Deep as we are into the digital age, printed materials still play an important role in marketing. Brochures, direct mail, and door hangers are all proven lead generators. In many cases, printed pieces are the first contact between potential clients and your company. For upscale firms selling to affluent customers, the quality and sophistication of these materials are vital.

Greg Stine is a marketing consultant whose company, Portland, Ore.–based Polaris, has worked with contractors nationwide. He says that his clients are often reluctant to heavily invest in printed materials because of either the cost or a fear that they will scare away potential clients by looking too expensive. That fear, he argues, is misguided.

Blackdog Design Build Remodel had to overhaul its marketing materials to better reflect the quality of the company's work.
Blackdog Design Build Remodel had to overhaul its marketing materials to better reflect the quality of the company's work.

If you're committed to selling to wealthy homeowners, Stine says, “You have to walk and talk like the people you want to work with.” The world of the affluent consumer is pretty sophisticated, he explains, and so is the marketing they encounter. “Go to a Mercedes showroom and pick up a brochure,” he says. “The photographs, the design, the layout ... they're amazing. That's what these people are used to.”

The analogy is a good one; high-end remodels are essentially the luxury cars of the remodeling industry. Marketing materials must reflect that notion, creating, through their look and feel, a perception of luxury and value.

Everything Quality That means each piece must be professionally built from conception to printing. Everything from the graphic design and photography to the paper and card stock should exude quality. That level of quality is expensive, Stine points out, but anything less “starts potential clients out with the wrong idea about your brand.”

At Blackdog Design Build Remodel, in Salem, N.H., owner Dave Bryan felt that his print ads and mailers were doing just that — giving potential clients the wrong idea. The company's in-house marketing coordinator was responsible for designing the pieces. Bryan says he was satisfied, until a branding study revealed that his clients saw in the company's work a slightly more glossy Blackdog than he did in his advertising.

“The workmanship in our ads wasn't supporting the workmanship in the field. We had a high-end perception in the marketplace but our ads were fighting that,” Bryan says. He enlisted professional graphic designers, he says, and now the company's “ads look high-priced and the services look high-priced,” a fact Bryan is comfortable with because that's what his clients expect.

Worth The Cost Professional photography is also essential, says Karen Zeiba, owner of Zeiba Remodeling in Long Beach, Calif. “The piece needs to say that we're lifestyle builders, to imply luxury and gorgeous personal environments,” she says.

Communicating a message like that is an architectural photographer's job. Without the training, experience, and equipment, you won't match a pro's results. “Even if you can only afford to shoot one project a year,” says Zeiba, who has led marketing seminars for remodelers, “it's money well spent.”

High-resolution images, she points out, can be reused a number of times to maximize your return on the investment. Photographs can be cropped or enlarged to focus on specific elements of the image, such as cabinets or a vent hood. The resulting image should look entirely new.

Ciro Giamona, general manager of Harrell Remodeling, in Mountain View, Calif., says the company hires professionals to shoot projects it plans to enter in contests and then repurposes those images for the company's print materials. “We're trying to make the most of those marketing dollars by maximizing the return on our sunk cost,” he says.

Professional graphic designers can aid in recycling images as well as maintaining graphic continuity throughout a series of printed pieces.

“It's easy to come up with a marketing piece that's a one-shot thing,” Giamona says. But without professional guidance, “there's no continuity. And it's a huge loss to lack that coordination and that consistent message.”

A graphic designer can also help select the appropriate paper, Stine says. “The test should be: Does it look and feel expensive? It has to feel valuable, like someone cared about it and took the time to put it together,” he says.

Ultimately, Stine says, the goal is differentiation. From the consumer's perspective, remodeling companies look very much alike. Higher-quality marketing materials can only help upscale companies stand out.

David Zuckerman is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y.