There’s still magic in the phrase “As seen on TV.” Hunter Marosits has proof.
Marosits, owner of H&R Homes Remodeling, based in Ludlow, Mass., regularly buys time on Mass Appeal, a morning program on local TV station WWLP. Hosting the shows “makes you an expert in front of the viewing audience. It gives you credibility,” Marosits says. And it brings leads: “I got two calls and two emails the day the show was on,” he notes.
Indeed, television appearances can have a powerful impact on business. One remodeler calls his TV commercials “the rocket fuel of every other type of marketing campaign out there,” because a good commercial boosts top-of-mind awareness of a company when the consumer surfs the Web or gets asked by a neighbor for a reference. That truth was painfully revealed to that same remodeler when he cut his ad budget during the housing crash and now finds that leads and sales are down.
So how do you get face time despite the high price of TV ads? Marosits found an alternative way onto the tube. Meanwhile, a replacement contractor in Louisiana has found that a long-running campaign with a dirt-cheap star attraction is paying dividends. And if your target market is younger people, your video campaigns might not have anything to do with TV.
Mass Appeal is produced by WWLP and often is hosted by people from the station, but its content comes from and the time is paid for by the people featured in the hour-long show. In that sense, it’s an infomercial and, when the subject is home construction, Marosits propels the programming. Recent segments he has created—they run about every two weeks—have touched on kitchen remodeling, what’s new with decks, and simple ways to upgrade a home’s curb appeal.
WWLP charges up to about $700 per segment, Marosits says. He covers much of that cost by getting co-op money from manufacturers whose products are used in the segments. TimberTech and Mastic are two recent examples. As a result, he figures the shows ultimately are far cheaper than the $250 to $300 it normally costs him to get a good lead.
“It’s soft marketing,” he says.
H&R Homes Remodeling also does commercials, including a recent clever take on the Three Little Pigs that’s viewable from his site or on YouTube.
While most full-service remodelers don’t use TV in any fashion, replacement contractors historically are much more likely to invest in the tube. Ronald Leclerc, the owner of Re-Bath of South Louisiana, is no exception. Based in Baton Rouge, he has been a contractor in the area for decades, a Re-Bath dealer for 10 years, and buyer of TV ads for Re-Bath for at least the past seven seasons.
“Re-Bath always has had company-generated commercials, but I’ve never liked them,” he says. “There was one period that [Re-Bath corporate] used two chimpanzees. The theme was ‘Don’t monkey around.’ I used it for three weeks and got such negative feedback compared to my local commercials, I stopped it.
“In South Louisiana, when you use a term [like Re-Bath] of a company that is situated in Phoenix, it doesn’t resonate with the local community,” Leclerc adds. “What I tried to do is kind of highlight the fact that I have been a licensed contractor in Louisiana for more than 30 years. We’re local, established for a long time, not a conglomerate or a corporation with a presence in Louisiana.”
Leclerc’s solution: Recruit his granddaughter Haileigh to host the ads. “She was 7 when we started, she is now 15,” says Leclerc, who also appears in the commercials. “I hear [from viewers] every day: ‘We’ve been watching that girl grow up!’”
All Hail Haileigh
Leclerc says that having his granddaughter in the ads “melts that shield of ice” that can block a potential sale. “When a prospect is looking at your company to do work in the most intimate part of their house, they need an element of trust, or they won’t let you in.” Haileigh helps give Re-Bath of South Louisiana a personality, he says.
Leclerc credits TV ads with helping take his business from $300,000 revenue to $4 million in the first two years after starting commercials. But even he regards the power of television differently today. One big reason why is that he has more ways than ever to spread the word.
“We are everywhere; we’re in 26 Home Depot locations, and three malls have displays and signage,” he says. “I do print ads, I have trucks on the road, yard signs for every sale we make, and [we are at] home shows.” The impact of television is getting more and more difficult to track, he adds, “but it is still a differentiator.”
Marosits and Leclerc both take care to make certain their video promos also appear on the Internet. Both not only have websites but also dedicated “channels” on YouTube where their ads run—for free. In fact, Leclerc recently rebuilt his website and has moved some money from TV advertising to online promotions. That’s where his customers are going; Nielsen reports show that Americans spent three more hours per week online in the second quarter than they did just a year earlier. The average is up to 26 hours a week now.
TV watching still leads, with the average American spending 31 1/4 hours in front of the tube in an average week. But that average varies dramatically by age group, from 46.9 hours per week for adults aged 65 and over to just 20.65 hours for teens aged 12 to 17. For all groups, however, viewing time has fallen in the past two years; for those teens, it’s 8.5% less, and even aging baby boomers aged 50 to 64—a prime remodeling target—spent 5.3% fewer hours in front of the screen. All the more reason to think less about TV commercials and more about videos.
1. Consider infomercial-style TV programs.
2. Post more videos online.
3. Save on talent; recruit your family and friends to be on-air talent.