Every Saturday morning around 7 a.m. remodelers Pat, Sandra, and Ben Thompson get in their cars and head not to a jobsite or their office, but to News-radio WOOD 1300, where the trio has hosted “The Home Improvement Show with the Thompsons” for the last four years. At 8 a.m., the airwaves come alive and the switchboard lights up as individuals call in to ask questions of the Thompsons, who run design/build company Thompson Remodeling in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The show, which is also streamed online, is owned and funded by Clear Channel and requires about four hours of preparation time every week. “There's a producer on staff who spends that time searching for topics, and then discusses them with us,” says Ben Thompson, general manager. Recent shows, for example, have covered the changing housing market (to sell or not to sell?), remodeling choices that yield the highest value, and top fall home-maintenance strategies.
“The topics are timely, mildly entertaining, and all related to homes in some fashion,” Ben says. He got involved with the show after the broadcaster asked the local builders' association for a list of knowledgeable individuals with good communication skills. “We were at the top of the list,” Ben recalls. “We'd done work for a lot of the people working at the station, and they thought we'd be a good fit.”
DECENT EXPOSURE Having just renewed their fourth yearlong contract in August, the Thompsons generated more than 60 leads from the show in 2007 alone, and they consider it their third-highest lead source. The leads translated into six projects, Ben says, noting that although it's a high volume of leads, not all potential customers are suited to the company's design/build approach.
And while juggling several listeners at once — and switching gears to address different topics during the one-hour time slot — isn't always easy, the Thompsons say the effort put forth more than pays for itself. “At first we were worried it would be too much of a commitment, but aside from the leads, we also get tons of exposure,” Ben says. “Walking around town, people recognize us as ‘the folks on the radio show.'”
Scott Mosby, president at Mosby Building Arts in St. Louis hosts a two-hour home improvement radio show on KMOX 1120, but says the level of exposure and leads is decidedly lower than that of the Thompsons. Perhaps the fact that Mosby is a CBS/Infinity Radio employee has limited his business' lead-generation potential. “I have anywhere from 35,000 to 54,000 people listening every week, but they still call and say, ‘I love your show. Do you know any good remodeling contractors?'” says Mosby, who admits to “soft peddling” his own business via the company's Web site, www.mosby.com.
“It just doesn't translate,” says Mosby, whose show is funded through sponsorships sold by CBS' sales staff. “For some reason, [listeners] just don't connect that guy on KMOX with being a contractor who they would call to handle their remodeling work.”
WORTH THE EFFORT But that hasn't stopped Mosby from putting several hours a week into the radio show. He opens each show with a few minutes of commentary, shares listener comments and queries received by e-mail, makes suggestions to homeowners (reminding them, for example, to clean their gutters), and then launches into a question-and-answer session with callers. “The listeners totally dictate the show,” says Mosby, who got his feet wet as a radio show host in 1996, having been recruited by his local builders' association.
Despite the fact that Mosby often finds himself going the extra mile to make the connection between his show and his remodeling business, he sees the medium as a good opportunity for contractors looking to reach more consumers. “Every week I get into baby-boomer homes all over the nation and, as a result, I am very well-known,” Mosby says. “People know that I know my stuff.”
Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer based in Dunedin, Fla.