The monster of neglect is very different from the fire breathing dragon of chaos that may have swept through your office this summer. And he is very different than the yippy, guilt-causing monster terrier of procrastination that hounds many offices in this "just get it done" environment of instantaneous messaging and "only the immediate matters."

The monster of neglect lies quietly in the corner, never breathing fire and never barking to get our attention. Instead, he quietly waits for the slow-down of Fall and Spring that will come. And we, in our mindlessness, breathe a sigh of relief that business has finally returned to "normal." The monster of neglect silently waits to be fed the profits that we gratefully accumulated during the chaos of Summer.

The monster of neglect is elusive, covered by the security of the ringing phone from customers needing our services because of the weather. He knows that our ignoring his presence guarantees his safety — and the profit eating frenzy he'll soon enjoy.

Okay, so maybe I enjoyed one too many monster books or vampire movies this summer, but the analogy still works. The monster of neglect is the marketing we ignore, don't think we need, or don't have time to do. As with every slow-down that typically follows a busy time, we finally remember that someone should turn on the marketing machine.

A classic example of ignoring the monster of neglect seems to happen every summer or certainly every hot summer. This is when you and your employees talk to and see more customers in a concentrated time frame than during any other time of the year. And yet, when you were face-to-face with 50% of the customers your company will see all year, were these customers asked about a needed service or product that could be postponed for that lull season? A product or service that could use the abundance of labor available in the shoulder season?

When we asked several of our contractor customers why they didn't sell more maintenance agreements or book any blown insulation jobs for the fall during the summer, we were told how crazy things were this summer. Contractors responded, "We were pushing our technicians to get to the customer and resolve their immediate problems as quickly as possible and move onto the next customer." Admirable goals for a company. Take care of the customer and do it quickly. But every time the monster of neglect heard this response, his ears perked up and he licked his chops.

Would taking 60 seconds to offer the customer a brochure on the energy savings and tax credits available for blown insulation really have stopped a technician from responding to all his assigned customers on any given day this summer? Would taking 60 seconds to offer the customer a flyer explaining the benefits of duct cleaning and the discount available if the customer pre-scheduled this service for September have caused the technician to miss a service call on an especially busy day?

What about the office staff? As many times as the phone rang on those hot days, could the 10 seconds it takes a dispatcher to say, "Ask your service technician about how you can receive a 15% discount on any necessary repair." really have caused a missed phone call?

Too many times in this industry, we survive the tight cash flow of the first quarter of the year with a loss, recover that loss and move into the black by the end of the third quarter, only to give the majority of the profits back by the end of the year. All due to the neglect of marketing.

Every day, even the busiest day of the year, the first thought when you walk through the door of your business should be: what marketing measure am I taking today to make sure we generate calls and leads for tomorrow, for the next day, and for the next week? What service do I need to remind my dispatcher to mention to customers? What incentive do I need to offer to motivate my employees to be constant marketers? What educational flyers do I need to put in the hands of the technicians for customers? How many follow-up phone calls, letters or e-mails do I want the salesperson to make today for equipment replacement based on expensive repairs or sales calls not closed?

What meeting, school function, net-working group am I attending today to remind my local community about our company's reputation and services? What helpful tip for consumers am I posting on the company Facebook page today? How many e-mails or phone calls am I making to customers about products or services that their service records indicate they would benefit from?

Here's the bottom line: marketing must happen 365 days per year. It's the only way to keep the monster of neglect on a low profit-consuming diet!

Vicki LaPlant has been working with HVAC contractors for the past 30 years as a trainer and consultant. She is expert in helping people work better together for greater success. She is a Contracting Business.com editorial advisory board member and can be reached by email at vicki@vleishvac.com, or by phone at 903/786-6262.