HVAC is fundamentally a neighborhood business. It’s a business of connections, relationships. The very best contractors in many markets are often the most connected. Why aren’t you more connected?
Network Through a Service Club
When I speak to groups of contractors, I often ask for a show of hands from everyone who belongs to a service club like Rotary, Lion’s, Optimist’s, Kiwanis, or Civitan. About one out of 25 is involved with a service club. So I’ll ask, “What do you get out of it? How do you benefit?”
Many times, the contractors struggle to come up with an answer. It’s not that they don’t benefit, it’s just that they don’t look at it that way. They join these clubs to get involved with their communities and to give something back. Yet, with a little probing, they invariably admit that their business does benefit from their involvement.
First, members of a service club tend to me a little more affluent than the average. Several of them will own commercial or rental property that needs HVAC work from time to time. Members tend to buy from each other, especially if there’s no pre-existing relationship.
Members of a service club tend to me a little more affluent than the average. Several of them will own commercial or rental property that needs HVAC work from time to time.
More significantly, service club members tend to be community centers of influence. They’re bankers, insurance agency owners, local politicians, realtor, financial advisors, and so on. These are the people others turn to when looking for a good air conditioning contractor. If a contractor belongs to their club, guess who gets the referral and recommendation? The amount of business that can accrue to a contractor in a medium sized service club over time can be staggering.
The reluctance of contractors to join these clubs is dumbfounding. The clubs usually meet over breakfast or lunch. If you are going to eat lunch anyway, why not eat one lunch a week with a room full of community centers of influence?
Network Through a Leads Club
There are similar levels of participation in leads clubs. These are networking groups with trade or profession exclusivity that are wholly business focused. The members try to open doors, make introductions, and refer business to each other.
There are several leads clubs or networking clubs that share national affiliations. These include BNI, Le Tip, and Netweavers. Others are independent and more difficult to learn about. The chamber of commerce often knows about the independent leads clubs; it can be a good starting point.
Quit looking at affinity groups as time away from the business, and look at them as time invested in building the business
Network Through a Chamber of Commerce
Chambers of commerce are great for networking. They tend to get better participation from contractors, probably because they have a more aggressive marketing effort. Chamber mixers tend to be populated by small business owners. These are local movers and shakers who may use you for their own home as well as recommend you to others.
Network Through Alumni and Affinity Groups
If you attended a nearby college, there is almost always an alumni group that meets regularly. Some high schools maintain alumni groups. Get involved to build your personal network.
Every community has affinity groups. These range from home and garden clubs to humane societies to school PTAs. Quit looking at these as time away from the business, and look at them as time invested in building the business.
Network Through Social Media
One of the more powerful networking opportunities is social media, especially Facebook. Lots of contractors don’t understand how to use social media and consequently look on it as a waste of time instead of a more efficient way of networking and building relationships.
There are lot of organizations and retailers who are all too willing to lure you and other contractors into auction situations or feed contractors leads for a small fee, like 25%. It’s part of the sharing economy and it’s coming our way. You can trump the sharing economy with relationships, but you have to invest the time into building them.
Do not rely solely on your efforts. Get others in your office involved. Pay their costs and give the time to attend the meetings. If that doesn’t work, spiff them for attending meetings.
If this is really not your thing, hire someone to be your community ambassador. Pay the person to attend networking meetings and perform other, related duties. These could be happy calls, review calls, and social media management.
He who knows the most influential people, wins.
Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable. Need a FREE speaker for your next event? Call the Service Roundtable at 877.262.3341 and ask for Robin Jones. She can direct you to the Service Roundtable Speaker’s Bureau. information. Or, call 877-262-3341 and ask how you can become more prosperous.