“It will be ironic when the person who wrote this article dies from black mold inhalation because they bought an oversized air conditioner online and had some no name schmuck install it incorrectly.” — Mr. Gordon (responding via Facebook)
Two days ago I explained why I feel that direct-to-consumer internet HVAC sales are a good thing for the HVAC industry. Mr. Gordon took issue with my opinion. I appreciate his passion. Not sure I’m ready to die from black mold inhalation just yet but still, I appreciate any man who fights for a just cause. Mr. Gordon: thank you for your remarks and thank you for indirectly defending your quality and expertise. An argument is always simpler when your strategy is to highlight the negative rather than promote the positive. I hope that’s not what you’re doing at the kitchen table.
The internet is a big, vague, inevitable SkyNet that will eventually re-shape everything we know about doing business in our industry. In the meantime, however, forward-looking business owners need to be asking a new, challenging set of questions regarding the effectiveness of their identity. Mr. Gordon, I would appreciate your candid responses to the following:
1. Why should I buy from you rather than a credible competitor who sells the same product for a cheaper price?
2. If I eliminated ‘quality’ or ‘customer service’ or ‘the installation is the most important part of the process’ or ‘I’ve always got my cell phone on’ or any other equally broad claims from your answer then what would the remaining answer truthfully be?
3. If I asked 10 random employees the same question would they provide identical answers? Would your customers?
4. At the kitchen table are you different by degree or different in scarcity? Are you the guy saying “We do basically the same things as our competitors but we do it better!” or are you the guy saying “We ALONE can deliver things you can’t find elsewhere in the market!”
5. Can you share with me 5 things that your company brings to the table that I can’t find anywhere else in your market?
6. Does your “Why Us” statement reflect an understanding of how your customers make a decision to work with your company?
7. If I looked at your entire lead source database, what percentage of your total YTD leads are referrals? In other words, how regularly are your customers telling their friends “You have to work with Mr. Gordon!”?
8. Have you ever relied on cliche to convey your quality? Have you ever said “family owned and operated” “A+ BBB rating” “Drug tested and background checked employees” or anything along those lines?
9. If you say “We do great work” then how do you actually prove it?
10. How does your business accelerate trust?
Mr. Gordon, there’s an amazing opportunity in front of you. Be defensive towards my assertions if you’d like, but I’d prefer to see you spend your time devising a market strategy that’s never been seen before. Customers don’t need you like they think they need you. It sucks. It hurts. I get it. But it’s reality. Hanging your hat on product-based sales or talking points that have been imitated to the point of uselessness creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Do something about it. Fight back with unique, scarce, frictionless service that the internet can ‘t compete with.
Until then I’ll buy a UV light on-line. I hear it helps with mod. I’ll ask my neighbor to show me how to install it. See, he’s in the business.