In 2012 I created a consumer website, SaveBigBread, that helps manufacturers market their brands to homeowners by alerting them to rebates available from all sources. Our service also directs these prospects to manufacturer- and utility program-authorized contractors. We attract customers—three-quarters of them are women aged 45 to 65—who are delighted to have found hundreds of dollars of savings they didn’t know about and are eager to use. Open rates for our solicitations are consistently higher than 40% and sometimes top 50%.

At the start of our pilot launch, the Houston Chronicle wrote about us. In one day, we generated $500,000 in potential air conditioner purchases from homeowners looking for estimates. We were ecstatic.

But about a week later, I started to receive disturbing emails. “So far only one contractor has called me,” Bernice wrote. “Is this normal?” And Joanne wrote: “ABC was to give us a bid on Sept 8. He rescheduled for today, Sept 12. We haven't heard from him and have waited all day.” 

Only 21% of several hundred of our homeowners requesting estimates were contacted by at least one contractor within 48 hours of requesting estimates. Ten days later, the number was just 22%. We suspect that some of this might be because remodelers are suspicious of and find little value in prospects delivered to them by lead-generation services. But even firms such as Angie’s List have reported that slow response times is the No. 1 complaint it hears about remodelers.

The sales process is typically the first experience homeowners have with contractors. It sets the tone regarding timeliness and professionalism, and research shows that excellent customer service is important. For women, it ranks among the top three expectations that they have in a brand. Simply doing what you say you’re going to do will work wonders in establishing trust and confidence.

The reverse also is true. Typically, we see product satisfaction scores of 50% to 80%, yet on average only 20% of our customers would recommend their contractor to family or friends. And remember: nearly three-quarters of the people we polled are women.

Review your lead management process. When we shared the poor response results with business owners, some set up an inside sales department to act as the first point of contact with the homeowner. Those who did reported a lift in their metrics from the number of appointments, estimates, and revenue.

And provide detailed estimates. The estimate isn't a number; it’s another proof point in the sales process. Women survey and research their options. Make sure your estimate proves that you listened and thought about what the homeowner wants.

Learn to be responsive, transparent, and proactive. In turn, women will become your biggest champions.

Tony Maull is president and co-founder of Save Big Bread, a provider of revenue performance management software and services to manufacturers and brands. He lives in Northern Virginia.