As an HVACR contractor, you face major challenges in differentiating yourself from your competition and making yourself recognizable to your customers and prospects. Historically, HVAC contractors have done a poor job of communicating how they’re different from their competition. More importantly, they haven’t explained why their customers should care. That’s why the commitment of your organization--from the top down--to a strong brand strategy and brand message is crucial.

What will a strong brand strategy do for you? For one thing, it will focus your employees and all of your efforts around a common theme. Your brand promise should stand for something you deliver to customers every day, with every project and every step of their experience with you. Second, your brand promise, if it is appealing to your customers, will separate you from the competition in a real and meaningful way. Third, if you focus on developing the right brand message, you’ll avoid labeling by your customer base. Bad brand perception can be devastating. Just think of how tough it is to compete once you’ve been branded as “the cheap guys” or “the one-and-done guys” or “the guys who don’t call back.”

Instead of letting your customers (and your competition) brand you, take the bull by the horns and develop your own brand message. Here’s my recommendation: Brand your company as “the energy-saving expert.” There are important reasons why an HVACR contractor who positions himself as the energy-saving and money-saving expert in his market will win.

1. The future is now. Our culture is shifting as the “green movement” takes hold—and nothing will stop the shift. Our lexicon is changing too. Terms like “going green” and “green washing” are part of our regular dialogue. This is a long-term cultural shift, and if your company doesn’t fit into this new reality, you’ll be on the outside looking in. Hundreds of companies, across the broad spectrum of business, won’t survive because they couldn’t embrace the movement. But there’s a world of opportunity waiting for companies that brand themselves properly.

2. Government incentives sweeten the pot. Our government is playing a major role in solidifying the cultural shift with incentives for Americans to replace their home comfort systems and reduce their energy footprint. That’s really great news for you. By themselves, tax credits and rebates alone are a strong stimulus for you to position your company as the energy-saving expert in your market. If you brand yourself properly and communicate that brand promise, you’ll pick up a lot of work. You will not only retain your existing customers but attract new ones in the process. And, remember, if you don’t take the dominant position in your market as “the go-to guys for saving energy and money,” one of your competitors will.

3. You’ve been green all along—but your customers don’t realize it. Think about it. You’ve probably been recommending higher-efficiency upgrades since you’ve been in business, and you know greater efficiency means less waste and overall energy saving. You're already “green.” It’s just that you haven’t seen yourself that way and neither have your customers. If you do, the rewards can be substantial. If you don’t, one of your competitors will, and you’ll be chasing the leader instead of being the leader.

In the next article, I’ll cover some of the internal steps HVAC contractors need to take so they can deliver on their brand promise of being their market’s energy-saving experts.


Blaine Fox, Vice President of Warm Thoughts Communications, is a recognized expert on the residential mechanical services industry. He is currently working with some of the nation’s leading HVAC contractors to improve their marketing, fine-tune their operations and grow bottom-line profits. Previously, Blaine was general manager of ServiceMark, a $32 million HVAC contractor with more than 25,000 service agreement customers. Blaine oversaw 160 field employees, 30 install crews, 12 sales people and a call center that handled 140,000 calls per year. Blaine is a sought-after speaker, and will be presenting at Comfortech 2009. He is also a frequent contributor to HVAC industry trade publications. He can be reached at bfox@warmthoughts.com