Each month Contracting Business Magazine presents a free business tool you can download from the magazine’s website. Below you will find half a dozen you might have missed from past issues. Read the description and click the links to any you want to download.

Business Card Marketing

Some of the best ideas are the simplest. This eye-catching sticker, offering a $25 discount, is designed to be printed on Avery 5260 labels. Stick it on the back of your business card. Give them to customers, acquaintances, service club members, clerks at stores you patronize, chamber of commerce members, or just leave them laying around.

You can download an Adobe Acrobat PDF version from Contracting Business at the link below. Service Roundtable members can download an easily customizable version at www.ServiceRoundtable.com.

Download: click here for PDF.

Lead Tracking

What is the most effective marketing for your company? What is the most cost effective? We think we know, but without tracking we are really guessing.

Instruct your call takers to collect the source of leads from new customers and the source of your phone number for existing customers. With new customers, it's important for the call taker to probe beyond "the yellow pages." Often, we give the yellow pages undue credit because people use it to look up our number because other marketing drove the prospect to seek our number.

With existing customers it’s important to capture the customer's reference source for our phone number. This helps track which of our customer retention tools is most effective.

The call taker should keep track of leads with simple tick marks. At the end of the week, transfer the paper log to the computer and add the marketing expenditures by lead type to calculate the cost per lead. At the end of the month, transfer the weekly logs to the monthly log.

You can download an Adobe Acrobat PDF version from Contracting Business at the link below. Service Roundtable members can download an easily customizable version for Microsoft Excel at www.ServiceRoundtable.com.

Download: click here for weekly tracking PDF.

Download:click here for monthly tracking PDF.

Furnace Repair Sticker

Callbacks are opportunities to offer better options to your customers.

When performing a furnace repair, leave the door open for replacing the old furnace by placing one of these stickers on the invoice. If there's a problem with the furnace before the date filled in on the coupon, your tech can offer to rebate 100% of the repair dollars spent on the repair.

This coupon serves a couple of sales functions:

• It allows the customer to say 'yes' to a repair that may be more costly than they expected. They know that their money won't be wasted if the repair proves to be an unsatisfactory choice.

• It helps to convert a potential callback into a replacement. If you have to make a warranty trip anyway, make it an upgrade trip instead.

Your technician should always offer the upgrade option to their customers. If the customer chooses a repair instead, place this sticker on the invoice and circle the repair, including its price, so that the customer will know exactly which repair is referred to in the offer.

In the blank space, the technician should enter an expiration date - Perhaps 3 months from the repair date.

Your technician can choose whether or not to offer the coupon based upon the complications of the repair. Replacing a thermocouple or thermostat are reasonable repairs for this coupon. For expensive repairs such as replacing an O.E.M gas control valve, your tech should be sure to thoroughly explain the advantage of replacing the furnace instead of spending money on a high priced repair of an old furnace.

You can download a page of the stickers as an Adobe Portable Document File (pdf) from the Contracting Business website on the link below. Service Roundtable members can download an easily customizable version at www.ServiceRoundtable.com.

Download: click here for PDF.

Air Conditioning Repair Sticker

This sticker is another repair "bounce back." The sticker includes a repair bounce back offer, where you give credit for the cost of a repair if the homeowner elects to replace the air conditioner by a date you set, such as 90 days following the repair date.

It should be placed on the disconnect box, breaker box, or furnace.

If you want to print the stickers yourself, the sticker is designed for Avery 5163 labels. You can download a page of the stickers as an Adobe Portable Document File (pdf) from the Contracting Business website on the link below. Service Roundtable members can download an easily customizable version at www.ServiceRoundtable.com.

Download: click here for PDF.

With the increased use of R410a refrigerant, your technicians need to be very aware when adding refrigerant to an unfamiliar system. It's easy to make the mistake of adding R22 to a R410a system or vice versa. There's no obvious way to tell them apart-until now.

Now you can tag any system you work on with a simple label that attaches to the charging port on the condensing unit or heat pump. This color-coded tag makes it simple for someone to quickly recognize what type of refrigerant the system uses. Just affix it to every system you work on with a small zip cable tie and you'll not only be attaching a useful service reminder, you'll be branding that unit with your name and contact information as well.

Of course this creates an opportunity to give the customer some unexpected added value. Make sure the technician builds up that value before 'giving away' your tags. Your customer should understand the issues that could arise if someone mistakenly adds the wrong refrigerant and how easy it is to make that mistake. Your technician can then 'waive' the fee he would normally collect for applying these exclusive Color-coded Weather-Resistant HVAC System Refrigerant Charging Port Identification Tags (better known as the CCWRHVACSRCPIT's). Your customer will love you for it.

