Over the course of 2012, this space will identify opportunities within customers’ homes that you may not have observed in the past. The opportunities are based on a recent homeowner survey conducted by Decision Analyst, Inc.

How important is "the brand" to homeowners?
Whether you identify yourself with the equipment brands you install, or sell yourself as the brand, or never tell the owner the brand, it’s important for you to understand the value of the equipment brand you place with your customers. Once it’s theirs, they associate its operation and the brand name with you. After your technicians leave the home, the brand of equipment remains as their point of reference, and the object of their praise or dissatisfaction. This affects your work in the client’s neighborhood for years to come.

Just as it’s important for your distributor and/or manufacturer to feel good about your competence as their channel partner, it’s imperative that you feel confident the brand you install reflects who you are. Because, after the brand is installed, it —along with the professionalism of your personnel —are the reasons why half of replacement customers feel the sale and installation did or didn’t meet their expectations.

Do customers make brand decisions or not? Our research found that replacement equipment customers do. In fact, in the latest study, they based their ultimate brand decision on what they viewed as three important factors. The question we asked was: "Why did you select the heating and/or air conditioning equipment brand(s) you chose?"

More than half (56%) said they made their decision based on their contractor’s recommendation. They may or may not have known the brand, but their installing contractor recommended the product they installed. While half is good, that means that almost half of all replacement buyers didn’t make their brand decision based on their contractor’s recommendation. Four in 10 said their decision was made based on their feeling that the equipment delivered good value for the money they would spend. Four in 10 said their decision was based on the high efficiency that the brand was known for, and a strong third said it was because the brand was well known.

In our research, the warranty was a decision making factor for one fourth of all replacement homeowners, and “price” was an important decision factor for two in 10. Dependability and a friend’s recommendation are important to 14% of replacement buyers.

Less important to the sale, but still important, were those with a personal belief in the brand based on owning the brand. Those stating personal use of and belief in the brand accounted for one in 10 and seven in 100 homeowner buyers. Third party rating system, financing programs, and appearance were each important to less than 6% of buyers.

Do you use these reasons in your sales presentations and in weekly team meetings? Do you train your staff in the best ways to present the product you wish to sell? One-fifth (22%) of all homeowners will make their brand decision before they call a contractor. That adds to the importance you must place on the products you chose to sell and install.

Most importantly, internal discussions with your company’s personnel about the brands you choose to represent should always emphasize the best and strongest qualities each provides your customers. They should not weigh heavily on the problems you have with the brand, distributor, or manufacturer personnel. As the pastor of a church can sometimes identify a parent’s influence through their children’s comments and actions, so your customers will feel the undercurrent of your belief in the brand you install through each of your employees they come in contact with. Your sales and marketing programs don’t stand a chance if your employees feel you don’t stand behind the brands you tell them they must recommend and/or install.

If you don’t believe in the brand, change brands. If you do believe, make sure you do your best to ensure your employees also believe. It’s a matter of the pride in “the company you keep.”

Decision Analyst’s American Home Comfort Study of homeowners explores what customers look for in HVAC contractors. To learn more about this study, or to purchase it, contact Garry, at gupton@decisionanalyst.com.