American comedian and singer Joe E. Lewis said, “For my New Year's resolution, I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in 14 days I lost two weeks.”

If this is what happens to your new year's resolutions, you're no different than the majority of us. So, how can a new year — a new decade — be different? Begin with an awareness of trends and analyze how to use them to strengthen your company.

2010 Trends and What They Mean for HVAC. Within the first few months of this year, women will become the majority of the American workforce crossing over the 50% threshold. Use this new decade to consider how women can more effectively be used in your work force — not only in the traditional roles, but as service technicians, installation and service managers, and salespeople too. We have a shortage of quality technicians in this industry. Technically minded women may be the solution.

In that light, is your company woman friendly? Consider health benefits, child care, flex hours, and being a sexual harassment-free environment.

Buycotting is the opposite of a boycott. A buycott means that consumers make an effort to support and buy from companies who consciously try to protect the environment and follow positive social policies. Two of the best marketing dealers in this industry — Frank Harrison, General Air Conditioning and Heating, and Benson Green, Benson's Heating and Air Conditioning — communicate to customers through newsletters and websites how they support community and social issues. Both list the charities they contribute to on their websites.

Harrison ran a cause marketing campaign in October, 2009 based on making a contribution to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. He advertised maintenance specials where a contribution to the foundation was made by General Air if the consumer purchased a maintenance service call.

Green tells customers about his company's recycling program for old equipment, cardboard, and paper. He also tells how service vehicles are dispatched by geographic location to minimize travel time, inefficient vehicles have been replaced, tool boxes and inventory have been lightened as a fuel saving measure, and idling time for trucks has been significantly reduced. Benson is not only reducing the company's carbon footprint, but telling his customers about it.

Both of these companies are candidates for buycotting in the mind of the consumer.

Energy Dieting. One item of good news from the “great recession” has been the focus on reducing energy costs at both the commercial and residential level. The Federal tax credit for energy efficient products continues through 2010. But more importantly, this recession won't be forgotten easily; consumers will continue to be interested in buying energy savings.

As an intelligent marketer, help customers realize that energy dieting isn't only about improving equipment efficiency, but putting their entire home or building on an energy diet by improving insulation, repairing or replacing duct work, and considering ductless systems.

Super Value. The recession has had another lasting effect on consumers: They're looking for super value. Value has always been a consumer consideration, but super value means consumers are now totally focused and won't buy unless they believe they're receiving absolutely the most bang for their money.

Super value doesn't necessarily dictate a “$100 discount this week only” campaign. Instead, show consumers if they buy a certain package of efficient equipment and 10-in. (R-30) of insulation, they'll also receive a two-year maintenance check, an increase of insulation to 15-in. (R-40), and an upgraded filter. Always make the package price much lower than if each of the products were purchased separately.

Visual Fluency. Visual fluency is a new term for an old concept. Consumers are somewhat weary of how much information, particularly in word form, comes at them. This trend definitely has significance for websites and sales presentations:

USE PICTURES! USE GRAPHICS (And yes, I'm shouting in print)! The biggest marketing mistake many contractors make is using far too many words in their communications. The purpose of marketing is to make the customer interested in learning more about your products and services. Do that with pictures of how miserable the consumer is without your products. Do that with graphics showing how a heating and air conditioning system operates.

Vicki LaPlant has been working with HVAC contractors for the past 30 years as a trainer and consultant. She is an expert in helping people work better together for greater success. She serves on the Contracting Business.com magazine editorial advisory board and can be reached by email at vicki@vleishvac.com, or by phone at 903/786-6262. The phrases: “buycotting, energy dieting, and visual fluency” come from JWT Intelligence, a company that specializes in consumer research.