The economy is uncertain. Some people are focused on doing only the things that they have to do to get by right now.

The economy is uncertain.

Some people are focused on doing only the things that they have to do to get by right now. Others are forging ahead and not allowing the economic climate to affect how they act.

You want to find those who are not afraid of spending money. However, spending money still has to make sense. The likelihood is that people may stop spending a lot of money on things that they think may be discretionary. Or they may spend money on their houses rather than traveling, which would be good for your businesses. Either way now is the time to change your marketing focus.

In uncertain economic times, most people are concentrating on ways to save money. They want to decrease costs. So, your message to them must be how they can save money by using your services. How do your service agreements save them money? How do they lessen the fuel cost increases that most everyone has experienced this winter? All of the information that you give to the customers must focus on things that they are interested in right now. That includes writing smaller checks to utility companies. 

Your service technicians must focus on saving money. Sure, the other benefits of replacing systems and service agreements still apply. However, the customer is likely to disregard them now and not use them as a reason to buy simply because they are focused on decreasing costs.

So, how do you prepare in this economic climate?

Checkups and service agreements.All marketing pieces should focus on saving on utility costs. When performing spring checks, technicians should focus on the savings that the customer can experience with a service agreement in place.

Replacement sales.If a technician comes across an old system that really should be replaced, the decrease in energy costs should be prominent in discussions with the customer. Marketing pieces should focus on saving energy costs. People are still buying. They might not be buying the most efficient equipment; however, they still are buying.

Have a letter that offers to buy back last year’s repair bill - up to a certain dollar amount - when clients purchase new, high-efficiency systems. They probably aren’t aware of how much they spent last year in repairs. If it was several hundred dollars, they probably don’t want to spend that much again this year. This is a method that you can use to get their attention since most people are focused on saving money. A huge, surprise repair bill is not what they are looking for.

Use rebates. Participate in a manufacturer’s rebate program or use a fuel or grocery rebate program. People are getting tangible cash, food or fuel when they use your company. Email me for the one I recommend.

Start a referral program.It can be subtle or overt. However, let customers know that you appreciate referrals to their friends and business colleagues. Some will refer you simply because they want to do it. Others will give referrals because you give them an incentive.

One contractor mentioned to everyone that if homeowners gave him referrals he would send them a check for $50 when he got an appointment. He did not require the system be sold - only that he got the appointment.

Within a month, simply mentioning this to customers resulted in four additional system sales. One client referred eight customers to him within six months. One of the systems that he sold was a lot higher in price than other bids. He got the sale because it was a referral and the customer trusted the referral source, even though his price was higher. Fifty dollars is a cheap lead cost and it is the best source of referrals. If you don’t want to use cash incentives, use incentives for your business. These can be an extension of a service agreement, money off a service call or a free energy survey. The important thing to do is to ask.

Get your technicians ready.Remind them that whenever they go to a customer’s home or office, they should record everything that is wrong with the HVAC system. Good technicians always keep their eyes open for other legitimate work. They should write the findings on the service tickets.

Make a copy of all service tickets where work is recommended but not completed. Put it in a tickler file. When work slows down, the dispatcher can pull the file and start making telephone calls. Many customers have forgotten and the majority of them will approve the work on the telephone.

Continue to market despite the economy. The worst thing you could do is complain that the telephone is not ringing and sit back to wait for it to ring. Be proactive. It is even more important to keep your name in front of customers and potential customers. Remind them that you can help save them money. This can be accomplished through e-mail, direct mail or other advertising. This way you have a better chance that they will remember you when they need you for repairs or to help them write smaller checks to their utility company.

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