The sad thing about being an HVAC contractor is that if your whole community is miserable from the heat or cold, you’re actually happy. Those are the days you live for. And when those mild days come that everyone really enjoys, you’re actually miserable. Those are the days you wonder how you’re going to pay the mortgage.

Yes, HVAC is seriously seasonal. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There actually is a way to serve more customers in the off-peak season — and, no, you don’t have to change jobs or industries. You’ll keep doing what you’re doing: providing great service and value to your customer. But you’ll focus on providing it again and again to that same customer.

Most contractors stop at the sale. They do nothing to integrate customers into becoming clients. They rarely encourage referrals, even though they know these are free, high-closing sales waiting to happen. They do little or nothing to stay in touch with customers they’d earned. So, the natural result (in fact, the only result) is a loss of customers

With each customer loss, you clearly lose those sales. Plus his “would be” referrals. And his referral’s referrals. (This could go on forever, but you get the point.) This problem is so huge and yet most contractors don’t even realize the massive and recurring losses.

I lecture every chance I get about the importance of customer retention. If you’ve employed some of the most fundamental elements of customer retention, including maintaining regular contact through customer newsletters and other regular mailings, you’ve made a significant investment your relationship with customers. The next step is to get your customers to invest in a relationship with you.

For contractors, a mutual investment between consumer and service provider is accomplished through a maintenance agreement, which includes regular maintenance along with a heightened level of service, discounts, and special treatment or guarantees. That’s what’s in it for the customer. There are serious benefits for you as well.

A maintenance agreement will enable you to position your business above your competitors by:

  • Establishing a more predictable profit center
  • Increasing your ability to keep good employees profitably active in the “off-season”
  • Building and maintaining a retention rate other contractors only dream about
  • Providing yourself a built in mechanism for contacting and visiting your customers multiple times a year, and 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.

So, how’s does that sound? Almost all contractors would agree they want a program that attracts more customers in less time, keeps more customers, and gains more referrals for an absolute minimal amount of effort, right? And wouldn’t it be even more beneficial to do this in the “off-peak” season, when other HVAC contactors are looking at a strangely silent phone?

Do what is not expected, and you stand out immediately. The fact is, most contractors have overlooked the simple, powerful and profitable retention strategy of a maintenance agreement. That means that once you get yours started, you’ve suddenly cut your competitors in half, maybe by three-quarters, maybe to one: You.

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Call 800/489-9099 to ask about the new Service and Maintenance Agreement Power Pack, a turnkey product that provides all the tools contractors need to create their own maintenance agreement. For a free marketing newsletter, contractors can fax their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115 or check out www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.