Mastering HVAC Dealer Appreciation Events: A Step-by-Step Guide for Influencers



It’s nice when someone appreciates us for our effort, right? That’s the feeling you want your HVAC dealers to have. As a sales leader, territory manager, or regional area manager, you’ve got so much to do that you sometimes let the customer relationship suffer.

You’re so busy delivering new prospects, generating new leads, and looking for ways to keep your dealers’ calendars full that your existing HVAC customers might feel unappreciated and undervalued. And when that happens, many will turn to another dealer.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about customer appreciation, why it’s important, and how to plan amazing appreciation events for your HVAC dealers.

Setting the Stage for Appreciation Events

If you take care of your HVAC dealers, they’ll take care of your business. Hosting a fun and engaging event while delivering high-quality service, makes it easy for your dealers to refer other business to you, buy more equipment, and talk you up to their own networks and communities.

The biggest advantage you can give your team is the opportunity to build a real rapport with your HVAC dealers. A strong and sincere relationship helps them move from vendor to trusted advisor, which can take a lot of work in a strict sales environment.

The experience for guests can be eye-opening as they arrive at the event with a different mindset. They are there to share and interact with others, chat about industry topics, and engage with people differently than they’re used to. Events like this are especially good at winning over skeptics and competitors because they present your HVAC company in a new light. People will be more receptive to interacting with you later.

From an OEM and distributor standpoint, a customer appreciation event should be a key part of your overall business strategy. Companies with more satisfied customers tend to have better reviews and feedback than those without. That’s your competitive advantage in the HVAC market and in the eyes of potential dealers searching for the right vendor.

Plus, you’ll sell more because selling to existing customers is cheaper and easier. If you make them feel appreciated, they’ll be loyal to you and your HVAC brand and come back for more. Customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer, no matter the industry. They trust you, so they are more likely to purchase from you, even at higher price points.

Planning Successful HVAC Appreciation Events

The first step in planning a successful customer appreciation event is to consider the format for your audience. Do they like networking events or are they sports people who would attend a golf tournament? Perhaps they’re amateur foodies and would like a beer or wine tasting with a master sommelier or Cicerone.

The type of event you plan should allow you to develop more business with your HVAC dealers and will amplify any of the value-adds you bring to the relationship. Most importantly, you’re looking for ways to differentiate your HVAC brand from the competition so you’re always top-of-mind with them.

Some example formats include:

  • Social events like BBQs and wine tasting demonstrate you care about them and understand their interests.
  • VIP client events where you invite top HVAC dealers to an exclusive event like a dinner party with a celebrity or art exhibit.
  • Celebration social where you celebrate a customer’s milestone with you and your HVAC business. It reminds them of how you helped them achieve it and also strengthens your  relationship.
  • Networking event where you help your customers network with like-minded folks and learn more about what’s happening in the industry.
  • Charity event where you partner with a non-profit organization that aligns with your business values and helps raise money for it. This shows your commitment to your community or cause, provides you with a PR opportunity, and reaffirms your corporate values to your wider network.

The format you choose depends on your dealer network, your location, time of year, and budget.

Here’s how you can plan successful HVAC customer appreciation events.

1. Plan your event goals

Before you get into the details, you’ll want to set a few goals and benchmarks for the event.

  • The audience: Consider the audience and where they are. Do they need to travel to the event?
  • The objective: What is your business objective for the event? Do you want to increase customer retention, celebrate milestones, or get more referrals?
  • The budget: How much will you spend? Will guests be allowed to bring others? That’s a great way to connect with new prospects and leads but it could increase costs. What about entertainment? You must consider the costs of everything up front, or else you may face challenges trying to pay for it all.

2. Select the event type and theme

As we previously discussed, there are many different types of events and themes you can choose to recognize your dealer base. Consider your event goals and whether to engage only customers, customers, their guests, prospects, or everyone. Choose the event type that best meets your objectives and go from there.

Next is your event’s theme, which will create a cohesive event and let everyone get creative with the activities and food. This extends to the guests too, who might show up in themed attire. Choose a theme that matches the style of your HVAC company and feels like an extension of your brand and customers.

