Normal.dotm0015553166Penton Media Inc.266388812.00false18 pt18 pt00falsefalsefalse You might be old enough to remember when the catalogs would arrive, and the whole family began looking through them for Christmas presents. I even remember the scissors that my sister and I used to cut out our selections, and the cut outs pinned to my wall as I waited for Santa.

Today, the catalogs have been replaced by the Internet. Take a look at your home, and those of your neighbors, friends, and customers. Everyone — from the six-year-old to the live-in grandparent is on the Internet this time of year.

They find what they want, and those who want to know what it costs, and how it works find a site that gives them that information, too. Those who want to know the process, want to know who is the best, and want to know . . . well, you get the idea: the Internet has become a go-to site for many, if not most shoppers.

This is the time of year to ensure another way you can reach out and continue to build your good name and your expertise in your community through improved website planning.

What about your business? How is your website working for you? How are you using it with your customers to help build your relationship? How are you using it with the homeowner who is looking for your service?

In a research study conducted last July, Decision Analyst asked homeowners who had a recent HVAC service call questions about the call. Half of the calls were to “fix” something, the other half were strictly maintenance.

What we found continues to reinforce the fact that you are not doing all you need to in building your company name and presence. Looking strictly at those homes needing something fixed, we found four of 10 homeowners couldn’t remember the name of the company that fixed their system!

If they don’t remember you, how can they trust you? How can they trust your insights, your professionalism, your knowledge of the products and their installation, and your ethics?

Your website can go a long way in providing customers and prospects looking for you with that kind of information. This is December. Take a few minutes, go to your computer and ask a few questions…

  • Where do I find a furnace to buy?
  • What kind of checks can I do to make sure my furnace is running correctly?
  • Who are the heating contractors in my area?
  • What is a good way to heat and cool my house?

Now…Who came up in the search? Why did they? Did you? Why didn’t you?

What did you see when you looked at the sites that you liked? What did you see that turned you off? How many sites were on-line purchase sites? How many were retail? How many were contractors? What about your site? How did it stack up?

It will soon be 2011. Two years ago, over one fourth of all homeowners were accessing the Internet to find out about the brand of furnace or AC that they might purchase, but only a handful were looking for you.

  • How many of your prospects found you online?
  • How are you building relationships with your customers?
  • Do you tell them about the equipment or do you tell them about their home comfort and what they can do to improve it?
  • Do you tell them about the energy ratings of products or do you tell them the savings, along with the ways you can ease their overall costs with rebates, tax credits etc.?

Relationships, relationships, relationships, are the way to build a successful business for the future, especially in a category your customer has so little interest in knowing about until they need you.

Your website is becoming one of your most valuable tools, or one of your most costly mistakes. This is the time of year to focus on this part of your outreach. This is the time of year to ensure another way you can reach out and continue to build your good name and your expertise in your community through improved website planning.

July 2010 Service Call research conducted by Decision Analyst includes the responses of a national probability sample of 500 homeowners living in the US. Website access numbers reference the American Home Comfort Study fielded August/September 2008.

Garry Upton, of Decision Analyst, Inc., Arlington, TX, shares his interpretation of Decision Analyst’s American Home Comfort Study of homeowners, and explores what customers look for in HVAC contractors. To learn more about this study, or to purchase it, contact Garry at