In an age when industry consolidation and economic conditions favor large companies in the field service and HVAC sectors, smaller players have to work harder than ever before to hold onto their customers. But as Inc. blogger and social media strategist Howard Greenstein points out in a recent post, they have an advantage the big guys don’t — a more direct way of locking down a valuable, long-term customer relationship.

Greenstein recounts a especially hot summer week that turned into a nightmare when his home air conditioning failed and the regular technician delivered a particularly distressing diagnosis: the repair would be tedious, lengthy, and costly to boot. Seeking an alternative, Greenstein contacted the manufacturer of his AC unit, which put him in touch with a small, local shop. The shop’s owner responded the next day, repaired the unit, and provided the fix at half the price of the original estimate. Needless to say, Greenstein was thrilled and soon referred the shop’s services to a friend.

Several months later, Greenstein was surprised again to receive a handwritten note from the shop owner, thanking him for the referral. An old-fashioned thank you note may seem like a relic of the past, but that’s exactly what made it memorable to Greenstein.  As he points out, the original form of social media – handwritten correspondence – can mean the difference between a customer who’s satisfied with your work and one that raves about it, helping you grow your business effortlessly.

There are many ways to market a business, but Greenstein’s experience suggest it’s often small details that keep a small HVAC or field service company at the top of customers’ minds. By providing a prompt, high-quality response and establishing a strong rapport with his customer, Greenstein’s repairman combined two of the best marketing techniques around.

ABOUT Sara Suddes

San Francisco-based contributor Sara Suddes writes frequently about small business, the economy and technology.