Those of you with large numbers of service agreements should have a great fall season.

You have the opportunity to be face-to-face with your customers. Educate them. Let them make good decisions about their home or office comfort. Be available to provide the products and services they need to ensure that they stay comfortable in their homes and offices.

Some reminders about advertising and marketing:

1. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. The cheapest form is a business card. Make it a habit to distribute 500 to 1,000 per year. People do keep them if they think that they will use your services. I know a contractor’s customer who kept one for 12 years.

2. If someone calls asking about your prices, ask whether you can schedule a service call. Don’t let a potential customer get away.

3. Always wear clothing with the name of your business on it. Potential customers will stop you in supermarkets and malls. These conversations can result in additional service calls and equipment sales simply because you are advertising the name of your business.

When someone stops you, make sure that you ask whether you can send a technician or a salesperson to that person’s home or office. They wouldn’t have stopped you if they didn’t have a need for your services.

4. The appearance of your technicians and trucks is critical. You need a clean truck, even if it doesn’t get noticed. A dirty, dented truck will get noticed and leave a negative impression - especially if customers see it pulling into their driveways.

5. Send out postcards with a fall maintenance theme. This is one of the best ways to get into a home or office. Then your technicians can educate the customer about the need for a checkup or other services.

Tuning up your advertising

Here are some things that you can do to make your postcards and other direct mail pieces better.

Write messages from the reader’s perspective. Answer the question, “Why should I do this?” It should be clear why the recipient of a direct mail piece should take action.

Eliminate words such as “I,” “we” and “us” from marketing copy. Use “you” and “your” instead.

Use active, simple words. No technical jargon. Customers care most about cutting utility bills and getting problems fixed right the first time.

Always include an e-mail or Web site address where your reader can reach you. Some people, especially younger people, would rather reply this way than talk on the telephone. This also gives them an opportunity to talk with you when they want to.

Once you have written the direct mail piece, give it to someone who has no involvement in your business for comments. Do they understand your offer? Does the offer make sense to them? Would they react positively to the piece?

Make the piece memorable. Use colored paper and envelopes. Do something different so when clients receive it in the mail, they remember it.

Address the envelope by hand and put a real stamp on it. In the return address section, don’t include your company’s name. People will more often open hand-addressed, stamped envelopes.

Send mail on Mondays and begin following up on Wednesdays. Don’t mail the pieces so that they will be received on a weekend unless you plan to have someone in the office to answer telephones.

If people get the piece on a Saturday, they are likely to call that Saturday. If they don’t call on a Saturday they are likely to forget about it before Monday. If you put an e-mail address on your direct mail piece, they might use this form of communication instead. However, it is better to have the direct mail piece received during the week.

Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093. Call (800) 511-6844; e-mail ruthking@hvacchannel.tv.