Generating Sales Out of Thin Air


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Is IAQ Marketing a Boom or a Bust?

A long time ago, when I had more hair on my head than in my nostrils, people used to actually drink water from the tap. Seriously, normal humans actually drank tap water, and some even made it to adulthood. Some of those same people once rode bicycles without helmets and thought seat belts were for sissies (forgetting what the word “accident” actually meant).

It was even a joke to mention “selling water,” because it was free. (We were clearly starved for good humor too.)

Now the joke is on us, because bottled water is a $4.5 billion market.

Sadly, the plumbing industry – who had long-since had whole house filtration – gave that market away. In fact, filtration is better, cheaper and creates no storage or disposal problem. And in the marketing world, it’s also better for the plumber because a filter guarantees future service calls.

In other words, bottled water is an inferior solution, but in the marketplace war, it beat the living heck out of the industry. There’s a lesson to be learned.

A similar situation faces the HVAC dealer and IAQ. For years, HVAC dealers have had duct cleaning, air filtration, UV treatment and a host of wonders that can put mountain-fresh air in our homes. Too bad the industry nearly gift-wrapped this one for Sharper Image, Oreck and dozens of healthy indoor air promise-makers.

They, like the water bottlers, simply decided to market clean air as a good health benefit. And they did it right under our stuffy noses, with what are considered inferior solutions to the HVAC industry’s best.

All they did was correctly assume that breathing was pretty important and marketed a package of benefits. Don’t tell me, “But their product is no good!” Fine. If your solution is also superior, how’d they outsell your industry by a few hundred million dollars?

“Selling” the unseen risk has never been easy. Ask an insurance agent. For contractors, who are masters of the seen, weighed and measured, it’s even more difficult. Yet, it quite obviously can be done, quite successfully.

Selling healthy air doesn’t require a degree in molecular science. Have you heard of asthma? About 20,000,000 Americans wish they hadn’t, a third of those are children who – in case I need to point this out – have parents who are worried sick as well. They’d much prefer to not collectively spend $2 billion in Emergency Room visits last year, trying to avoid death by asphyxiation. Ask them if clean indoor air is about microbes and formaldehyde and the technicalities of UV treatment.

Nope, it’s about healthy air. Now consider…

Asthma is just one of hundreds of problems linked to indoor air quality.

This makes you uniquely positioned to both build your business and provide a potentially life-saving service. But before we get too dramatic, don’t limit your thinking about the clean-air market.

You think families who are directly affected by breathing disorders are the best market for clean air? First ask yourself: Is every person swilling bottled water doing so because they had a nasty bout with lead-laced tap water? Or because they saw weird things floating in their glass? Or because they can actually tell the difference in taste from their tap or any brand of their choosing?

Almost certainly not. Yet, you’d think tap water was plumbed straight in from the Black Lagoon. So, what are they buying?

They’re buying problem avoidance. It is not a “thing,” yet it was, is and will remain a sizeable benefit. Kind of like breathing.

Can you think of a more valuable benefit?

Good IAQ has clearly understood benefits, plus it’s a perfect tie-in to your business. Further, the market timing is excellent.

  1. Health concerns aren’t dictated by the stock market. Allergens do not care about the Stock Market. Spring will dump tons of pollen in the noses of the masses, regardless of the value of international currency. Mold didn’t get the memo that Wall Street is important. So please, don’t let your whiny competition make you think these concerns are equated.
  2. People will get what they want, and they’ll either get it from you or your competition. For pizza, you go to a pizza place. You want a movie, go to a theater. If people want better quality air and fewer allergy triggers in their home, they’d better call you, not the 800 number for the infomercial product.

    I find it sad that you go into so many homes with $499 “room air purifiers,” while stacks of superior solutions lay at your distributor’s warehouse. Ever heard the saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem?” Which group do you want to be lumped with? Now act accordingly.

  3. What are you selling? Upsells and add-ons like IAQ are a nice ticket to profitability while competitors are looking at lowering prices. When you offer valuable upsells, you protect margin and increase average transaction ticket.

IAQ Sales Made Easy

Too many contractors focus on how much their product or service “costs” homeowners. Others look at “payback.” Yet, I much prefer selling against the market comparison.

For IAQ, don’t ever think of an “$800 UV light” or “$1,200 filter” but more as an alternative to doctor’s visits, missed work and school (14 million absences a year according to the EPA) – and show how you can alleviate the pain, inconvenience and cost to them. In this way, your solution is far less costly.

“Package” your IAQ solution as tiered price entities, not as “lights and filters.”

And it’s not like you’re reinventing the wheel here. The easy selling solutions already exist:

  • Include IAQ in your spring/summer preventive maintenance. Simply adding as a bullet point on your tune ups, “Indoor Air Quality Review” and/or “Healthy Air Survey.” This simply adds to your lead count for IAQ and your transaction size.
  • Include IAQ in your CSR’s opening questions or appointment confirmation. “And do you want a free Indoor Air Quality Review with your repair call today?” I mean, who say’s ‘no?’ Perhaps someone without lungs?
  • Share the evidence. With the review, either trap some of the polluted nastiness in a sealable bag to show the now grossed out homeowner or catch with a digital camera. Either become, “And this is what you and your family are breathing. No wonder your IAQ survey reflected that you’ve been ill this season.”
  • Release information on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter. So easy to ‘repurpose’ the information you already have for social sites and drive even more traffic and interest.
  • Follow up on qualified leads from above. This is easily done in a phone call, an email series and in your company newsletter.

If positioned well, IAQ basically sells itself. Just decide you want another stream of income, then go for it. You can add dollars, customers and benefits to a very needy market. They’d rather pay you for this anyway; all you have to do is effectively market it. And isn’t that a breath of fresh air?

Adams Hudson
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Posted In: Building Performance, Sales & Marketing

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