Should You Promote Prevention Or The Cure?

Why isn’t my service contract campaign working?”

The question came from a television station AE in the Southeast.

His customer was an HVAC contractor who wanted to sell more maintenance service agreements. The TV ad had been on the air for about three months. There had been little response.

Many heating and air dealers and auto repair shops I’ve worked with have are big fans of service plans — they are an excellent source of steady, ongoing revenue.

But the most successful ones have told me new customers aren’t particularly interested in a service agreement. The best candidates for these plans are existing repair customers.


Perry Marshall, author of 80/20 Sales & Marketing, has this explanation:

People don’t buy prevention, they buy a cure for their existing problem. If you want to sell it, it’s much easier to sell it as part of a cure than trying to convince someone who’s never had the problem in the first place.”

Advertising should sell the cure

Photo by Rasulov

The principle applies to many categories:

  • When are we most likely to sign up for automated computer backup? Right after our laptop crashes.
  • Many of us don’t make the effort to exercise or eat right… but we’ll pay thousands for the crash diet plan to shed the weight we gained through poor nutrition and inactivity.
  • This fall, hundreds of thousands of Americans won’t bother to get a flu shot… but they’ll head right to the doctor and demand antibiotics once they get sick.

As we discussed strategy for the HVAC campaign, I gave the Account Executive some advice a very smart heating-and-air guy once gave me: 

The most reliable trigger for a service contract purchase is an emergency repair.

 The best time to sell a service contract is when we’re in the customer’s home, working on their broken air conditioner.”

Advertise for emergency repair customers, and the service contracts will almost sell themselves.

Promote the cure.

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4 thoughts on “Should You Promote Prevention Or The Cure?

  1. While I agree 101% with your HVAC example, it has it’s limits. Here in the midwest our weather in Northeast Indiana can be unpredictable. One winter we went several weeks with temperatures never warming up above 25. The following year we hit 50’s and 60 degrees one day in February. So the HVAC dealer I work closest with does promote service agreements at least 6 months out of 12 during the weeks between extreme temps.

    • Thanks for the perspective, Scott. I’ve talked with several HVAC dealers who have tried service contract campaigns, and they have not been happy with the results. It’s possible we haven’t stumbled on the right hook.

      How does the campaign work for your client?