In the early 1990s, Joseph Kraft's phone rang constantly. But when the recession hit, the calls stopped. "I explored the best way to reach people and discovered how to use direct mail very effectively," Kraft (right) says.

He stresses the importance of having his work professionally photographed to use in postcards, brochures, and a sales package. He chooses one great photo of a project and asks his direct mail company to send 1,000 pieces targeted at new homeowners. "We'll work that list three times, three weeks apart, with postcards, and we'll get five to 10 calls," Kraft says.

Generating leads is especially important now that Kraft Design Build boasts two offices and two project managers, besides Kraft, who sell and run jobs. Vice president Tom Karvonen (left) runs the field operation.

In the past few years, Kraft discovered the importance of asking for testimonial letters from homeowners. "When [clients] rave about the project at the end of the job, that is my cue to ask them to write a letter," he says. "We include quotes in our direct mail pieces."