Jason Durante was 19 when he started his first company. An installer, he partnered with a salesperson, then suddenly found himself on his own. His workday doubled. “I realized that if we want to eat tonight, we have to sell something,” he says. That was daunting — at least for a while. “It was nerve-wracking at first. But after you taste a good sale, everything else kind of goes away.”

In the winter of 2009, when leads and closing rates both dropped and credit rejects soared, Durante called employees together for a series of “emergency marketing meetings,” the point of which was to “figure out how we could place our company in front of people with greater income.”

Marketing to past customers using a special website, “micro-marketing” in select neighborhoods, and other innovative ideas paid off for the company, which posted a 40% close rate on issued leads for the year, as well as an increase in average project size and double-digit growth in 2009. Add to that a reduction in overall marketing costs. Durante Windows & Siding is poised to repeat that accomplishment in 2010. “My favorite part is the marketing,” Durante says.