Referral marketing: overlooked method generates business

Originally published in Snips Magazine March 2018

You can let things happen or make things happen” is a common saying when it comes to generating revenue.

Many HVAC market companies are just waiting for things to happen and regularly lament that the phone is not ringing. This is not a criticism; it’s just a reality because most have never been shown anything different and don’t know a lot about marketing.

The term “marketing” tends to confuse a lot of people because there are so many options available to promote your business.

Many business owners have never engaged in a formal marketing campaign. Their activities that might qualify as marketing are usually limited to some Facebook posts, an occasional community newspaper ad and of course their Yellow Pages listing. These are passive activities because you’re left waiting and hoping someone reacts. Fortunately, there are more active initiatives you can take to promote your services at little or no cost.

One often overlooked method for generating business is referral marketing. As the name implies, it simply a matter of getting other people to refer your services to their clients. These individuals usually have a certain degree of influence with their clients and often provide them with either a list of suppliers or make specific recommendations. The following is a list of referral sources that you should get to know in your community so you can become their go-to supplier. This is not an exhaustive list, but simply a primer to get you to start thinking about the possibilities.

“Most major cities have thousands of real estate agents.

Even the smallest of towns usually have a dozen or so.”

Real estate agents

Most major cities have thousands of real estate agents. Even the smallest of towns usually have a dozen or so. What they all have in common is that they are dealing with any number of consumers who are either selling or buying a home on a daily basis. Each and every one of these homes has cooling and heating mechanicals that should be checked prior to or as a condition of sale.

Getting in front of these agents can be simply a matter of inviting them to lunch or buying them coffee. Some agencies even allow “lunch and learns” where you can present in front of all the agents at one time for nothing more than the cost of a few sandwiches.

Becoming visible within the real estate community can be a wonderful revenue generator provided you can be responsive to their needs and are dependable.

Restoration companies

These companies are usually called in by home or building insurance companies after a flood, fire or natural disaster. How many of their projects require some kind of remedial or replacement work done on the HVAC equipment? Even if there is no damage to the mechanicals, how many of them should be inspected and cleaned once the renovations are completed?

Pool companies

Pool heaters are included in the installation of new pools in many areas to lengthen the swimming season. Who do they use to run the gas pipe and do the final hookup? Whom do they refer when a customer calls and their heater isn’t working? Why can’t it be you?

Insurance salespeople

Much like real estate agents, these individuals are in touch with an untold number of homeowners and commercial property owners every week. Do some policies require that the mechanical systems are inspected regularly? Some condominium corporations whose insurance companies require all gas furnaces in every unit to be inspected and cleaned every couple of years. When you think how many units there are in a townhouse complex, this could be a lucrative piece of business.

Alternatively, can these agents refer you to a client that has had a claim that required some kind of renovation but not a major restoration? Again, sitting down to a coffee or a meal may be worthwhile.

Property managers

Property managers come in different sizes and shapes. Many are small, one-person operations that are responsible for many single-family dwellings or small apartment complexes on behalf of their owners. These individuals haven’t got time to be chasing after suppliers and prefer to deal with one specialist within each trade. They also want fair pricing and responsive service. With upwards of a couple of dozen units under their jurisdiction, getting to know these individuals can become a wonderful source of ongoing revenue.

Other trades

How about electricians and plumbers? How often are they on a call and overhear customers comment about needing something for their furnace or air conditioner? How about supplying them with a handful of your business cards that they can hand out when necessary? This can be a reciprocal agreement where you also have their cards. This works best when there is some form of finders’ fee involved for every lead. Possibly a percentage of the job or a flat fee for every successful order you get.

Next steps

Get out a pen and paper, laptop or tablet and start a list of everyone you know in the above categories. Chances are you know at least one person, or you know someone who knows someone in each category. Next, pick up the phone and invite them for coffee. Tell them what you do and that you’d like to be considered as one of the referral partners. Then suggest that they test you out before making any commitment.

“You can either let things happen

or make things happen”

Will every one agree? Probably not, but you should keep in touch with them because you’ll never know when their current supplier will drop the ball. Staying in touch increases the odds that you’ll get the call if and when it happens. Start looking for opportunities to create referral sources because for those willing to step out of their comfort zone, the rewards await.

As many of you know, being in business is not a passive undertaking. It requires active engagement on many levels, all the time. Start looking for opportunities to create referral sources because for those willing to step out of their comfort zone, the rewards await. So the choice is yours: you can either let things happen or make things happen.

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