On Jan. 8 it was plus seven degrees Celsius here in Southern Ontario – the perfect storm for idle hands during ‘heating season’. These can mean shorter work weeks for the technicians and installers. Smaller paycheques mean for more stress on their family income, the by-product is wandering techs heading off to what appears to be greener pastures, leaving you short-staffed in the spring. And if they stay, chances are they are looking for side jobs to replace their smaller weekly paycheques which leads to starting their own business and becoming your next competitor.
I believe it was an old friend of mine by the name of Ronald Coleman that said making money in the HVAC industry is easy, not losing money in the slow times in the hard part. Our goal, your goal is to come out of the long nights and short days not losing any money, perhaps even showing a little profit.
Marketing boxes trap
Let’s look at some viable options to achieve the goal. Sure, cost control is an obvious one. But do not get caught up in the “market till you drop” that so many manufacturers and suppliers will be wanting you to do. The marketplace this time of year is “break, fix, replace” – period. If you are going to run any sort of campaign, the look and feel should be all about, break, fix, replace. Priority one is to get into the basement for a repair and based on the diagnosis and estimate of repair, that will provide you with your next day install.
“My best customer is a past customer.” So often I hear this statement and yet still we have trucks sitting in the parking lot doing nothing. I ask this simple but very complex question: “If your best customer is your past customer, how can you make more past customers this time of year”?
Here are a couple of easy to low cost strategies:
Number one: shift your hours of operation from 9-5 to 9 a.m.-9 p.m., WHAT! Think about it; the big retailers in our industry are open retail hours. That is how they take your customer away from you, they get all the desperate no heat calls when most of us are getting home and eating dinner. If you want to acquire new customers affordably, stay open later and collect the customers from your competition! And then send your best technician to the rescue!
Number two: not everyone needs a new furnace right now, some may not need a repair right now, BUT every home could benefit from a mid-season tune-up and safety inspection. How does this create new past customers? Let’s face it, our lowest cost, lowest risk product we offer is a precision tune-up. Not just any old tune-up, a wow them opportunity to experience your company first hand with little out of pocket expense. Once your tech is in the basement let them offer the customer a one time knock it out of the park price today if they sign up for a monthly subscription maintenance plan! This is a low-cost break-even strategy to keep your trucks moving and your people busy while building a data base of “more past customers”.
Management with plan(s)
One of the most challenging tasks for an HVAC business owner is to manage your labour force by season. The simple solution is to create a source of work for 12 months of the year so, instead of laying off and scrambling to hire, just shift the focus by season.
I said manage your labour with a plan(s); what I am talking about is monthly paid residential maintenance and protection plans. I personally have coached companies to grow seven times their original size by getting customers on monthly paid subscription-based maintenance plans. Some of these companies are collecting $50,000 or more in monthly fees! Imagine how much work they have during the long nights and short-day periods? Are their trucks idle? I don’t think so.
But don’t let the number scare you into thinking you can’t do it. Keep it in perspective; if I had 500 new “past customers” each requiring a mid-season tune-up, how busy could I keep my truck(s). Now is the time to start.
Make every month a season!
Diversify! Add new product lines within your skill set to create an “in-season” every month. When a major trade show is in town, wander around looking for three new products you can offer your “past customers”.
Water heaters, water softeners, radon testing and mitigation, indoor air quality improvement products, duct cleaning, etc. are all examples of what your customers are currently sourcing this time of year. If you’re in the business, do they know you offer those services? If you have an e-mail data base, take the opportunity to remind them of what you do!
Spread the word
And finally, the business card! If you are an owner or an employee, carry a business card wherever you go and hand them out! I find myself embarrassed when I don’t always have one with me. It is what you do for a living. Be proud of the years of training it took to become the best you can be in your industry. People rarely refuse a business card; sometimes they many ask for an extra for their “buddy”. I like to put a $50 off coupon on the back of my card and tell people it is worth $50 off a “precision tune-up if the new “past customer” signs up for a monthly subscription!
Happy New Year and I hope 2019 will be your year to create “new past customers”!
<1) tune-up jpeg>
A mid-winter tune-up will keep your customers warm and your technicians busy.
<2) furnace tune up special>
A coupon on the back of a business card can be an effective marketing tool.