Each unique in their own right, these five marketing campaigns had the same goal: bring in business. They did that, despite budgets ranging from $268 to $9,120 — proving that you don't always need lots of cash to make it rain.

In the case of Carey Contracting of Iron Mountain, Mich., eye-catching trucks and direct mail mesh to make sure past clients remember the company. The campaign brought in more than $2 million worth of business in 10 months.

DesignLine, on the other hand, aimed for a new market with an upscale direct-mail campaign. It hit a bull's eye: The Richmond, Va., firm's $8,500 campaign brought in $95,000 worth of work in the target market.

And Hilton Enterprises' homegrown newsletter, published for a few hundred dollars a month, snagged the Stilwell, Kan.., company contracts worth $148,000.

Carey uses graphic illustrations instead of predictable, before-and-after project shots. This helps the company stand out from competitors.
Carey uses graphic illustrations instead of predictable, before-and-after project shots. This helps the company stand out from competitors.

While the five remodelers whose marketing campaigns are featured may not have national renown, they've earned recognition from a more important audience: prospective customers. All five credit these marketing campaigns with raising the number, and often the quality, of leads. Their campaigns were undertaken thoughtfully, whether done in-house or with professional support. They demanded an investment of not only money but time, energy, and patience. Marketing, notes Dorothy Booze, marketing/finance director of DesignLine, is a commitment.

It shouldn't be hard for remodelers to tailor these campaigns to their markets and come up with similar results. — Diane Kittower is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C., area.

[Campaign 1]

Carey Contracting

Iron Mountain, Mich.

The Campaign:

The way Mike Carey figures it, targeting repeat customers is the way to go. "It takes a while to get your customer base built," says the Carey Contracting president. "If you take care of them, they'll come back."

He's found it takes homeowners five to seven years to sign up for another project. And so he stays in the back of their minds via direct mail and distinctive black-and-yellow trucks.

The postcards do a great job of highlighting value propositions. Each piece starts with a clever, attention-grabbing headline related to full-service remodeling.
The postcards do a great job of highlighting value propositions. Each piece starts with a clever, attention-grabbing headline related to full-service remodeling.

Erazo calls this campaign "great." It's cohesive in the sense that the direct mail and trucks match and have the same feel. Consistency will helpd build brand, he predicts. The effective yellow and balck palette is bold, unique, and attention-grabbing.
Erazo calls this campaign "great." It's cohesive in the sense that the direct mail and trucks match and have the same feel. Consistency will helpd build brand, he predicts. The effective yellow and balck palette is bold, unique, and attention-grabbing.

Postcards go out to more than 1,000 past customers every three to four months. These cards stand out amid direct-mail clutter. Why? Because they're oversized, and their home-related graphic designs are in the same black and yellow as Carey's trucks.

"People say they see our trucks everywhere," the remodeler says. To achieve that memorable look, he buys black trucks and utility trailers and has them painted with a stripe containing the company logo.

Results: From January through October 2003, the postcards generated 101 leads and 70 jobs, valued at $2.5 million. The cost per lead was $13.86.
Costs: $7,800.
Ways to Improve: "I should probably be shot if I try to change anything," says Carey, who is pleased with the campaign. Nevertheless, Erazo offers one suggestion: Some postcards use several visual elements, while others have just one. Erazo suggests having all the postcards use the same number of illustrations for consistency.
Company Snapshot: Annual sales at Carey Contracting are $3 million. The design/build company also does commercial and insurance reconstruction work. It spends up to $20,000 a year on marketing, with as much as $4,000 going to direct mail.

The use of quality photography in each piece highlights project details. The recipient immediately knows the piece has something to do with home improvement. A lot of campaigns get too cute and clever rather than communicate the point, Erazo says.
courtesy DesignLine The use of quality photography in each piece highlights project details. The recipient immediately knows the piece has something to do with home improvement. A lot of campaigns get too cute and clever rather than communicate the point, Erazo says.

[Campaign 2] DesignLine

Richmond, Va.

The logo is bold and memorable. The campaign pulls colors from the logo and uses them as headers. This balances each piece nicely and is pleasing to the eye.  "I love their treatment of four-color," Erazo says. "It's well-balanced with the red."
The logo is bold and memorable. The campaign pulls colors from the logo and uses them as headers. This balances each piece nicely and is pleasing to the eye. "I love their treatment of four-color," Erazo says. "It's well-balanced with the red."
The Campaign: Since April 2002, DesignLine has worked to create name branding among prospects with a marketing campaign in the Richmond, Va., area. The campaign has three parts: direct mail, a Web site, and public relations.

Much of the direct-mail effort consists of message cards going to a list of 2,500. That list was based on criteria such as ZIP code, income of more than $77,000, and a home valued at more than $215,000. Each card emphasizes one aspect of the design/build company's work: kitchens, additions, whole-house renovations, baths, porches, decks, and patios.

"Consistency was the idea," says Dorothy Booze, company marketing/finance director. "We've started to see some results in the form of more jobs in the area where we're prospecting. The size of the jobs is growing, too." People don't pick up the phone, Booze points out, until they have a need. "That can be discouraging," she says. "But people tell us, 'Gee, I got your card, and now I'm ready to do something.'"

The company's Web site is designed to support the mailings, which include the URL. It features a portfolio, testimonials, a brief description of the company, and contact information. Visits to the site always spike after a mailing, Booze says, which means the campaign is working.

