Remodeling contractors spend a lot of time and money trying to win jobs. The Farnsworth Group, a market research company specializing in the construction industry, recently spoke with 184 homeowners involved in remodeling projects to determine how they located a contractor, which household member was most influential in selecting the contractor, and what were the key selection criteria.

Finding a Contractor
Not surprisingly, referrals from friends or family, and past experience dominated the list with 52% and 28% of the mentions, respectively. Aside from referrals and past experience, 14.3% said they saw a newspaper ad; 11.5% used the Yellow Pages; 4.9% saw a yard sign; 4.4% viewed direct mail; and 3.3% met contractors at a home show or expo. More than 18% said they used other methods including referral agencies and the Internet.

And how many remodeling companies did homeowners interview for a job? Almost half (46%) only asked one remodeling contractor to bid on their project; 27% asked two. The remaining 27% had three or more remodeling companies bid. This indicates just how important the remodeler's reputation is in this process. Not only does it get you in the door, a good reputation can often mean you are the only contractor being considered for the project.

Also, the next time you're sitting in front of a couple who are prospective clients, focus more of your presentation on the woman. The Farnsworth Group's research shows that in 39% of cases, the man and woman make the decision equally. However, in 35% of the cases, the woman has more influence on the selection of the contractor. In just 26% of the situations does the man have more influence in the selection of a contractor than the woman.

Selection Criteria
The research found that three factors significantly contribute to how a homeowner selects a contractor, and they should not receive equal weight.

Professionalism. Fifty percent of a homeowner's selection decision is based on the contractor's professionalism--admittedly a broad term, but it involves making homeowners feel like they are working with a finely tuned business. When presenting your ideas, this means showing them forms and policies and discussing the procedures you follow to ensure jobs are completed to the highest standards. Associations can be great for getting ideas and documents that you can use to make homeowners aware that they are dealing with a professional.

Reputation. Your reputation contributes to 35% of a homeowner's overall decision. The best contractors are proud to showboat their reputation. They provide potential clients with glowing referral letters. They proactively ask homeowners to contact their references. If you have an established reputation, use it. It is a great asset and will help you win business.

Price. Price makes up about 15% of a homeowner's selection decision. This doesn't mean you have to be the lowest-priced contractor, it just means you have to be in the game.

Notice that proposals were not listed among these influential factors. This doesn't mean you don't have to provide a proposal; however, you may be spending too much time and effort on this activity. Homeowners look for three things in a proposal: price options, receiving the proposal quickly, and clearly stated project objectives. Focus on these three things and you will be in good shape.

Sean Thompson is research director of The Farnsworth Group, an Indianapolis-based market research firm.