Opinion – HVACR Distributors are beginning to pivot to find new ways to communicate with their end customers

This week, I had a chance to get out of the home office and visit a Mingledorff‘s HVACR distribution branch location in the Atlanta area close to my home.

I follow them closely on social media and have been observing for the past year plus that they are trying to reach and communicate in new ways with their end customers.

The Mingledorff’s marketing team is communicating with end customers, manufacturers, and their fellow associates in ways that made me believe that they understand that their audiences (internal and external) are evolving in how they consume information.

What really caught my attention and ear, was Mingledorff’s – Caffeine and Coils Podcast that started in 2023 which is produced bi-weekly by Jenny Brown and Deanna Lassiter.

I have been following for some time HVACR podcasts like Misfits of HVAC, The ESCO Institute, and HVAC Jerks (interesting title). These and other HVACR podcasts are professionally produced, well done, and really deliver strong training and technical knowledge for end user installers.

What is different about Caffeine and Coils is it produced by a distributor. Although it also is professionally produced, well done, and delivers strong training and technical knowledge for end user installers it does it from a distributor perspective.

It was energizing and fun to sit down with Jenny Brown and Deanna Lassiter to talk about their communication approaches podcast, linked in and social programs, and more.

So, why is it important? You might be saying to yourself as a distributor…c’mon our end customers don’t have time to listen to podcasts or follow social media HVACR Channels, and if they do does it really help me sell more?

You may think that your business is still all about putting our products close to the end customer where they install it, and that we win by picking, packing, and shipping it fast (or serve them at the counter-will call efficiently). As a lifelong distributor myself, I would tend to agree with the above sentence. That is still the foundation of your business, but what has changed and what will keep changing is how your end customers are gathering important information they need today.

The above Dorn graphic is a good visual of how things have changed in distribution. Pre-smart phone (c.2014) your end customer was way more dependent on you as a distributor or manufacturer for training, product information, knowledge, and technical support. This has changed and will continue to change rapidly. Your end customers today are finding their own product info, watching training videos, checking inventory levels, ordering online, and more without calling or contacting you.

Your customers are actively gathering their own answers using their smart phone all day long. They only want to call you or see when they can’t get the answer they seek without contacting you. The point is we all are doing more digitally versus calling or doing business face to face than ever before.

The HVACR Channel is evolving and every day more is digital with less being human/manual. If I think about it simply, what is declining – Lunch and Learns, in person training, phone calls, and in person interactions.

Mingledorff’s approach to trying new communication techniques like a podcast signaled to me, that they know how their end customers want to communicate and learn is evolving and ever changing.

I just grabbed some of their recent Caffeine and Coils podcast titles to share-

-HVAC Hazards: Staying Safe on the Job

-Future Proofing Homes – Preventative Maintenance Contracts

-All things A2L with Don Gillis

-EPA Test Experience and Updates – This episode, I really enjoyed and it was fun to listen to as Jenny and Deanna shared their personal experiences taking the test.

The podcasts deliver regulatory information, best practices, and more. They have a growing audience of end users, manufacturer partners, and fellow associates listening.

In my opinion – the value to just associates alone is worth the effort as it shows their co-workers that Mingledorff’s is trying new approaches. Everyone in the channel is fighting for limited talent. If you have a choice of working for a distributor who is trying new things versus one who is not, it is something prospective employees do consider.

I would recommend you catch Caffeine and Coils from Mingledorff’s and learn more about what might be applicable to your approach today.

Often as a distributor leader you may be skeptical of new communication and marketing approaches as many over the years may have not delivered the ROI that was promised. That might be pre-smart phone thinking when you still were probably reading the Sunday Newspaper.

For example – pre-smart phone I was still producing multiple 900 page paper catalogs every year as a distributor. Now there are some customers still using paper catalogs, but eventually that will end. That ship has sailed in my opinion.

Your end customer is consuming the information they need from you in new ways, and so are your associates. Podcasts recorded video training, and on demand technical documents are reducing the number phone calls, emails, and in person visits slowly but relentlessly.

I believe it’s always wise to follow the leaders and learn, and Mingledorff’s is a distributor trying to lead.

As always, we would love to get your feedback, so please feel free to comment below or reach out to me directly at john.gunderson@dorngroup.com

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3 thoughts on “Opinion – HVACR Distributors are beginning to pivot to find new ways to communicate with their end customers”

  1. Great interview and observations John. Innovation is key to powering growth and if you don’t experiment, you can’t learn.

    Aside from podcasts I’m seeing companies do “short” videos (TikTok length) and promoting on their websites, on LI, on FB and yes, some on TikTok. Distributors and reps are doing these, but interestingly not too many manufacturers as the videos / podcasts are not viewed as “professional enough” (which is code for scripted and vetted by corporate communications or legal!)

    Congratulations to Mingledorff’s. Keep on innovating and experimenting.

  2. Hi John.
    Thank you for this excellent article and podcast recommendation.
    I have subscribed and shared your article with the team here.

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