Monday, August 25, 2014

Thermal Imaging for Every Toolbox

Twenty years ago, I used a $20,000 infrared camera to demonstrate cold air technology.  Flir just announced an iPhone infrared accessory for $349.  This changes everything.

Infrared visually shows temperature differences.  It’s been used for years to identify insulation programs, help track down roof leaks, and identify electrical components about to fail (they heat up when approaching failure).  At $349, this should be added to every residential service person’s toolbox.  It will allow service personnel to troubleshoot faster, prevent breakdowns, provided added credibility by presenting visual proof of issues, and ultimately boost average tickets.

How Plumbers Can Use Thermal Imaging

·        Check water heater sediment build up
·        Detect water heater insulation problems
·        Identify potential water heater leaks before they occur by detecting temperature differences
·        Find slab leaks
·        Identify water pipe locations behind walls
·        Detect stoppage locations in pipes
·        Pinpoint piping and plumbing leaks that may not be visible to the eye
·        Find water damage that’s not yet visible
·        Detect moisture damage behind tiles

How Electricians Can Use Thermal Imaging

·        Identify electrical components that are about to fail and get hotter
·        Detect overheating outlets and light switches
·        Find wiring defects
·        Find electrical shorts

How HVAC Technicians Can Use Thermal Imaging

·        Find duct leaks
·        Pinpoint coil leaks
·        Identify electrical components nearing failure, before they fail
·        Check diffuser throw with the help of a screen held perpendicular to the diffuser
·        Identify points of air infiltration from poorly sealed doors, windows, and other penetrations of the building envelope
·        Detect when gas insulated windows have lost their seal
·        Identify insulation problems resulting from water damage, settling, or simply from new construction mistakes
·        Find cold air drafts

Check out a simulator of the product HERE.  Buy the product for $349 HERE.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Maintaining Truck Wraps

You pulled the trigger and wrapped your trucks.  They look great.  People are already commenting on them.  Follow these seven steps to keep them looking great.

·       Wash with mild detergents

Use a mild detergent when washing your truck.  Make sure the detergent does not cause bleaching.

·       No brushes

Do not go through a brush car wash.  Do not wash by hand with a brush or abrasive sponge.  This will damage the wrap. 

If you want to use a car wash, go through a brushless car wash.  When washing by hand, use a soft sponge or cloth.

·       No ice scrapers or heated windows

If your wrap includes vinyl over windows, do not use an ice scraper during the winter.  Also do not use an electric defroster.  The heat from the defroster might cause the vinyl to lift.

·       No pressure washes

This is a good way to remove your wrap.  Do not use a pressure wash.   Never.  Never, ever.

·       Use an approved silicone or teflon polish

Be careful with waxes, especially any with a petroleum distillate.  Use a silicone or Teflon polish recommended by the wrap company.

·       Cover when left outside for any length of time

If you are going to leave your vehicle parked outside for an extended period of time, cover it to prevent UV breakdown. 

·       Avoid parking under trees

As much as possible, avoid parking under trees or wires where birds congregate.  If you spot tree sap or bird droppings on your wrap, clean the spot immediately with a citrus cleaner, followed by washing it with water.

For more great ideas, go to our Facebook Page to see truck designs from all over the world. 

Plus, join Service Roundtable today and I'll give you your first month for only $9.95! Enter promo code cmelec10 .

Thursday, July 3, 2014

‘Dis One, ‘Dis All

An air conditioning contractor in my market loves to call out other contractors and contractor practices in his advertising.  This doesn’t build him up.  It tears everyone down.

Contractors have enough image problems without beating each other up.  The contractor apparently believes people will see every contractor as deceptive, except for him.  He’s right, except for the exclusion.  He gets lumped in with every other contractor. 

It’s like claiming all Pit Bulls are dangerous, except for our Pit Bull, Fluffy.  It just doesn't work that way.  If the breed is bad, then every dog in the breed is bad.  Give the dog time and the aggression will reveal itself.

By mocking other contractors (e.g., calling one folksy contractor, “Dewey Cheatem”), criticizing industry practices like technicians selling, low priced response charges, etc., the contractor creates a perception of common dishonesty within the trade.  Most consumers are not versed enough into the trade’s nuances to pick up his specific criticisms.  Instead, they just get a sense that contractors are deceptive.

Moreover, the sender of messages like this repulses people.  Clearly, not everyone is repulsed or the contractor would be out of business.  However, I’m willing to bet that he turns off more people than he imagines.  Since he appears to use co-op because of his frequent mention of a particular manufacturer, he probably hurts the manufacturer’s sales.

There are ways to build a contrast with the competition without rolling in the mud.  Make positive statements about your company.  Create a unique, distinctive, and meaningful position you can own and defend.  Build yourself up without tearing down the industry that supports you.

