Mark Robert Halper

Reports from remodelers continue to fly into our office about major cuts in personnel and their devastating impact. But each company learns to cope, and there is an exhilaration in doing more with less. That old “can-do” attitude merges with “we will do.” Personnel who remain are more engaged, committed, and willing to take on additional tasks. Much of the new thinking focuses on better means to quality leads. Traditional marketing media — postcards, print newsletters, print advertisements — aren’t paying their way. Today’s payoff involves spending time, not money. We call it belly-to-belly marketing. Every contact you make, every conversation you have can open the door to a job.

Big Game

Jerry Liu of D.G. Liu Contractor, in Dickerson, Md., is parlaying his passion for bowhunting into a connection with Safari Club International. For the local chapter’s fundraising banquet, he is donating a day’s carpentry services. An ad will feature photos of trophy rooms the company has built. Liu sees his shared interest in hunting and the outdoors as “a bonding and rapport tool” with this specialized and affluent audience.

Takeaway: Maximize unique opportunities to get in front of homeowners who have discretionary spending potential.

Co-Op Seminars

For their next educational seminar, Jeff and Adele Talmadge of Talmadge Construction, in Aptos, Calif., are sharing the costs with a financial adviser (a co-presenter) and a high-end home furnishings store (the host). The seminar’s title: “There Is No Place Like Home: Remodeling for a Vibrant Aging Population.”

Takeaway: Brainstorm cooperative educational ideas with other businesses. Share client lists. Identify showrooms that could inspire impulse purchases.

The Open House

Agape Construction, of Kirkwood, Mo., is co-hosting an open house at a recently completed whole-house remodel. With the clients’ permission, Agape is inviting everyone who worked on the project and some past clients. Open houses have proven “one of the best ways to get people we are working with to pull the trigger and sign the contract,” says Amy O’Brien, marketing director.

Takeaway: Ask your happy clients if you can host an event that brings prospects into their beautiful completed project.

Circling the Wagons

Riggs Construction & Design, also of Kirkwood, has launched The Riggs Remodeling Leadership Group. “Members are our preferred contractors and suppliers,” says Amie Riggs, production manager. “The focus is to create leads for each other. After the first meeting, I received three viable leads from two different members. Because we have work, so will the other members.”

Takeaway: Recognize that the remodeling pie is smaller. Where possible, reserve pieces for folks in your network who can cross-refer work to you. You want your best trade contractors and suppliers to survive.

The Networking Event

Thompson Remodeling, of Grand Rapids, Mich., hosted an event called Ben’s Better Business After Hours. More than 40 people came, including clients and trade partners. Owner Ben Thompson spent $500 on catering and gave a door prize of either a “carpenter for a day” or lunch at a restaurant of choice. Key to the introductions and referrals that transpired was the fact that all guests had Thompson’s endorsement.

Takeaway: In Thompson’s own words, “I’ve been asking myself what I can do to add value to the world I work in that no one else can do. Here’s what I know I can do. I can connect the people I am connected with.”

This economy requires a willingness to break out of the marketing box. If something works, keep it. If it doesn’t, move on. And remember: belly to belly!

—Linda Case is founder of Remodelers Advantage in Laurel, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5260;;