Looking for that magic bullet that will make your phones ring with qualified leads? Sorry, it doesn’t exist. Here are four reasons why new marketing is essential to turning your business around.

  • The marketplace has changed. Financing projects is out. Homeowners’ own money drives remodeling decisions now.
  • Traditional marketing methods no longer work. Simply repeating those methods is an expense, not an investment.
  • Formal sales training has become essential, including for remodelers who sold well in the past.
  • Continuing to do no marketing will put you out of business.

And here are some specific steps to help you make that turnaround.

A Serious Plan

A list of marketing tactics is not a marketing plan. Creating a good marketing plan requires reading a lot, doing research, gathering data, and verifying strategies. Be practical and pragmatic; you’ll need to commit to the money and resources to make your plan happen. Keep in mind the consequences of not planning and following through. Recommended reading: “Goals vs. Strategies,”January 2006.

Step 1. Rethink Your Target Market

Remember when there was so much work going on that homeowners were happy just to get a phone call and a visit from a good contractor? The power has long since shifted, and homeowners know they can negotiate with contractors who specialize in the work they desire. So, who’s in your target market, where do they live, and how do they buy? This clear picture will give you a basis for deciding how to market to them. Recommended reading: “Niche by Niche,”July 2008.

Step 2. Articulate Your Differences

Tired of homeowners who only want to buy on price? This is your wake-up call. If homeowners don’t see (and you don’t define and communicate) your business as different, you will be forever stuck selling on price. After all, what besides price distinguishes one bland commodity from another? As you articulate your business’s distinct differences, align them with whom you want to sell to, why these homeowners value those differences, and how your differences will satisfy their needs.

Important:You don’t buy from you, so never assume what prospects want or why. Do the research to confirm the strength of your strategy and your ability to communicate it. Recommended reading: “The Only Game in Town,”February 2008.

Step 3. Learn How to Sell

Many remodelers used to do just fine by selling on the numbers: That is, the more people you got in front of, the more projects you sold. Given how long the typical buying cycle has become and how many visits it now takes to close a deal, who has the time to continue selling on the numbers?

Commit to an ongoing sales training program and individualized coaching time. The training doesn’t have to be specific to remodelers, but your coach should be able to help you work on sales strategies that are specific to your defined target market and differences. Mantra: Learn, practice, debrief, adjust, repeat. The best-performing salespeople practice and continuously learn; their sales systems become part of them.

Took sales training in the past, know it all already? Chances are, your previous sales training helped you memorize responses to typical objections. Typical objections have changed. Recommended reading: “Confidence Game,” September 2009.

Many remodelers started their businesses because they enjoyed the hands-on work. That era may be gone altogether. If your want to stay in business, it’s time to work on your business, not in it.

Mark Robert Halper

—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies. shawnm@charter.net.