Every smart remodeler is covered by insurance against catastrophe. But many remodelers pay short shrift to the kind of insurance that helps assure a consistently full pipeline of incoming work. I'm talking about marketing, of course.
Last month, I wrote about how to develop, fund, and implement a good marketing plan. This month, I'm going to list 10 forms of marketing that work best for remodelers. They may not be the most sophisticated, but they do the job, year after year.
I'll start at the bottom, Letterman-style.
10. Direct mail, especially postcards that use professional photography to show off your best work. Mailings can be expensive, particularly when sent several times a year. But homeowners often hold onto good-looking pieces for months, and you'll learn that sustained and repeated exposure keeps you top of mind. Don't expect huge returns — a 1% response rate is considered strong. So for every 10 leads you hope to get, mail to at least 1,000 well-chosen households.
9. Association membership. Remodeler Steve Dormann says membership in his industry association has brought him more than 12% of his $2.5 million volume. His company, S&D Renovations, of Emmaus, Pa., uses every opportunity to mine this membership for marketing angles, including Web site links, design awards, and referrals.
8. Home tours. These can be an extremely effective yet soft-sell way to show off your work. Many associations sponsor tours, but you can be resourceful. One remodeler ran his own tour in a neighborhood where he had three projects. Don't forget security, dust protection, and a thank-you gift for your hosts.
7. Publicity. When you talk about your company, it's advertising. When the news talks about you, it's powerful third-party testimony. It's often inexpensive to engage a local public relations professional to design and promote a handful of stories about your company. Enter competitions, and publicize the wins. Get to know your local design editors; they're often open to story ideas.
6. Community profile. Here's a chance to take what you enjoy — golf, sailing, biking, charitable outreach — and turn it to your company's advantage. Don't be brash, but do let other participants know what kind of work you do. They'll put that together with the fact they enjoyed getting to know you, and they'll remember you when they think about remodeling.
5. Jobsite presence. Do you have a distinctive sign that reflects your craftsmanship and is readable from the street? Supplement it with a brochure box — the same kind used to sell real estate. Introduce your company to neighbors via a postcard or letter series. After all, you have a showroom in their neighborhood.
4. Your Web site. This is no longer optional. At a minimum, your site should feature professional-quality photos, distinguish you from the competition, and make it easy for people to contact you. Only show the kind of work that you want more of. If you're targeting high-end homes, show high-end projects!
3. A great image. This is particularly important for design/build firms. It starts with a distinctive, professionally designed logo that appears consistently in everything that bears your name: signage, vehicles, letterhead, Web site. Don't skimp here.
2. Sterling customer service.Your current clients will always be your best source of business. Brainstorm improvements to every part of the client experience, and put the money in your marketing budget to accomplish them.
And finally (drum roll please):
1. A system for staying in touch with clients, trade partners, and other friends of the company. Contacting them four to six times a year keeps loyalty strong and reminds them to refer you. Vary your contacts: newsletters, cards, invitations to special events. Send a written thank-you for every referral they send your way.
Where are advertisements? They can be terrific for reaching a broad audience, and for underscoring your long-term presence in the community. But they lack the personal impact of these other forms of outreach. — Linda Case is founder of Remodelers Advantage in Laurel, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5260; email@example.com;www.remodelersadvantage.com.