Along time ago, when I had more hair on my head than in my nostrils, people used to actually drink water from the tap.

Normal humans actually consumed water from a faucet and some even made it to adulthood. Some of those same people once rode bicycles without helmets and thought seatbelts were for sissies (forgetting what the word “accident” actually meant).

It was even a joke to mention “selling water” because it was free. (We were clearly starved for good humor, too.)

Now the joke is on us because bottled water is a $4.5 billion market.

Sadly, the plumbing industry — who had long since had whole-house filtration — gave that market away. In fact, filtration is better, cheaper and creates no storage or disposal problem.

And in the marketing world, it’s also better for the plumber because a filter guarantees future service calls.

In other words, bottled water is an inferior solution, but in the marketplace, it beat the living heck out of the industry. There’s a lesson to be learned.

A similar situation faces the HVAC dealer and indoor air quality. For years, HVAC dealers have offered duct cleaning, air filtration, ultraviolet ductwork treatments and a host of wonders that can put mountain-fresh air in our homes. Too bad the industry nearly gift-wrapped this one the makers of vacuums and air purifiers.

They, like the water bottlers, simply decided to market clean air as a good health benefit. And they did it right under the industry’s stuffy noses, with what are considered inferior solutions to the HVAC industry’s best.

All they did was correctly assume that breathing was pretty important and marketed a package of benefits.

Don’t tell me “But their product is no good!” Fine. If your solution is also superior, how’d they outsell your industry by a few hundred million dollars?


Selling the unseen

Selling the unseen risk has never been easy. Ask an insurance agent. For contractors, who are masters of the seen, weighed and measured, it’s even more difficult. Yet it obviously can be done, quite successfully.

Selling healthy air doesn’t require a degree in molecular science. If you’ve heard of asthma, about 20,000,000 Americans wish they hadn’t. A third of those are children who — in case I need to point this out — have parents who are worried sick as well. They’d much prefer to not have collectively spent $2 billion in emergency room visits last year trying to avoid death by asphyxiation. Ask them if clean indoor air is about microbes and formaldehyde and the technicalities of UV treatment.

Nope. It’s about healthy air.

Asthma is just one of hundreds of problems linked to indoor air quality.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on their own website that “Indoor air pollution is one of the Top 5 health risks.” (See

This makes you uniquely positioned to both build your business and provide a potentially life-saving service. But before we get too dramatic, don’t limit your thinking about the clean-air market.

You think families who are directly affected by breathing disorders are the best market for clean air? First ask yourself: Is every person swilling bottled water doing so because they had a nasty bout with lead-laced tap water? Or because they saw weird things floating in their glass? Think maybe they can actually taste the difference between their tap or any brand of their choosing?

Almost certainly not. Yet you’d think tap water was plumbed straight in from the black lagoon. So what are they buying?


Offering solutions

They’re buying problem avoidance.

Can you think of a more valuable benefit? Good IAQ has clearly understood benefits, plus it’s a perfect tie-in to your business. Further, the market timing is excellent.

People will get what they want and they’ll either get it from you or your competition.  For pizza, you go to a pizza place. You want a movie, go to a theater. If people want better quality air and fewer allergy triggers in their home, they’d better call you, not the 800 number for the infomercial product.

I find it sad that you go into so many homes with $499 “room air purifiers” while stacks of superior products are laying at your distributor’s warehouse.

Ever heard the saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”? Which group do you want to be lumped with? Now act accordingly.

What are you selling? Up-sells and add-ons like IAQ are a nice ticket to profitability while competitors are looking at lowering prices to make a living during hard times. They’ve pulled back and must turn their dwindling leads into sales, leading to a further spiral. But when you offer valuable up-sells, you protect margins and increase average transaction ticket.

Too many contractors focus on how much their product or service “costs” homeowners. Others look at “payback.” Yet I much prefer selling against the market comparison.

As an inside strategy from the pages of Hudson, Ink, you’ll notice I do not “sell” DVDs. We offer “digital seminars” instead. Nor do I sell “books,” but we do offer “study courses.” In either case, which is more expensive? I don’t put myself against a $10 or $20 product; I put my products against those in the hundreds or thousands.

For IAQ, don’t ever think of an “$800 UV light” or a “$1,200 filter” but think of it more as an alternative to doctor visits, missed work and school (14 million absences a year according to the EPA) — and show how you can alleviate the pain, inconvenience and cost to your customers. In this way, your solution is far less costly.

Package your IAQ products as tiered price entities, not as “lights and filters.”

Include IAQ in your seasonal preventive maintenance. Share the evidence. With the review, trap some of the polluted nastiness in a sealable bag to show the now-grossed-out homeowner. Or take a picture with a digital camera.

If positioned well, IAQ basically sells itself. You can add dollars, customers and benefits to a very needy market. They’d rather pay you for this anyway; all you have to do is effectively market it.


Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a national marketing firm for HVAC contractors. Snipsreaders can receive the report, “The 4 Secrets to Crushing Your IAQ Competition” and a no-cost subscription to the “Sales & Marketing Insider” e-newsletter by sending a request to or by calling (800) 489-9099. Visit for more marketing reports and articles.