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These “Different Times” – Are Really Not That Different!

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Lessons remembered & learned about how to attract – and retain – customers in any economic climate

It feels like several lifetimes ago that we lived in a very different world from the one we now occupy. Without explicitly defining the precise length of time that has passed, for the discussion to follow, let’s refer to it as “back in 2019;” fair enough? In this “2019” universe we reference – and remain in reverence of – being a consumer of practically any product or service was a relatively smooth & painless process. An endless variety of options existed for going from “I want it” or “I need it” to “I now have it” – or “I will have it within the next two business days.”

When it came to wanting or needing a “service,” the consumers’ shopping & ordering options were only slightly different than buying a “product.” More often than not, the bulk of the “buying/selling” process for most services occurs within a prospective client’s home or business location. It generally required some initiative to be made by the client, with the contact and Request-For-Proposal (RFP) – or, as they prefer to ask: “Are your estimates free?” This process initiated with a phone call or an online “contact” form, time-of-day & situation depending. The time required to get the full deal underway was but a few minutes, with the only restrictions being how soon the next available sales representative or service technician could come for an in-home or business visit.

Of course, this all was a long, long time ago, in that “2019” world we spoke of, wherein you would get invited to come inside of a prospective customers’ home. Deals could be negotiated and closed at any kitchen table, with the customer and their entire family just a few feet away. On the Commercial side, business offices were used for the conducting of business. No social distancing was required. The only masks worn were by the technicians during the few moments they were exposed to hazardous working conditions – a temporary discomfort & inconvenience.

Oh, how much has changed in just a few short months, since that “2019” we mentioned earlier. But really: has it? We hear everyone talking about these “challenging” or “uncertain” times we find ourselves living within. With respect that our current use of these descriptives directly relates to the current Coronavirus Pandemic: Does anyone recall a time without challenge, or anything being for certain?

The answer is, of course, no. Maybe the complications before all of this madness were different. Still, every business owner can recall & describe a veritable laundry list of challenges & uncertainties they’ve faced along the way to where they are now. Many of the biggest challenges facing the HVAC Industry today are the same as they always have been – with a slight variation to the age-old questions. How do I secure new customers (when I can’t meet with them face-to-face) – and how do I keep the ones I already have (when they won’t even open the door for me)?

The keys to what made your business successful before 2020 are quite similar to what they are in 2020 and will be going forward. Some reminders you should bear in mind when you think about attracting & retaining clients, and continue to make your business grow & be profitable, in today’s “challenging & uncertain times:”

Fool me once, shame on you – but fool me twice? Now that we have a taste & feel for what this “new normal” is all about, and for all intents & purposes, will remain routine for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason we can’t adapt to the world as is or will be. Look at your sales & service processes; the more digital you can make your operation, the less you will miss multi-part forms and time spent writing up proposals. Can’t meet with customers face-to-face? Zoom meetings & Facebook chat seem to be working just fine these days. Some things will still require visits and close contacts, but the technology already exists for the rest – no better time to adapt, or prepare yourself to be left behind.

Your prospective clients were – and still are – online: If everyone is “safe at home,” how much value is there to those giant billboards you have out on the highway? Be it now or going forward, your target audience can & will be spending time online. It’s time to start putting more of your hard-earned marketing budget dollars towards where most customers can be found, and embrace the strength of Digital Marketing.

Social Media Advertising works: Every day, someone talks about what they heard or saw on Facebook, or what you-know-who just posted on Twitter… don’t you wish you were the business/topic of discussion – just under a slightly more positive light? Love it or hate it, your prospective customers are using social media channels for multiple hours per day, seven days per week. Think about just how impactful having a more substantial social media presence can be for your business.

Reduce your Prices – or Increase your Value Proposition? Your companies’ selling prices are (hopefully) based on your costs and what you need or wish your margin sizes to be. Did anything about those costs & margins go down since 2019? Of course not, so don’t price your products & services with “sympathy” for those suffering economic hardships. Offering unique savings opportunities is excellent, but like always, be careful not to put yourself in a similar hardship by lowering your prices, or not charging enough. Why not consider increasing your Value Proposition, by including items of small tangible cost to you, but of significant value to a prospective client?

Great Customer Service is STILL GREAT: There’s nothing about doing whatever it takes to satisfy your clients (within reason) that’s changed. They may be slightly needier than before, but most of those additional needs involve showing that you care about their health & overall well-being – just like it always was, but now with more hand sanitizer.

Are you feeling any better about your business’s prospects for the future? You should. Your industry performs a necessary service, so the need for what your company has to offer remains as strong as ever. With the long-term forecast for your chosen profession being significantly better than many others these days, you should focus your energy on the positives that lie ahead rather than the negatives now behind you. Be thankful for what you worked hard to get, and still have, and be ready to roll with the punches like always before.

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