Football is a foreign language to me, but I learned something interesting about it over the holidays listening to my two grown sons talk. It appears that current strategy relies more on the short pass than on the long bomb to move the ball forward.

This seems an apt metaphor for our current situation in the remodeling industry: The best way to move yourself and your company closer to the “goal line” of increasing leads and stable profitability may be through small, incremental steps — the remodeling equivalent of a series of short passes.

Before you read any further, go back to the Remodeling blogs to review the New Year’s Resolutions put forth by remodelers around the country. If you haven’t written your own resolutions, do so now focusing only the first component of senior editor Leah Thayer’s format: Professional.

The Issues

So, where do you need to be at come Jan. 1, 2010? And, more importantly, what short passes must you complete to get there?

Without knowing your company, I’ll bet that the biggest issues you are currently facing include at least two of the following:

  • Less work. The phone hasn’t rung for many people since August or September.

  • Smaller job size. Client focus on “needs” not “wants,” means smaller job size.

  • Standard marketing isn’t working. Newsletters, mass mailing campaigns, and trade shows have become dismally ineffective.

  • Cash flow is tight. With no new job deposits flowing into your bank account, you might be in real cash-flow trouble.

Although each of these issues falls into one of the five primary systems that drive success (marketing/sales/estimating, production, finance and administration, resource management, and ownership and leadership) let’s use the “short pass” idea to solve the marketing dilemma first.
Marketing First

Without good leads coming through the door, none of the other issues can be addressed. The goal in this case is to increase marketing effectiveness by developing a wider and deeper network of potential clients. To reach that goal, use a series of three “short passes” that, taken together, comprise a personal, individualized outreach program.

  • Call. Make a quick phone call to each client you’ve worked for over the past two years and with whom you have a good relationship. Just touch base and make small talk — about family, about the economic downturn, about community issues, about anything that makes a connection.

  • Visit. Make a personal visit to some of your best past customers. One client of mine takes a small plant as a way of saying thanks for helping the company grow. You might take a packet of wildflower seeds and a trowel in anticipation of spring.

  • Write. A personal handwritten note is a rarity today and will attract attention. Comment on something about their project; ask if there is anything that needs attention; or even mention that you’d be happy to help them maintain, repair, or remodel this spring.

Commit to a certain number of these every week and track your progress toward that commitment using a simple spreadsheet like the one shown below. This isn’t a substitute for tracking your marketing success; it serves as a reminder to keep in touch with those people who are in the best position to help you and your company.

Remember, every time you complete a short pass, you’re one step closer to a “touchdown” — a signed job! For the next few months, I’ll be focusing on other “short pass” strategies that can make the difference between failure and success — or even survival, given the current economy.

—Judith Miller is a Seattle–based remodeling business consultant and trainer. Read her blogs on the REMODELING site or here.