3. Choose the date and venue

These typically go together since large venues often host many different events throughout the year. You should have several dates in mind in case the venue cannot accommodate you on your first choice. Consider your guests’ schedules and try to avoid a date during their traditionally busy time.

You have different options for the venue, as you could host it at your business location, a local restaurant, or even a convention center if it’s large enough. Depending on your choice, you may also have to look at hiring caterers or ensuring the venue can provide enough food and drink as needed.

4. Develop an event timeline

Since your customer appreciation event involves many people and services, you’ll want to document an overall timeline so everyone knows exactly what to do and when. For example:

  • 3 months before the event: Brainstorm ideas, set budget, start investigating venues and dates, and engage relevant internal stakeholders.
  • 2 months before: Choose the venue, catering menu, and other options as needed (entertainment, other vendors or support staff, etc.)
  • 1 month before: Finalize all details, including decorations, invitations and responses, and volunteers, if needed.
  • 2 weeks before: Confirm all vendors.
  • 1 week before: Final check of preparations.
  • Day before the event (if possible): Set up the venue.
  • Day of event: Set up the venue (if not done beforehand) and greet guests.
  • After the event: Follow up with guests and send thank you notes to vendors.

Use this list as a guide for your appreciation event. Much of this will change depending on your event’s size, format, and location, but it’s a good starting point.

You’ll note that in the timeline, we didn’t mention promotion or invitations. That’s because it deserves its own step.

5. Send invitations

How far in advance you send out invitations depends on your guest list and the event’s location. At the very least, you should send them out at least two weeks before the event. The invitation should include all the details of the event (what, where, and when), how they can RSVP (if applicable), and any special instructions (“casual dress”.)

You’ll also want to set up some automatic email reminders in the days leading up to the event, especially if you’re not asking for an RSVP. This ensures people know the event is still happening and can plan to attend.

6. Follow up

Congrats! You’ve successfully hosted a great customer appreciation event. Everyone had a good time, the food was delicious, and the conversations were wonderful. Now what?

You’ll want to thank everyone for attending, both guests and vendors. Create social media posts with images that tag guests and thank them for coming. Send thank you notes to guests and hint at further events if you think you’ll have more. And don’t forget to email those who couldn’t attend (if you know who they are) and tell them you hope to see them next time.

Creative Ideas for Memorable Events

Here are some creative ideas for your next HVAC dealer event.

Outdoor BBQ: This HPAC company hosts an annual customer appreciation BBQ at their head office location. At the 2022 Customer Appreciation BBQ, guests enjoyed all-you-can-eat BBQ and ice cream as they checked out vendor exhibition tents, got tours of the warehouse facility, and entered a draw for an autographed hockey jersey from the local NHL team.

The annual event is so popular with guests that they come back year after year, with some even wearing the free t-shirt given away in years past.

Creative Ideas for Memorable Events

Welcome event + live HVAC example: This HVAC association hosted a welcome party at an aquarium. Attendees, vendors, and sponsors enjoyed refreshments and time to discover more about each other and what’s new in the industry.

Plus, they also got to see an example of a LEED-certified location in person. The newest expansion of the Georgia Aquarium had achieved certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED™ green building rating. It’s not every day HVAC vendors, dealers, and customers get to see such a different kind of facility up close. This type of event goes beyond the usual meet-and-greet and gives people a behind-the-scenes look at how their work impacts the greater world at large.

ASHRAE Welcome Party
Source: ASHRAE / Instagram

Mini trade show: A mini trade show allows HVAC dealers to learn more about you and the suppliers you support, host short info sessions on new HVAC trends, and network with other industry professionals.

Roberts Technical Services
Source: HPAC Magazine/Roberts Technical Services

Since the HVAC industry is rapidly evolving with new technologies like heat pumps becoming more popular, educational events may be a good idea. They’ll help keep everyone updated on what’s out there and demonstrate your industry knowledge to your guests.

