I've been working with contractors for a long time — many of whom have had awe-inspiring success. Yet, I've met quite a few who have not. It's my observation that the majority in the second group tend to fall for the biggest bugaboo in business: missed opportunity.

Typically, the first thing this group does is pour their marketing money into the Yellow Pages. Sure, the Yellow Pages is a source to millions in consumer traffic and purchases every day, but unfortunately, that doesn't mean this traffic will translate into sales success for you. The sad news is that only 13.4% of HVAC sales result from this significant expenditure. Even sadder, nearly 75% of contractors spend more than half their marketing budgets in the Yellow Pages.

One of the pitfalls of Yellow Pages-focused marketing is that Yellow Pages leads tend to be price shoppers. And make no mistake: if you're marketing for price shoppers, you're marketing for trouble. That puts your company in the dangerous position of chasing the lowest prices in town, and you could very well find yourself puzzling over a strange disconnect — losing money while work is overflowing.

Success in HVAC sales rests on selling value — not equipment, not price breaks, not even your charming smile. Never present the price apart from presenting the value of doing business with you and your company. And never, ever quote a price over the phone to a Yellow Pages caller!

Perhaps the BIGGEST warning sign that you've taken membership in the "missed opportunity" brigade is this: you don't try to keep the customers you've got.

The fact is, your current customers are the most effective path to new business — from their own service and installation needs, as well as from their referrals. They should be viewed differently from other prospects, and they should be contacted differently and more often. Anything less and you're missing a tremendous opportunity.

Now, if there were one single program that could help with everything we've discussed so far, would you be interested? If one single program can help you become less Yellow Pages dependent, make it easier to sell value, and reinforce your relationship with current customers, wouldn't you say "tell me more!"

Just such an opportunity is indeed knocking, my friend, and you'll find it in maintenance agreements. When you offer maintenance agreements to your customers, you position your business above your competitors by:

  • Creating a more predictable profit center, where income comes in year-round.
  • Building and maintaining a customer retention rate other contractors only dream about.
  • Providing yourself a "built in" mechanism for contacting and visiting your customers multiple times a year — keeping your name foremost in their minds for future sales and referrals.
  • Developing an ever-expanding customer base that funds itself and pays huge profits — which is much better than paying for "acquisition" customers who are less loyal and price-shop more often.
  • Increasing your ability to keep good employees profitably active in the off-season.

A maintenance agreement takes your technicians into your customer's homes two times a year for a full system evaluation, for which you'll be paid. As an additional benefit, you're reminding them of your professionalism and value while increasing loyalty.

Maintenance agreements strengthen a contracting company's bottom line, typically adding thousands of dollars of predictable profit. By providing year-round work and cash flow, they are very important for a company's financial health.

Imagine being able to start the year knowing you've got appreciative, high-value customers with a pre-paid service that only needs scheduling. Now, that's an opportunity that shouldn't be missed!

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson Ink, a contractor marketing firm. He'll be conducting a marketing seminar a Comfortech 2007 on September 26-29 in St. Louis. His company offers turn-key marketing solutions for contractors for lead generation, image, branding, publishes newsletters and offers Monthly Marketing Coaching. Call 800/489-9099, or fax to 334/262-1115 to order the free 12-page report, "The Perfect HVAC Profit System” about Maintenance Agreements, or visitwww.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.