By Jim Cory. Southwest Exteriors, a company in San Antonio, Texas, that specializes in installing fiber-cement siding, is taking a new tack in its effort to add business this year. The company has signed a contract to install siding on a condominium project, a first for Southwest Exteriors. There are eight buildings in the complex.

A deeper look

"We want to concentrate not on expanding our market territory but getting more business from the market we're in," says general manager Scott Barr.

The contract to install siding on a condo building resulted from the company's radio advertising, which accounts for about 40% of leads.

"We started going out and looking at some of these projects," Barr explains. "We can't do it on the same margin as single-family, but we'll lower our margins a bit and see how it goes."

Four years ago, Southwest Exteriors eliminated its telemarketing department. "It was more and more expensive and less and less effective," Barr says. The company directed its marketing funds elsewhere. Now the strategy is to up the number of leads coming from the radio ads, as well as from special events, which currently account for 17% of leads. By expanding the number and type of events -- this year, for instance, the company will market at a golf expo and a boat show -- Southwest Exteriors hopes to increase that to 25%.

Find the right leads

Unique Window and Door in Indianapolis generates about a third of its more than $6 million volume in siding, and owner Bob Dillon is looking for ways to increase that percentage.

"We're pushing the referral end of it," Dillon says. "And looking to open up two new locations." Though telemarketing remains the company's most important lead-generator for siding sales -- Dillon invested $100,000 two years ago in a digital dialer -- its future seems iffy. Right now 15% of the company's leads are repeat, and 5% are referral. "Our goal is to double referrals to 10%," Dillon says.

This year Elite Exteriors in Fairfax, Va., is putting more of its marketing emphasis on Internet contractor referral services. These generated 10% of the company's leads in 2001, but president Michael Winn hopes to get that up to 30% this year. "Generally, it's a more educated customer," Winn says of Internet leads. But, he says, "on the other hand, you get a bit more of the ones who are just shopping around."