Matt Michel © 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Boomerang Generation Creating Pent-Up Housing Demand

Will housing return to the boom times of the past?  Not until the 18-34 year olds who live at home move out, according to a Deutsche Bank Research report.  One in three live with their parents.  In the meantime, contractors are better served by building up their service business.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Do You Have a Swipe File?

Every now and then, ideas dry up.  You need to create a marketing piece, but you’re blank.  It’s time to open the swipe file.

A swipe file is a collection of other people’s marketing.  The marketing may or may not be from your industry.  It is probably preferable that it is not. 

Swipe file material can take the form of direct marketing, magazine ads, newspaper ads, social media coupons, etc.  Every piece in a swipe file bears one common trait.  Something about the piece intrigued you enough to cut or print it, and save it.

When you start a swipe file, you become a student of the craft.  You start looking at other people’s marketing for ideas you can use in your marketing.

What to Swipe

What do you look for in a piece for your swipe file?  Try the following.

·        Attention Grabbers – What gives you pause so that you take a second look?  Is it a headline?  Is it the graphic design?  Is it a picture?

·        Calls to Action – What are the calls to action that companies make?  Which ones seem compelling?  Almost all marketing should carry a call to action, yet it is surprising how often one is missing.  When you come across interesting ones, they should definitely be saved for your swipe file.

·        Novel Promotions – Are there promotional ideas that can be spun into a version that will work for your business?  Don’t simply look for sales.  Look for bundles, affinity marketing, and other promotions.

·        Seasonal Messages – Look for holiday or seasonal marketing that you could use next year.

·        Information Presentation – Is there a way of presenting complex information that you find attractive or easy to understand?  This is especially true for financial information or engineering data.

·        Design – Does the overall design for the piece look compelling?  Why?  What do you like about it?  Could you replicate it or design something similar?

Age of Material

A good swipe file item never wears out.  I’ve used concepts from 20 year old print ad campaigns for a direct marketing effort.  Some things must be modernized, but a good concept a decade ago is still a good concept today.

Graphic Design Books

To kick start a swipe file, visit a Barnes & Noble or Half Price Books and look at the graphic design books.  You will find huge volumes filled with old advertising campaigns.  These are used by graphic designers and advertising copywriter to stimulate their creative juices.

Not Just For Marketers

Swipe files are a tool of any businessperson who interacts with the marketing function.  Even if you do not create marketing, a swipe file gives you a way to communicate to your marketer what you do want.

So what are you waiting for?  Get started.

©2014 Matt Michel

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Branding Story

If you build a better mousetrap will the world make a beaten path to your door?  No, but a few engineers might show up.

Branding and Goalie Gloves

On Sundays, I play goalie on a geriatric soccer team.  Last Sunday my gloves ripped.  The most important piece of equipment for a goalie is gloves.  I needed new goalie gloves and I needed them before the next game.

Within a five mile radius, we’ve got a couple of Academy Sports, a Dick’s Sporting Goods, a Sports Authority, and several other stores that carry goalie gloves.  I picked Soccer City, a local soccer specialty store. 

When I walked in the store I was greeted by “Soccer Ali,” the owner.  I told Ali that I need a pair of size 11 keeper gloves.  He started pulling gloves from behind the counter.  The first pair he handed me was a brand I never heard of, but the latex was thick and it was the right kind of latex (the most important part of a goalie glove is the latex). 

The glove had side vents along the fingers.  Finger vents may not matter in Europe and other cold weather locations.  In Texas, where we occasionally play 90+ degree weather, finger vents are a nice feature.

There are two types of wrist bands on goalie gloves.  One is split, making it easier to get the gloves on or off, with a Velcro wrap.  The other consists of an elastic band with a Velcro wrap.  The elastic band makes the gloves harder to get on or off, but reduces the possibility the gloves will rip.  The pros prefer the split, but they’re provided with a new pair every game.  Since I pay for mine, I try to get several seasons out of a pair of gloves.

The bottom line was that I liked the gloves and probably would have purchased them without further consideration if they cost more.  Cost more?  Yes, they were too affordable.  It made me suspicious.  I expected to pay about 50% more.

Ali handed me a pair of Adidas Predator gloves, which are the standard in goalie gloves.  I tried them on and pointed at the pair I just tried on, commenting, “Those are better gloves.”

“Exactly,” said Ali.  “These kids come in and all they want is a brand name, but a real goalie can tell what’s important and these are much better.  The latex is thicker.  They are much better.”

Clearly, Ali was in sales mode.  However, he was right that the first pair was better.  I picked up the Uhlsport gloves, which were also good but lacked the finger vents and had the split wrist band.  My last pair that just ripped was Uhlsport.

