Emerson's White-Rodgers division combined business with pleasure in a unique way for Texas-based HVAC contractors and distributors, June 25-26, by pairing up product education with NASCAR racing. The weekend began with a Friday night dinner and educational session that provided a review of White-Rodgers' new sales support program. The next day, guests had the opportunity to drive eight thrilling laps on the Texas Motor Speedway.

"The customer support program and racing weekend is all about establishing relationships," says Tim Burke, White-Rodgers strategic marketing manager. "If we don't get to know our contractors and they don't get to know us, there's no reason to buy. We're trying to develop these relationships to see if we can help each other. A lot of people don't know who Emerson is; that it's White-Rodgers, it's Copeland, it's Emerson Motors, Emerson Flow Controls, Browning belts, and more. We're reaching out more with the Emerson name."

Emerson sponsored six of these events over the spring and summer at U.S. cities with nearby NASCAR tracks.

During the educational session, Ken Perkins, White-Rodgers director of contractor support, explained the new features of the sales support program, which has been designed to help HVAC contractors grow their businesses. The support program includes:

  • support for the traditional trade distribution channel;
  • improved products based on contractor feedback;
  • a private label branding program, with reduced minimum purchase requirements to obtain free branding;
  • customized literature for home comfort topics, such as zoning, thermostats, media filters or other topics;
  • end-user support for residential customers, with an 800 number for customers who may need help in programming their thermostat;
  • universal products — including the Rescue® EcoTech® motor — to help HVAC contractors improve system operational efficiency.

In a tough economy and a competitive business environment, Emerson has used the racing weekends to help communicate one of its missions: to bring contractors and distributors together for each other’s mutual benefit, and to support the traditional, two-step distribution channel.

"Emerson does a very good job of representing their products at the distribution level, as far as educating us and teaching us how to inform our contractors about their products," says Chris Brasher, Dallas/Fort Worth regional manager for Insco Distributing, Inc., San Antonio, TX.

"We see them very frequently. They're very accessible. If I pick up the phone, I'll get my questions answered right away, 90% of the time," Brasher says.

"Contractors need quality products that they can sell, that are affordable, and that bring value to the homeowner. And, they want the support to back those products up, in terms of product reliability, training, and marketing."

HVAC legend Larry Taylor, team leader of AirRite Air Conditioning Company, Fort Worth, TX, is in his 11th year of installing White-Rodgers and other Emerson products.

"They grow and improve their educational programs every year. Their dedication to the contracting community is outstanding," Taylor says. "The current thermostat series is just amazing. We get very few complaints from customers. They work and they're versatile."

Taylor appreciates the name recognition that comes with private labeling a smaller system component in reasonable quantities.

"By labeling the thermostat in a professional manner, the homeowner can look at the thermostat, and say they have "an AirRite system." And, many visitors to the home will also see our name on the thermostat. That's important in our market, where 60% of our new business comes from referrals. If we can do something in the house in a tasteful manner to emphasize our name, that’s helpful."

Taylor believes the contractor/distributor relationship is getting stronger, especially with the growth of "whole house" performance contracting. For that to work, he says, contractors rely on quality distributors for advice and access to a variety of components which have to be used in challenging home comfort situations.

"The HVAC contractor has to take a multitude of components and processes, and put them all together effectively," Taylor says. "It used to be thought that simply by changing the box, and putting in an ECM fan motor, you could solve the problem, but that only helps in minimal situations. You've also got to deal with duct leakage, or undersized ducts and other whole house related issues.

"Some of these duct sizing problems are instances where you can use a Rescue® motor in an existing furnace or air handler that you're not changing out, or an ECM-type motor as a repair component. These will assist in solving some problems, such as higher static pressure in duct systems, at a minimal cost to the homeowner. However, new equipment or components don't solve bad duct design or bad system design," Taylor says.

The Dallas NASCAR racing event was held at the Richard Petty Driving Experience® at Texas Motor Speedway. Following a training and safety session, guests suited up and climbed into bona-fide NASCAR vehicles, for eight laps behind a pace car at high speeds.

The Fastest Driver Award went to James Fulton, sales manager, A/C Supply, Fort Worth. He averaged 140 mph for his eight laps around the track. http://bit.ly/emersonproducts — Terry McIver