Remember the simple days when marketing was nothing more than a yellow pages ad and your only competition was other contractors? Those days are gone. Today, marketing is complex and a lot of businesses are coming for your customers. Here’s how to fight back.

The big boxes are after your customers. Utilities are after your customers (though they are sneaky about it). The Internet referral sites are targeting your customers. New Internet selling schemes are coming after your customers, including schemes created by fellow contractors. So much for fellowship.

They all want your customers because they know that whoever owns the customer gets to dictate the terms. These are terms like, “We get the money. You get the work.”

Did you notice? None of them want to do the hard work of actually installing and repairing equipment. It’s beneath them. It’s something for them to sub out to a subcontractor, who they hope will be you. They even want you to pay for the privilege. They want you hooked on their revenue like an addict. Then, they can control you. Then, they can dictate terms you have no choice but to accept because you’re trapped by your dependency.

Think about the economics. The big boxes carve out a couple of square feet in their stores. The utilities find ways to mark up their costs and charge ratepayers (i.e., you, me, and your customers) under the guise of demand side management. The Internet schemes build a website. Meanwhile, you’ve got trucks, tools, techs, and overhead. How much are you getting again?

Fortunately, you have two big advantages. First, you can do the work. You can actually perform repairs and installations, which they can’t. This means you can control the quality of the installation and the quality of the customer experience, while they depend on a subcontractor. Remember, a condensing unit and air handler are no more “products” than a compressor. They are “parts” or components of a system you install at the home. You provide the finished product. They cannot. And if you won’t do it for them, their only option is to find someone desperate enough to work for wages.

Moreover, you can provide maintenance. You can perform value added precision tune-ups. Do it well and you can lock people in with service agreements so they will never consider looking elsewhere for HVAC.

Next, you are local. Oh sure, the big boxes are everywhere and have a local presence, but they are still arms of a national chain. You are truly local and the search engines smile on local. Anything they do online, you can recreate and one up because you are local. You don’t even need to recreate it. There are lots of specialists in the industry who will do it for you.

Local is much more than an SEO advantage. Local means community. You are part of the community. You are visible (assuming your truck ID is good). You are involved (or should be). You can use affinity marketing to build unbreakable bonds within the communities you serve. You can build a local brand with a reputation for standing behind your work without the need to run up against a faceless corporate entity. People hate those.

These advantages may not seem like much, but they are everything. They have stood the test of time. Yes, you must adapt. Yes, your marketing must evolve. You need to learn social media, email marketing, SEO/SEM, reputation management, and content marketing. Fortunately, there are people who will help.

In the meantime, you can still use radio and cable advertising. You can still use direct mail to target with precision or to blanket and area.

You can use your marketing and your service and your brand and your presence to fence in your customers and keep the wolves and foxes out.

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For the tools you need to build a wall around your customer base, visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com. Call 877.262.3341 and ask for the Comanche Marketing Guide to Affinity Marketing. It tells you just how to build an affinity marketing program and the Service Roundtable will send it to you free of charge, no strings attached.