• HVAC Contractors’ New Year’s Resolution

    Dec. 30, 2009
    We’ve probably all made resolutions in the past—whether it’s exercising regularly, eating right, or spending more time with family and less time at the office—and have seen them last for a few days, maybe a few weeks. When it comes to their business goals, HVAC contractors can’t afford to fall short. With the new year right around the corner, it’s “game time.” I’d like to recommend a New Year’s Resolution that every contractor should commit to.

    So here it is. “I will track, measure, and manage my sales leads in 2010.” When you commit to this, you’ll also be refining and improving your marketing efforts throughout the year. You should treat your sales leads as you would any other asset of your business. After all, your sales leads are critical to the future of your business, and the money you spend to generate each lead is the most important investment you can make. To maximize your investment, you should know what is working, what isn’t, and how each lead source is performing. To get you started, here are some do’s and don’ts to help you stay committed to your Contractors’ Resolution:

    DO – Create 8 to12 simple, clearly defined lead source categories. Make sure you have a category for all of your primary lead sources, but don’t get carried away. You don’t need 25 or 30 groupings. Typical categories would be sources like technicians, Internet, newsletters, referrals, etc. This will allow an at-a-glance look at which categories are performing for you. By the way, your technicians should be your No. 1 source of sales leads. If they aren’t, you may want to consider a different New Year’s Resolution.

    DO – Clearly define what constitutes a current customer and what constitutes a new one. It’s important to develop a distinction so that your team is properly categorizing your leads. You don’t want to have inbound leads classified as “current customer” just because they may already be in your system. In fact, I’d suggest to you that if they aren’t on a service plan and haven’t done business with you in the last 30 months, they are not a current customer. They are really a “free agent.”

    DO – Track close rates and average job price by lead source. Different lead sources will create different close rates and average job prices. For example, a referral will close at a much higher rate than a Yellow Pages lead, and an Internet lead will result in a higher average job price than a coupon clipper (American Home Comfort Survey 2008, courtesy of Decision Analyst). You’ll want to determine trends by lead source, so that you avoid applying a one-size-fits-all closed sales expectation.

    DON’T – Let your comfort consultants track their own leads and close rates. Assign this to an objective team member to ensure the highest levels of accuracy. The person who manages the leads tracking system should have strong enough administration and communication skills to balance the demands of the customers, technicians, and sales representatives.

    DON’T – Wait until things get slow to review your numbers. By then, it will be too late to do anything about it. Establish bi-weekly or monthly review meetings to measure performance and identify trends. This way, you’ll be able to make course corrections and generate greater results in a timely manner.

    – Shortchange branding efforts that aren’t directly connected to ROI. Just because certain activities aren’t directly tied to ROI, doesn’t make them unimportant. Customer retention, goodwill efforts and broad-based advertising may not be trackable, but done effectively, they will support all of your other lead-generating efforts.

    By tracking and measuring your sales leads, you’ll know which of your marketing efforts are truly performing. Getting more mileage out of your marketing is something you’ll need to get done this year. So commit to this New Year’s Resolution, and I’m confident that you’ll be glad you did.

    Until next issue, Happy New Year!

    Blaine Fox, Vice President of Warm Thoughts Communications, is a recognized expert on the residential mechanical services industry. He is currently working with some of the nation’s leading HVAC contractors to improve their marketing, fine-tune their operations and grow bottom-line profits. Previously, Blaine was general manager of ServiceMark, a $32 million HVAC contractor with more than 25,000 service agreement customers. Blaine oversaw 160 field employees, 30 install crews, 12 sales people and a call center that handled 140,000 calls per year. Blaine is a sought-after speaker, and presented at Comfortech 2009. He is also a frequent contributor to HVAC industry trade publications. He can be reached at [email protected].