Ali asked if I wanted to try Reusch, adding that they weren’t as good as Uhlsport.  I shook my head as I considered the Uhlsport and the first pair.  “Try these this time,” said Ali pointing to the first pair.  “If you don’t like them, you can buy Uhlsport next time.”

I bought the first pair.  Having bought them, I still can’t tell you the brand.


There are several lessons about branding in this story. 

1.    Brand is more important to people who lack a basis for comparison.  Ali mentioned how kids preferred Adidas despite being inferior and more expensive than that gloves I bought.

2.   The most important brand decision was the first, selecting Soccer City.  Where I bought ultimately influenced what I bought.

3.   Brand doesn’t matter with a good salesperson.  Ali probably could have swayed me to buy any brand he carried.  I previously bought Uhlsport gloves because one of his salespeople recommended them.

4.    Like brand, price can be a signal of quality.  Because they were so affordable, I was suspicious of the first pair of gloves I tried, though they were clearly better quality than more expensive gloves.

5.    When buyers focus on the specifications, the importance of brands lessens.  If a knowledgeable buyer wants a brand, it’s not because of the brand.  It’s because of the specs.  Think of selling to engineers who had time to conduct research over the Internet.  I know.  It’s not a pleasant thought.

©2014 Matt Michel


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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mobile Apps I Depend Upon

A few years ago, we didn’t know what they were.  Now, we can’t live without them. Without what?  Apps.  The mobile apps we use on our smart phones and tablet computers.

Here are a few of the apps I’m finding I use a lot…

Planner Plus

One of the greatest handheld tools of all time was the Franklin Covey version of the Palm.   The friggin’ Palm.  That’s practically caveman technology.  And yet, it’s a better organizer than anything available today despite the presence of awesome digital tools like iPads and Androids (I’ve got each). 

Why doesn’t Franklin Covey have an app?  I don’t know.  All I know is I like their system, but don’t want to carry around a paper planner. 

I’ve tried a lot of planning apps.  The best is Planner Plus.  I consider it the best because it’s the closest I’ve found to Franklin Covey.  Tasks can be prioritized A, B, or C, and then a number.  There’s a calendar and daily note function.  There is a free version, but I purchased the paid one.


Dropbox is cloud storage, mirroring designated folders on your computer.  It’s a great real time back up of your data.  It also is accessible by your phone and tablet.  It’s one of the few really simple ways to move files from your computer to an iPad.

Dropbox is great for collaborations.  Share a folder with other people through Dropbox and any change is automatically updated on everyone’s computer.

There are several alternatives to Dropbox.  These include Microsoft’s SkyDrive (currently offering the most free storage), Box, and Google Drive.  All of these have free versions and paid versions.


The best Microsoft Office substitute for a tablet is CloudOn.  It syncs with your cloud storage so you can access any file in, say, Dropbox.  Even better, it opens in a Microsoft Office type environment for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents.  Now, with a tablet, I truly can access the files I need.  Incredibly, CloudOn is free.


The best mileage app I’ve found is MileBug.  It’s got features I don’t use.  I just like being able to record business miles on my phone rather than a paper log.  The free version is limited to just a few entries.  If you like it, it’s worth spending a couple of bucks.

Social Media

Every social media product has an app for phones and tablets.  I use them all, though Facebook is clunky.  I actually prefer Linked In’s app interface or its website.  All are free.


One of the best music apps is Pandora.  Enter a song or album you like and it will play it and select similar music to stream.  It’s great for the gym.  Pandora is free.

I Heart Radio

This is another entertainment app.  It allows you to select radio stations from all over the country and stream them like they are local.  I find it a great way to keep up with sports talk during college football season (Dallas’ leading sports station talks about everything but sports).


My go to app for locating a restaurant is Urbanspoon.  It’s got the most restaurants and generally good recommendations.  It’s a great app for business travel.


iBooks is the Apple ebook reader.  I prefer it over other because of the interface.  Hey, I like turning pages.  I also use the Nook reader, if only because it’s an easy way to grab the free ebooks that Barnes & Noble continually offers.


Another entertainment app is Annoy-a-Teen.  This app plays sounds at a frequency beyond the range of hearing for most people over age 30, but well within the auditory range of teenagers.  It drives them insane, which can be highly amusing if they’re taking up all of the seating at a Starbucks (or they happen to be related to you).

HVAC Marketing Toolbox

Okay, I don’t actually use this app, but that’s because I put the content together that powers it.  Hit the spinner and a marketing idea pops up.  Though it’s oriented toward HVAC, it actually will work for any service business.

What Do You Use?

Of course, there are dozens of other apps I use.  These are my go to apps.  What about you?  What apps do you like?  Email me your list of favorites.

© 2013 Matt Michel