Remodelers can keep the clients coming (and save marketing dollars) simply by refining the art of schmoozing. While that word may conjure images of golf course deals and chamber of commerce dinners, old-school deal-making isn't the only way to cultivate prospects. Instead, savvy remodelers are using their life interests as a springboard for networking.
Seasoned “lifestyle marketer” David McBride, owner of McBride Construction in Petoskey, Mich., can trace a couple million dollars of work to some buddies he snowboards and windsurfs with. He never thought of his recreational activities as a way to build business, but he's not surprised they did. “Spending time with people gives them an opportunity to see that you're a quality individual,” he says.
Joining clubs presents another schmoozing opportunity, but only if you enjoy it. Mark Scott of Mark IV Builders in Bethesda, Md., ponied up about $1,000 for his first year of Rotary club but learned joining isn't the same as belonging: He was labeled a RINO (Rotary In Name Only), and no business came his way. Then, he started to enjoy the club's work and got involved. It's paid off, Scott says, estimating that in the past 10 years he's garnered $5 million worth of work through Rotary contacts.
Some remodelers create their own schmoozing opportunities. To get more face time with architects who refer clients, Finley Perry, president of Hopkinton, Mass.–based F.H. Perry Builder, organizes green-building seminars that offer architects continuing education credits. “I also run ‘process get-togethers' for architects,” Perry notes. “These are cocktail parties where we have talks and break-outs with educational fare.”
Sometimes the best networking is to have your reputation schmooze for you. McBride recalls correcting a mistake he made on a project “because it was the right thing to do, not for the marketing [value].” But he admits the $1 million–plus of business it sent his way was a sweet footnote.