Insert your company name and contact information on the back of the tags. You can have a printer create these for you if you'd rather not do it yourself. If you want to create the tags yourself and you don't have a laminator, here's one that should work: GBC Heatseal H110 Photo and Badge Laminator (available at OfficeMax.com for around $70.

It accepts paper up to 4 ½-in. wide, so just print the labels and cut the page in half long way, and add your company information on the back. Run it through the laminator, punch a hole in one end and send them out to your technicians.

Here's a link to the laminator.

Be sure to download Adobe Portable Document Files (pdfs) for both sets of tags-R22 and R410a from the Contracting Business website at the links below. Service Roundtable members can download an easily customizable version where they can easily print company information on the back at www.ServiceRoundtable.com.

Download: click here for R22 PDF.

Download: click here for R410A PDF.

Recovery Certificate

Whenever you pump down a system, use these cards to position your company as environmentally responsible (and consumers as environmentally responsible because they use you). The card certifies that the refrigerant was captured and notes that your technicians are certified to handle refrigerants through EPA testing.

Remember, consumers know very little about the HVAC industry. Many are not aware of the requirement that technicians receive certification to handle refrigerants or that refrigerants are captured. People may recall hearing something, but not necessarily what. As the first company to state a claim as the environmentally responsible HVAC company, you own that position, one company at a time.

Aside from the 'feel good' aspect of the card, it reinforces the need for annual maintenance and plants seeds for the replacement of R-22 systems with R-410a and alert homeowners that all new systems will use R-410a, starting in 2010.

The cards print four to a page and can be downloaded as Adobe Portable Document Files (pdfs) from the Contracting Business website at the link below. Service Roundtable members can download fully customizable versions with blanks for company name, logo, website, and other contact information from the Service Roundtable website at www.ServiceRoundtable.com.

Download: click here for PDF.

Driving

You're in the service business. Rapid response is your hallmark. Yet, attempting to make too rapid of a response can be costly. It costs when your technicians get tickets and when they are involved in accidents. According to Csaba Csere, editor of Car and Driver magazine, 30% of accidents are caused by speeding.

When your technicians race from job to job, they aren't really saving much time. If they can manage to increase their average travel speed from 30 MPH to 40 MPH, which is no easy feat in city traffic, they will save a whopping 10 minutes if they travel 20 miles. Ten minutes is nothing to sneeze at, but the way to increase efficiency is not from speeding, it's from better route planning, better management of truck stock, and so on.

The cost of speeding is not just the cost of vehicle repairs when there's an accident; it also includes the spike to your insurance premiums and the opportunity cost of a vehicle being out of commission.

The greatest cost from speeding and poor driving is impossible to quantify. It's also far more likely to strike than an accident. It's the cost of the impression your technician makes on every driver who observes poor driving courtesy. If the technician is rude on the road, consumers take that as a proxy that the technician is likely to be rude in the home.

So how do you convince technicians to slow down and maintain a reasonable speed? This handout should help. It asks technicians if they would change their driving behavior if their picture, name, and number were on the side of the truck, and then makes the point that they are on the truck since the technician is the company when he's behind the wheel.

The piece goes on to point out the minimum time savings that occurs from applying a heavy foot (all based on the simply formula that time = rate / distance). Use this as part of a regular service meeting and post a copy on a bulletin board to serve as a reminder. Give a copy to new hires so they understand courteous driving is an expectation of your company.

Download an Adobe Portable Document Files (pdfs) from the Contracting Business website at the link below. Service Roundtable members can download fully customizable versions at www.ServiceRoundtable.com.

Download: click here for PDF.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable. Each business tool discussed above, first appeared on the Service Roundtable, where new sales, marketing, training, and management tools are introduced every week. Give the Service Roundtable at try at www.ServiceRoundtable.com. Membership is only $50 a month, includes access to millions of dollars worth of downloadable, customizable business tools, free membership in the Roundtable Rewards buying group that includes thousands of dollars of rebates (e.g., up to 3% of parts purchases, 5% on major manufacturer equipment purchases, etc.), and access to the HVAC Roundtable where you can tap into tens of thousands of years of contractor and consultant business experience with the click of a mouse. Try it for a month. If you don’t like it, quit. There’s no obligation to stay.