Quit Marketing to Yourself!

May 1, 2013
In the world of residential HVAC contracting, the customer making the buy decision is typically a woman. So why, then, do so many contractors market to men? In this Rant, Matt Michel tries to break these old habits.In essence he say, "C'mon guys -- get with it."

Who is your customer? Not you. She doesn’t look like you, think like you, act like you, or even go to the bathroom like you. You are not the customer. So quit marketing to yourself.

“Her,” you say. “Her, who?”

“Her,” who calls your company asking for service. Think about it. Is it a man or a woman? Most of the time, the call comes from a woman. She cares for the home like she cares for the kids. She decides who to call when there’s a cockroach infestation, a lack of hot water, and the absence of cold air. Her husband gets the important decisions, like the family’s policy on immigration, gun control, and the Middle East.

“Yeah,” you say. “That’s all well and good for service, but men make replacement decisions.”

Men make no decisions. Well, we decide when we take out the garbage — before she tells us or after.

Half of all replacements are breakdown driven. Wives may pretend to consult their husbands by calling them at work, but the woman is Johnny, er, Janey-on-the-spot because she gets to stay at home for service calls while he is at his “important” job.

You counter, “Okay, but men always make the planned replacement decisions.”

That’s the conventional wisdom. I used to think that too, but in the first large scale survey of homeowners who replaced their furnace, air conditioner, or heat pump, I learned the conventional wisdom was wrong.

Men and women use different criteria to make replacement decisions. Men tend to focus on “stuff.”

Think of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor.

Men look at the technical specifications. SEER matters.

Women focus on people. They focus on the contractor, the salesperson, or the technician. They look at honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. Relationships matter.

When women pick contractors in isolation, it’s all about the relationship. When men pick contractors in isolation, it’s all about the stuff. When women pick contractors with an assist by men, it’s all about the relationship. When women and men pick contractors jointly, it’s all about the relationship. When men “pick” contractors with an assist by women, it’s all about the relationship.

In other words, whenever a woman is involved (around seven out of eight replacements), she either makes the decision or has veto power.

She is your customer.

Not only is your customer a woman, but your customer is middle aged or older. If she’s younger, she probably doesn’t own a home. If she does, she probably can’t afford to spend much. She’s in her 40s or older.

Think reading glasses.

While your customer is a woman, don’t assume she’s just a stay-at-home mom who spends her time changing diapers and watching Lifetime TV. She’s more likely to be college educated and active in the community. Knowing this, you can make better media decisions. Your customer isn’t listening to sports talk radio. She’s not watching ESPN.

Think HGTV and the Food Network.

Knowing this also helps you design better marketing collateral. Your marketing should reflect your customer’s view of herself. In your copy, hold a conversation with the customer. Why a conversation? All marketing is a conversation. Marketing started in ages past when people would go to the town marketplace on a Saturday to buy, sell, trade, and engage.

It helps to personalize your customer. Give her a name. Describe her. What does she look like? What does she do? What does she listen to? What does she watch? How does she spend her time? What worries her? What does she want?

The more effectively you visualize your customer, the more effectively you can converse with her. The more effectively you can converse with her, the more likely it is that she will buy from you.

Most contractors market to people just like themselves.

Stop it. You are not the customer.

Instead, identify the customer. Define the customer. Describe the customer. Speak with the customer. Do this and she will speak to your bottom line.

This month’s FREE download from the Service Roundtable is a questionnaire to help you create a customer profile. For more free stuff, visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com and click on “Free Stuff.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable. The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. Call toll free: 877/262-3341 for more information about how to join.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable (ServiceRoundtable.com). The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.