Marketing is not just selling; it is managing the message.

Today’s radiant contractors in-the-know understand the difference between marketing and selling.

While selling is a tool used to expose customers to your product or service with an end result of volume, marketing is a proactive concept within your company to make sure any business decision you make has been filtered through the impact it will have on customers.

In short, marketing is a management plan.

In his keynote address to this year’s Radiant Panel Association REX attendees, Dan Holohan highlighted the importance of having a marketing plan in the radiant business and how a customer really feels about radiant heat. With his humor prowess, Holohan helped his listeners “remove the wedgie” sometimes felt by radiant contractors when it comes to promoting their products and services.

Young Concept

Heat is still an infant, says Holohan. His parents -- and probably yours, too -- are the first generation to expect central heat. But the systems they remember growing up in were also first-generation systems. They were unbalanced. They broke down. They were loud, inefficient and dirty.

Today’s homeowners don’t just demand heat, they demand economy, cleanliness and comfort -- all of which radiant heat supplies.

“You need to market the end result; sell the feeling,” Holohan explains. “Show them how it’s going to be after you’re done with them.”

To illustrate his point, Holohan showed the room a brochure created in the 1930s by an oil burner manufacturer. Up until that point, coal had been the fuel of choice (actually, no choice), and the marketing concept put forth by the new kid on the block -- oil -- revolutionized the way people viewed their heating options.

“It shows the ‘whole heart’s desire,’” Holohan points out. “It shows ease. It shows comfort. It shows cleanliness and economy.” No longer would homeowners have to shovel dirty, black coal into a furnace in the middle of the night. “Look at that wife -- she’s clean, she’s happy. And look, they even have it simplified so a baby can turn on the heat!”

Now that’s marketing genius: your customer is so at ease with his system that even a child could create warmth for the family.

What was true then is true now, Holohan told the room full of radiant contractors. “You hook up radiant systems that are cleaner and healthier. It provides extra living space and economy; you can’t afford not to have it! Are you pointing that out to your customers?”

Somewhere between the ‘30s and today the message was lost. Customers became focused on price, and heating ads began reflecting the change in focus. Holohan showed the audience another brochure. This time a more recent ad for a boiler:

“Let’s look at this one,” he says, pointing out the major bullets of the ad. “It lists Btu, wet base design, AFUE ... Look, if someone in New York said ‘AFUE’ they’d say, ‘Ay, F-U, too!’ No one knows what that stuff means.”

Then he pointed to the largest aspect of the ad: the $1,995 price at the bottom.

“Isn’t that crazy?” Holohan asks.

Back To Basics

In order not to lose focus when marketing radiant heat, it’s important to define who your customers are -- at least once a week, according to Holohan.

“Are you commercial? Residential? A little bit of both? You market differently to each of them,” he says. “And you can’t use the same plan: They have different businesses, different problems, different needs.

“Think in terms of them not you or your business. Ask yourself, ‘Where’s the wedgie?’ and then you’ll be able to remove it.”

If you’re not asking yourself the following questions on a regular basis, says Holohan, you’re wasting precious marketing energy within your company:

  • Who are my customers?
  • What are their problems?
  • What can I offer them to make those problems go away?

“Don’t neglect those questions,” Holohan concludes. “And don’t get technical with people.”

For example, he notes, do you talk about the feeling of cleanliness, comfort and economy when speaking to a client? Or do you talk about what type of PEX you’re going to use in the system?

One of the pitfalls of marketing is talking features, not benefits. When you get too technical with customers, it cuts off a critical line of communication. A good marketing plan helps your business move from a reactive organization to a proactive one, which helps you anticipate customer concerns down the road.

Your ability to ask the right questions and listen to customers’ needs allows you to adjust to changing market conditions.

Keep your finger on the pulse of your clients’ “whole hearts’ desires” and you’re well on your way to marketing radiant heat as the only choice for today’s heating systems.

Seeing The Invisible

Now radiant clients will be able to “see radiant” with a new nine-minute production by Watts Radiant.

Available on DVD, “I See Radiant” uses a Flir ThermaCam Infrared video camera to capture the essence of radiant heat as it warms objects in a room.

“What our industry sells is invisible,” says Dan Chiles, vice president of marketing for Watts Radiant, and writer/director of the mini-movie. “We were compelled to find a new way to visualize the extreme comfort of radiant heating.”

An eight-person crew toured radiantly heated homes and snowmelt systems during a recent cold spell in the company’s hometown of Springfield, Mo. Shot in one day, the production transitions between two cameras to give viewers a new way to view radiant systems, and see how they distribute warmth.

The mini-movie’s two hosts point out all the benefits of radiant heat -- comfort, cleanliness and economy -- while presenting information to clients in a not-too-overtechnical manner; the essence of marketing.

“I See Radiant” is available through Watts Radiant on DVD by calling 800/276-2419.