Phoenix, AZ was the perfect place for more than 400 HVAC contractors and distributors to gather and talk about geothermal in the 21st century. The event: WaterFurnace's Annual Dealer/Distributor Meeting. For Tim Shields, chairman of the board of WaterFurnace, it was exciting to see how the company his father, Jim Shields, started 27 years ago, has grown from only three employees to 280.
"It's been very gratifying to watch our business grow along with the businesses of our dealers," he told the audience.
According to President and CEO Tom Huntington, though 2010 should prove to be a "mixed bag" for the overall economy, it will be a great year for WaterFurnace dealers and distributors.
"There is a tremendous thirst for knowledge about geothermal in Washington. And our voices are being heard through the lobbying efforts of the Geothermal Exchange Organization (a national non-profit trade association of the geothermal heat pump industry).
Huntington commented that this lobbying is having the desired impact because the energy bill working its way through Congress is very pro-geothermal. Two other points he addressed:
- Electric utilities are mandated to have 15% of their power generation through renewable energy sources.
- At the contractor level — the geothermal certification test administered by North American Technician Excellence (NATE) is now the fourth most taken exam in its arsenal.
"All this points to a very positive climate for our dealers. The sales of geothermal equipment expected to increase at an accelerated rate for the next few years," Huntington says.
Michael Albertson, WaterFurnace's senior vice president of sales and marketing, explained that "WaterFurnace is setting the gold standard in marketing, training, product development, engineering, and customer service."
Albertson highlighted the marketing programs that are currently benefitting contractors and will continue to do so. The focus is on lead generation and that's being accomplished through customized local advertising in individual contractor markets, and continued use of the company's Gizmo and Savings Calculator online sales and lead generation tools.
He also discussed the company's focus on contractor training, including the following:
- Service, installation, and loop training
- Regional classrooms
- Full-time trainers
- One-day refresher courses
- Sales training.
Albertson also announced the soon-to-be-available online training.
From an engineering and product development standpoint, he says WaterFurnace will continue to lead in top-quality products with higher efficiencies, and will continue offering price-point initiatives. In particular, the company will be re-engineering the Versatec Ultra Series with a smaller footprint, creating a bigger opportunity for the replacement market. According to Albertson, this line represents a significant improvement in commercial water source heat pumps. Eleven models are Energy Star-rated and exceed ASHRAE 90.1 efficiencies.
What about overall market share? "The geothermal market is up 158% since 2005," says Andy Fracica, WaterFurnace director of marketing. "Our plan is to use Google Ad Words in conjunction with Radius Marketing to drive traffic to the dealers' Savings Calculators, increase the scope of their reach, find customers interested in geothermal, and use radius direct mail marketing to expand the dealers' opportunities to deliver their message to additional potential customers."
To learn more about WaterFurnace and its products, go to www.WaterFurnace.com. — Mike Weil