Remodelers are not good marketers. Most do no marketing at all; some market only when work runs out and of course by then it's too late. But even those who have well-designed campaigns treat marketing as a static, self-sustaining program. Get it started, they reason, and it takes care of itself.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless a marketing plan is measured, there is no way to know if the effort is working to the company's best advantage. This is true even if word-of-mouth is your major source of leads. Despite everything word-of-mouth has going for it, not all referrals are legitimate leads. The source may always be a previous customer, but it's the information about other aspects of the work that make the difference.

Is your marketing program working right? To find out, look back over past projects and, assuming all things being equal, see how many fit the following factors.

Type of job. Nobody is good at everything. Building a sunroom is not the same as adding a master suite. You want jobs that fit the skills of your production crews and the talents of your subcontractors. Figure out what you do best, then make sure your marketing attracts that kind of work.

Scope of work. Some remodelers make their money on small projects that last three or four weeks, start to finish. Others prefer big-budget productions that keep them occupied for months. Some like whole-house remodels that stay within the existing footprint; others thrive on building additions and linking old and new. Some want to handle all the details, others stay away from landscaping, painting, and interior design. It's OK to challenge yourself once in a while, but your marketing program should attract projects that fall into your sweet spot.

Budget. Don't confuse project scope and project cost. The cost of remodeling a small room depends on how complicated the work is, how many sub-trades are involved, the quality of the finishes, whether it's on the first, second, or third floor, and a laundry list of other factors. High-end finishes can generate high margins, but only if you can also satisfy higher customer expectations. Wrestling with logistics can add costs that no one sees. If you attract projects that require extra effort, make sure they have budgets to match.

Location. Projects that are closer to home are usually easier to manage than those that are some distance away. Working in an urban setting requires a different set of management skills than working in the suburbs or a rural area, and success in one area doesn't guarantee success in the others. A job that's “too far” from the office may have more to do with how long it takes to get there than how many miles away it is.

Schedule. If a remodeler who likes to mobilize quickly and get jobs started before all the details are nailed down switched clients with a remodeler who is more methodical and needs more time to plan, both companies would face disaster. How soon a customer wants to start may have to do with circumstances beyond their control, but it could also reveal something about their ability to make decisions and their expectations for the job. Looking back over past projects may expose a pattern that you'd be better off avoiding.

The right customer. This is the big one. It's also the most difficult to measure because the qualities that make for a good fit are so hard to nail down. Ability to make decisions, willingness to compromise, interest in doing product research on their own — these are just a few of the traits you'll need to evaluate in the customers your marketing attracts. But the most important factor is whether your customers trust and respect the way you run your business and are willing to let you make a profit. Some do and some don't. Knowing which is which makes all the difference.