they want it. You can offer total comfort, but then if you don't properly educate customers on the benefits, then it's a stalemate. Score one for the impasse of unspoken desires.

Your marketing and presentation of total comfort can be a great shortcut on educating your customers. But, how? Well, by using these seven quick strategies to market the total comfort solution:

1. Direct Mail — Offer a blower door test, or similar demonstration, to a select group of homeowners for free with the required exchange of information, including their testimonial, horror at energy overpayments, real-life reactions, and results.

Get emotional and rational examples.

These must be positioned as a homeowner benefit in an effort to gather market results, not as a thinly disguised sales pitch. One idea: a fun yard sign that says, "We're Blowing Up This House!" That generally gets a comment or two.
2. An IAQ test — Use the same strategy as above. I separate these efforts based solely on the highest perceived need. Depending which of these gets the best response, that becomes your salesperson's lead-off benefit.
3. Publicity — "Green" is hot. If you're yapping about it, as a member
of a contractor community seen as somewhat indifferent, that's news. The house testing results could be shared on air or in print as a wake up call to those who don't understand the comfort envelope, effects of humidity, air infiltration, or nastiness in our home's air. This is all very "sellable" to the media. Ask that the testimonials be available for your website and other media to help spread the news.
4. Newsletter — Your stories, articles, actual experiences should be shared with your customers.

Interactive Marketing
5. Trade Shows — The blower door tests and IAQ monitors, with actual results, are attention grabbers. You can set up free demos, as many and as fast as you want, so be careful. Rather, offer a "$258 test, guaranteed to show how to save $400, for just $97."
6. Customer Service Representatives — Your phone traffickers have a unique opportunity on every call. "And did you want to get a free air quality survey while our tech is in the home?" they can say. What customer is going to say no to that? Not many.
7. On-Site — I'm not a fan of brochures left with the hope that a customer will leap over the coffee table to absorb it's clever graphical intrigue. Instead, give your tech three "lead
in" questions as gathered from info in those free tests to gain a "yes" or "no" to the prospect's interest level.

Then, they can go to the testimonials and benefits to further the presentation of your total comfort solution. This splits the crowd into money-makers or tire-kickers, saving you and your homeowners mountains of time.

Just know that as you become the company that brings the benefits of total comfort to market, you'll force your competitors to duke it out over standard, lower-priced jobs, or make them chase you in the market. The best thing about being chased? It proves you're the leader. And remember, have fun marketing your business.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson Ink, a marketing firm for contractors. He'll be appearing at Comfortech this year in St. Louis, displaying an HVAC Marketing Makeover that generated $3.24million in HVAC sales. Contact Adams by e-mail, [email protected], phone, 800/489-9099, or on his website,