One of the most-repeated stories you’ll hear told in political circles dates to when former House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill was running for office for the first time. He was surprised to hear a neighbor and former teacher of his tell him that she was going to vote for him the next day, “even though you didn’t ask me.” O’Neill thought that his years doing chores, cutting grass, raking leaves, and shoveling snow for the lady was enough to merit his vote without his asking. “Tom, let me tell you something,” she replied. “People like to be asked.”

Remodelers aren’t politicians, but here the same lesson applies. Being a good person and doing good work will get you a few votes of confidence, but you can’t expect to build a business as a professional remodeler just because the neighbors see your truck on the street and recall some free services you provided. You need to ask people for their patronage, and that starts with marketing.

If you’re a beginner, this issue is a great introduction to the art of promotion. If you’re a veteran, we have lots of ideas to help you keep abreast of changing times. Regardless of where you are on the experience spectrum, the key is to remember another political truism: The campaign never ends. Everything you do is a marketing opportunity and should be treated as such.

All these political metaphors shouldn’t lead you to conclude that it takes a huge war chest to win hearts and minds. The places where you should work first and hardest—your website, business cards, logo, truck art, and clothing—don’t require big-dollar expenditures.

Focus on the basics first, such as whether your business card includes an email address and whether your website is free of spelling errors. And when it’s time to paint the truck (arguably your most valuable marketing tool), take care to choose the message you want to send. Splashing “Free Estimates” in big type on prime space is no way to set yourself apart.

These little things require that you think in advance about how you want people to regard you and your company. Yes, that takes time and effort, but once you have worked out that plan, you’re halfway toward what you need to get to the next level, such as setting a strategy for social media and paid advertisements. Just know that even as you grow, you never stop having to ask for peoples’ votes.

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