The Impact of Awareness

June 16, 2010
It’s killing your sales. In fact it may be the single greatest barrier to the growth of your company. It’s prospect and customer ignorance about the products and services you offer.

It’s killing your sales. In fact it may be the single greatest barrier to the growth of your company. It’s prospect and customer ignorance about the products and services you offer.

Let me explain the impact of awareness in a rather roundabout way….

A year ago, I felt a pain in my left knee during exercise. Being old, male, and immune to pain and suffering, I ran through it. When it got worse, I laid off exercise for a few days until it felt better. When it hurt again, I drug out an old knee brace, popped a few anti-inflammatories and cowboyed up.

And so it went, month after month. It finally hurt enough to ask the doctor about it during a physical. He suggested a few changes to my weight training and said it might be arthritic and the result of age. Gee thanks.

When I pressed him about it, he said there’s not much that can be done other than knee surgery. I didn’t want knee surgery, did I?

Visions of pain and crutches filled my imagination. Uh, not just no but HECK NO!

Determined not to let the effect of aging keep me down, I made the recommended changes in weight training and shifted from running outside to the elliptical (i.e., non-contact, cardiovascular exercise). It seemed to make a difference. Then, I stayed in a hotel without an elliptical machine. Feeling the need to exercise and left with no choice, I ran on a treadmill.

I felt great! Why no pain? I concluded it must be the give on the treadmill versus running on concrete. When I returned home, I tried running on treadmills. After a couple of weeks, I ventured outside. By my second run, I was in agony again.

I backed off a few days, felt better, and ran again. I kept getting the same result. Eventually, I concluded I just hadn’t given my knee enough time to heal. I stopped exercise altogether, hoping that the pain would stop and I could resume exercise.

Already short for my weight, I seemed to get shorter by the week. I was growing horizontally. I needed to do something. Maybe it was arthritic. Maybe a little pain was the price I had to pay. I hit the treadmill again for a very slow, easy run.

I felt great after the run. I felt great the rest of the day. On the next day, however, I almost fell when I got out of bed and my knee buckled. It hurt. It really hurt. It hurt so bad, I made an appointment with a knee specialist.

The orthopedist pushed and twisted my leg one way, then another, until he found just how to deliver the maximum pain. I felt like screaming. He sent me off for x-rays.

The doctor told me the problem could be X, which he could probably fix by jamming a needle in my knee and injecting cortisone. Having endured three cortisone shots in high school, I knew what was involved with getting a cortisone shot. It wasn’t fun, but I could live through it.

Or, the doc explained, it could be Y, which would require the dreaded knee surgery. I asked for more details. He said he would make a very small hole on one side of my knee to insert a camera and a small hole on the other side for his tool. I would be able to walk out of the office and run within a month.

Really? That’s it? I could live with that. Before proceeding, he wanted an MRI of the knee. Why cut if it wasn’t necessary? Made sense to me.

In the follow up visit after the MRI, he noted that it wasn’t X or Y. Apparently, I had a stress fracture and hadn’t stayed away from impact exercise long enough for it to heal. I got the cortisone shot after all, with orders not to run for a few more weeks. After the shot, I was cleared for non-impact cardiovascular exercise after 48 hours.

It was ten days from the first call to the doctor through the final treatment. It was relatively painless. I had no idea it would be so easy. For nearly a year, I endured unnecessary pain because I didn’t realize how painless and easy it would be to repair my knee. Even the cortisone shot was a breeze compared to what I endured 30 years earlier.

If only I knew it were so painless and easy, I would have gotten something done about it months earlier. My lack of awareness about modern medical procedures caused me to unnecessarily live life with direct, personal pain for a year. I was mad at myself, but I was also mad that amidst the bombardment of E.D. television ads, there wasn’t any about knee problems. Orthopedic surgeons don’t advertise.

This, I realized, is the very problem we have in the HVAC industry. We can make people’s lives better. It’s easier and less painful than people realize to improve the quality of the air and comfort levels in their homes and businesses. But we don’t tell them about it.

Sure, contractors are constantly shilling about $1,500 back from the government, more money from manufacturer rebates, and their own special sales and financing. This addresses replacing a condensing unit when people know they need a new one. It does nothing for the guy with allergies or the guy with uneven temperatures in his home or the business owner with a corner office that is miserable during summer afternoons from the sun hitting his office glass.

Saying we can fix the problems isn’t enough. We’ve got to tell people how long it takes, what’s involved with the repair or installation, and how much pain to expect (i.e., how much it will cost). Like the orthopedist I saw, you might not know enough to offer a solution without further diagnostic work. In fact, your initial observation might yield the wrong prescription.

It sounds silly to even state, but if you want to sell more, you’ve got to make more people aware of your offering. You’ve got to market.

Awareness works two ways. Your lack of awareness about new products and services may be hurting your business. This is one of the reasons it’s so important for you to attend industry events like HVAC Comfortech, to get involved with your local trade association, and to join a national business alliance like the Service Roundtable.

Every year contractors return from Comfortech filled with new ways to make more money and new products and services to sell. The problem is you’ll never know what you’re missing if you fail to attend.

Without involvement, you have no idea what your local trade association might offer. At a recent North Texas ACCA meeting, a few long time members were amazed at the quality of training the organization offers. For contractors facing a shortage of technicians, North Texas ACCA offers a solution, but it took discussion at the meeting for some to fully understand the scale and scope of the training.

Similarly, there are contractors struggling to make email marketing work as a way of boosting customer awareness about their company’s offerings who do not belong to a business alliance and are unaware of programs like the Service Roundtable’s turnkey, no hassle MoneyMail program that delivers custom email to contractors’ customers for pennies.

As a business owner or manager, it’s up to you to make your customers aware of your offering. It’s also up to you to seek out vendors and increase your awareness of the tools, products, and services that can help you make more money and better serve your customers.

Increase your customers’ awareness by marketing more. Increase your awareness by attending HVAC Comfortech, getting involved with your local trade association, and joining a business alliance.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable , which is HVAC’s largest contractor business alliance. For $50 a month, contractors gain access to millions of dollars of sales, marketing, and business management tools, receive real time business support and coaching from top contractors and industry consultants, and save thousands of dollars with the free Roundtable Rewards buying group. You can contact Matt by email at [email protected], by phone at 877.262.3341, on Linked In, on Twitter (@ComancheMktg), on Facebook, or by reading his blog at To increase your HVAC awareness, you can invest in the book, “Inside Contracting: How Top Contractors Win at HVAC,” which was edited by Contracting Business’ Mike Weil at