Use advertising to grow market share.

I've been preaching to HVACR contractors over the years about their need to set aside at least 3% of their gross sales for advertising and to grow their companies. And where should that come from? From raising their prices by 3%, which will have little noticeable effect on their customers. And while I imagine that you can see the wisdom of such advice, the question is, does your company advertise?

Of course, everyone knows that such good advice (to advertise heavily) just applies to contractors, not supply houses. After all, what do you have to advertise? Customers just have to find their way to you, or you send out a salesperson, and/or you mail out flyers. Either way, supply houses are usually sparse advertisers, and traditional wisdom says that the best way to promote business and grow is by running low-priced “specials.” But, do you advertise the reasons why contractors should sell your equipment line and become your dealers - other than offering low-priced specials on condensing units or coils?

It seems funny to me that advertising always drops whenever the economy and sales are down. Yes, you've probably seen this happen with your equipment suppliers recently. Several manufacturers have shown their lack of long-range wisdom by reducing or eliminating their advertising co-op money. What do you think? Is that the type of advice you would give? I hope not!

I guess that the reason why some equipment manufacturers have recently cut their advertising budgets is that they have concluded that advertising brand names doesn't do any good. An awful lot of studies have indicated that. But, is that the whole and accurate picture? I don't think so.

Take for example, Yellow Pages advertising. I know that it's hard to be objective when talking about your dealers, but have you looked at how they are advertising there? And if so, have you looked at how you are advertising there? Oh, I know that you don't want people calling you for sales and service, but take a hard look at the way some of your competitors may be handling it. What am I talking about? Well, while I seldom find supply houses advertising, those that do usually list their equipment product brand names, their own number, and a list of dealers who sell and service those brands. What does this accomplish?

First, when you look in the Yellow Pages for service of a product, don't you check to see who handles that particular brand? I do, and I'm impressed when I find a list of certified dealers. And by the way, what would new customers look for if a friend has recommended your brand?

Second, your offer to list your best dealers with your brand offers a strong incentive to sell your products.

Third, if someone calls your company to ask who you recommend - or even to complain about problems they've had - you win either way.

Fourth, a new potential dealer can easily find your listing and contact you about buying your products.

So, don't follow the poor lead of manufacturers who may not see the value of advertising their equipment brand name, and don't forsake advertising it if they won't chip in their fair share. It's YOUR PRODUCT and failing to advertise it is just failing in business. Also, don't cut your advertising budget when sales are sparse. Remember that advertising shouldn't be something you are concerned with as much when sales are good, it should be something you especially do to grow your market share when your competitors are having a bad year.