Some other creative ideas you can use in your next HVAC event are:

  • Coffee artist: Hire a professional barista to create intricate designs on top of lattes and cappuccinos. Perfect for a drop-in event or the post-meal networking session.
  • Hot air balloon experience: Give guests a birds-eye view of your location with a quick trip up in a hot air balloon. Perfect for your next outdoor event.
  • Graffiti board: Set up a corkboard or whiteboard close to any learning sessions so guests can share comments, ideas, lessons learned, business cards, and messages. It’s a great way to connect, network, and learn from each other.
  • Ask me anything: Taking a cue from Reddit, an AMA session is great for learning more about people or a relevant topic. Set up a session with a top HVAC dealer or one of your product specialists and let them engage with guests.
  • Mentalists: Wow your guests with an interactive performance from a mentalist. They’ll impress guests with their “mind reading” and reduce the pressure of attending an “official event.”
  • Casino party: Turn your location into a private casino for the night. Rent a casino with professional dealers, Las Vegas-style games, and poker tables for a night of fun.

The type of event you choose will depend on your location, date, and guest list. After all, not everyone will appreciate a golf tournament or casino night. One thing everyone will appreciate is having a personalized experience. But today’s guests want more than just their name on some swag.

Consider the parts of the event you want to personalize. You could have guests vote for their choice of swag when they register or offer different food choices based on post-event surveys from last year. You could set up mini networking sessions for different attendee groups so people feel comfortable chatting with their peers. Create unique moments guests can share on social media and make them easy to share. A great hashtag links guests with your event and helps spread the word about it to their networks. For more information on building an effective social media strategy to engage with your existing and prospective dealers, check out this helpful article.

Building Networking Opportunities

Most guests attend a live event for networking opportunities, especially in sales and customer success. That’s why it’s important to include some downtime for people to stop and chat during your appreciation event. Try adding breaks between mini-learning sessions, having a dedicated networking space, and sending a networking guide before the event.

Interactive elements and installations are also good at inspiring networking and conversation. They can serve as conversation starters and prompt guests to share on social media, too. Post thought-provoking quotes or stats and intriguing visuals in the event space to inspire conversation as people pass.

Even the traditional name tag can help increase conversation and networking. Have guests choose different stickers or pins to add to their badges to personalize them. E.g., stickers for peoples’ hobbies or HVAC areas of expertise can be useful to others as they pass.

For OEM and distributor teams, networking is an essential part of any event. As a sales leader, territory manager, or regional area manager, you want to meet with and learn as much as you can about your HVAC dealer network. This type of relationship-building helps reinforce the value-adds you’ve already been delivering to them and helps them see you from a different perspective. You can dive deeper into industry discussions without the pressure of a transaction or sale. You get to know the person behind the account, which will affect future interactions (for the better!)

As a host, customer appreciation events are great for making new connections with people and stakeholders you might not have met before. People are mingling across teams, groups, companies, and responsibilities, learning more about each other, how they work, and who they serve. Smart hosts will be looking for people and companies they can partner with in the future on new products or campaigns in a low-pressure environment.

Measuring Success and Gathering Feedback

The success of your customer appreciation event will depend on the objectives you had for it. Attendance and leads generated are quantitative measures, while guest satisfaction and engagement levels are qualitative ones. For many, attendance is the main success metric they look for, but if you’re holding the event for more specific objectives, you’ll need to define those metrics early on.

Another way to measure success is to ask for guest feedback. Make your feedback process quick, simple, and accessible to ensure you get good responses. You’ll want to ask for feedback promptly so the event is fresh in people’s minds and they can respond honestly and sincerely. Consider using multiple feedback channels so everyone has a chance to respond. E.g., an online survey, email response, and even social media.

A post-event report will help your team recap and evaluate the event’s success based on your goals and the feedback you received. You’ll want to review it to use it when planning future events. You can even use that information in future marketing and sales campaigns and revamp overall messaging.


Customer appreciation events are a great way to stay in touch with your dealers and their networks. When you plan and execute it right, everyone has a good time, you achieve your business objectives, and enhance your brand. People will look forward to it and talk about it long after the event is over.

If you’re looking for fresh ideas for your next HVAC customer appreciation event, schedule your free one-on-one workshop with a Mediagistic expert today. We’ll help you organize an appreciation event that drives results for your company.

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