A long time ago, back when I had more hair on my head than in my nostrils, people used to actually drink water from the tap. Weird, I know. “Selling” water was some sort of joke, because water was free. Now, it’s a $4.5 billion market.

Too bad the plumbing industry mostly gave that one away. Whole house filtration is not only cheaper, creates no storage nor disposal problem, is significantly better for the environment (eliminating billions of plastic bottles and trash), it guaranteed future visits by the plumber.

A long time ago, back when I was 6-foot-5 (no, really), we all loved the smell of a freshly painted home or that new car smell. And they were both free, like all air! Now we know these smells are the equivalent of snorting the baseboard dust at Chernobyl. Further, we know that off-gassing of man-made items in our homes, the spewing of bacteria and mold spores, compliments of our duct systems, is an extreme health risk.

Too bad the HVAC industry mostly gift-wrapped this one for Sharper Image, Oreck, and dozens of healthy indoor air promise-makers. All they did was figure that breathing was pretty important, and marketed a package of benefits. Don’t tell me “But their product is no good!” Fine. If your solution is superior, how’d they outsell your industry by a few hundred million dollars?

Selling the unseen risk has never been easy. Ask an insurance agent. For contractors, who are masters of the seen, weighed, and measured, it’s even more difficult. Yet it quite obviously can be done ... quite successfully.

Just One Fraction of the Market
Selling healthy air doesn’t require a degree in molecular science. Ever heard of asthma? Well, 20 million Americans wish they hadn’t. A full third of those are children who — in case I need to point this out — have parents who are worried sick as well. They’d much preferred to not collectively have spent $2 billion in emergency room visits last year trying to avoid death by asphyxiation. Ask them if clean indoor air is about microbes and formaldehyde, and the technicalities of UV treatment.

Nope, it’s about clean air.

Asthma is just one of hundreds of problems linked to indoor air quality (IAQ). And as a heating and cooling professional that makes you uniquely positioned to both build your business and provide a truly beneficial and potentially life-saving service. Last time I checked, it’s a good idea to have living customers.

Before we get too dramatic, consider this: You think families who are directly affected by breathing disorders are the biggest market for clean air?

Don’t answer before asking yourself: Is every person swilling bottled water doing so because they had a nasty bout with lead-laced tap water? Or because they saw weird things floating in their glass? Or because they can really tell the difference in taste from their tap, or any brand of their choosing? Almost certainly not, yet you’d think tap water was plumbed straight in from the Black Lagoon. So what are they buying?

They’re buying problem avoidance. It’s not a “thing,” yet it was, is, and will remain a sizeable benefit. Kind of like breathing.

Can you think of a more valuable benefit?

Good IAQ has clearly understood benefits, plus it’s a perfect tie-in to your business. Further, the market timing is excellent:

1. Recession and a slow economy don’t cure health concerns. Allergens don’t care about the stock market. Spring will dump tons of pollen in the noses of sub-prime mortgage holders and lenders alike. Mold didn’t get the memo that housing starts are down. So please, don’t let the economy’s condition or your whiny competition make you think these concerns are equated.

A parent might not spring for the latest video game system during a recession, but they’ll almost certainly invest in the safety and security of their child. How far would you go to bring your child relief if you knew you could ease their suffering even a little? My point exactly.

2. People will get what they want, and they’ll either get it from you or your competition. For pizza, you go to a pizza place. You want a movie, go to a theater. If people want better quality air and fewer allergy triggers in their home, they’d better call you, not the 800 number for the infomercial product.

I find it sad that you go into so many homes that have $499 “room air purifiers” while stacks of superior solutions lay at your distributor’s warehouse. Ever heard the saying “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”? Which group do you want to be lumped with? Now act accordingly.

3. What are you selling? Upsells and add-ons like IAQ are a nice ticket to profitability while competitors are looking at lowering prices to make a living during the recession. They’ve pulled back and must turn their dwindling leads into sales, leading to a further spiral. But when you offer valuable upsells, you protect margin and increase average transaction ticket.

IAQ Sales Made Easy
Too many contractors focus on how much their product or service “costs” homeowners. Others look at “payback.” Yet I much prefer selling against the market comparison.

For IAQ, don’t ever think of a “$800 UV light” or “$1200 filter” but more as an alternative to what not having this costs. Such as doctors visits, missed work and school (14 million absences a year according to the EPA), and show how you can alleviate the pain, inconvenience, and cost to the homeowner. In this way, your solution is far less costly.

And it’s not like you’re reinventing the wheel here. The solutions already exist:

• Whole house humidifying/ dehumidifying systems. Certain environments make it easier for germs, bacteria, and viruses to proliferate. Too moist, and mold or mites pose a problem. Too dry, and the natural mucus that protects against irritants dries and becomes ineffective. Make humidity checks part of your IAQ screening process and help stop problems before they start.

• Air filtration systems. Systems exist that can effectively remove 99.97% of small particle pollutants. That means mold, pet dander, and allergens are almost completely eliminated and removed from the home air supply. Think that’s something an asthma or allergy sufferer might want to know is available?

• UV light purification. UV lights are able to break apart molecular binds and even kill viruses. In fact, UV lights are so effective that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) recommends them in homeless shelters to prevent the spread of illnesses, including tuberculosis.

If positioned well, IAQ basically sells itself. Include your IAQ message in your newsletter, in your spring tune-up postcards, and in press releases to a hungry features editor who’s sick of the same old “spring allergy” stories.

Just decide you want and deserve another stream of income, then go for it. You can add dollars, customers, and benefits to a very needy market. They’d rather pay you for this anyway; all you have to do is effectively market it. And isn’t that a breath of fresh air?

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors and author of the newly published Contractor Marketing Secrets. Call 800/489-9099 or visit www.hudsonink.com for additional information.