Results: Between 30% and 35% of Design-Line's leads result from the postcard mailers, Booze says. In 2003, the company received 18 leads from the direct-mail campaign, of which two went into build contracts. The value for those contracts is about $95,000.
Costs: $8,500 (includes creative services, printing, mailing, and purchasing a database). Ways to Improve: Booze reports she tried to do direct mail in-house, but wasn't satisfied with the quality of what she did. "What I was putting out was so inferior to what we have now," she says. "There's no comparison."
Company Snapshot: Sales at DesignLine are about $1 million. Approximately $30,000 goes toward marketing, advertising, and promotion, with two-thirds spent on direct mail.

[Campaign 3]

Shirey Contracting

Issaquah, Wash.

The Campaign: Shirey Contracting has marketed itself for more than a decade. "More business is our goal," says co-owner Donna Shirey. "We want to increase the number and size of our jobs." Four years ago, the company moved from Bellevue, Wash., to Issaquah, an area where it had never marketed.

The tag line is both concise and informative.
The tag line is both concise and informative.

A firm believer in the power of marketing to increase business, the company widened its campaign area to include Issaquah, plus neighboring Sammamish and Lake Sammamish.

The company mails out postcards and tri-folds at least quarterly. The 1,800 targeted homeowners in specified ZIP codes have an income of at least $125,000 and homes valued at $300,000 or more. Mailings also sometimes tap the handyman division's database of 9,600 people.

All pieces are professionally designed. "Our pieces have a theme. All printed material has the same look," Shirey says. "We're branding our name so people say, "I've seen you before.'"

By printing 60,000 pieces — enough for the next 18 months — the company reduced expected production and mailing costs from between $1.25 and $1.50 to 85 cents apiece. The company's fulfillment house stores the extra materials.

Results: Of 172 leads last year, 35 became jobs. Of those 35, six were credited to the direct-mail campaign. The six jobs brought in $354,370.
Costs: $9,120. Ways to Improve: Bigger photos might work better, Lozner suggests. It's difficult to see details in the bathroom photo on the card, for instance, and the lighting could be better.
Company Snapshot: Shirey Contracting is an upper-end remodeler with a handyman division. In 2003, $107,250 (6.5%) of the company's $1.65 million volume went to marketing.

[Campaign 4]

Hilton Enterprises

Stilwell, Kan.

This newsletters puts something in people's hands every month. "The Hiltons do this and do it consistently," Wilson notes. The content is targeted to middle- and upper-class America, Wilson says. These people will be flattered that they were put on the mailing list.
This newsletters puts something in people's hands every month. "The Hiltons do this and do it consistently," Wilson notes. The content is targeted to middle- and upper-class America, Wilson says. These people will be flattered that they were put on the mailing list.

The Campaign: Hilton Enterprises typically sends its monthly newsletter to about 200 people. That may sound like a limited audience, but the company focuses on its small hometown of less than 5,000 people, 30 miles outside of Kansas City.

Co-owner Candi Hilton puts out the homey, four-page newsletter using Microsoft Publisher. It typically features an article on a topic such as minimizing window condensation, thank-yous to clients and subs, and a recipe. Photography is done professionally.

Hilton started publishing the newsletter in 1999 in black and white; this year it went to four-color. The circulation of 200 includes clients, potential clients, vendors, subs, and real estate agents. Three times a year the newsletter also goes to non-client homeowners, bringing the number of recipients up to about 600.

"This folds into the rest of the stuff we do, like postcards, a neighborhood directory, and the Remodeled Homes Tour," Hilton says.

Results: In 2003, the newsletter brought in 16 leads and nine jobs, for a total of $148,008. "If I'm late," Hilton says, "I get phone calls asking where it is."
Costs: Production costs for the in-house job come to $120 monthly; mailing costs $148. Ways to Improve: A newsletter is not something you can do lightly, Hilton says. After doing it every month, she decided to send the newsletter out quarterly ? and saw a drop in business during the months when there was no newsletter. She went back to every month.
Company Snapshot: Hilton Enterprises is a design/build remodeler with annual sales of $405,000, with $12,500 spent on advertising and marketing.

[Campaign 5]

Hopkins & Porter Construction

Bethesda, Md.

The Campaign: Partners Guy Semmes and Mike Denker decided one way to celebrate Hopkins & Porter's 25th anniversary was to remind people of their longevity. The plan was to put 24-by-18-inch signs in the yards of former clients for the month of April, simply noting the anniversary, with contact information.

This job sign has simplicity and class. It isn't too busy and doesn't have too many fonts. "You don't get tired of looking at it," Wilson says. "Your eyeballs don't bounce around."
This job sign has simplicity and class. It isn't too busy and doesn't have too many fonts. "You don't get tired of looking at it," Wilson says. "Your eyeballs don't bounce around."

"We contacted all our past remodeling clients," Semmes says. "We asked if they would be willing to help us celebrate our 25th year, and we thanked them for being a key part." Homeowners who agreed to have the signs would get a certificate for one hour of free Hopkins & Porter handyman service.

It took days of phone calling by all eight people in the office, including the partners. Out of 280 people they contacted who still lived in their remodeled homes, 90 said they'd put a sign in their yards. "It forced us to contact every single one of our clients to say hello and spend 10 to 15 minutes with them," Semmes says. "We got leads from contacting them, even from people who couldn't, or wouldn't, put a sign up."

Results: Hopkins & Porter saw a 100% increase in leads, citing the signs as the source, Semmes says. Typically about 10% of leads comes from signs, but in 2003 that increased to 20% — 40 leads — with a sharp uptick in May. Of those 40, two turned into jobs. The average contract at Hopkins & Porter is $185,000.
Costs: $2,000.
Ways to Improve: Semmes was surprised at how many clients were no longer in the homes that Hopkins & Porter had remodeled for them. That limited who could "host" a sign. Besides, some ordinances and homeowners' associations forbade yard signs; others restricted how long they could be up.
Company Snapshot: Hopkins & Porter is a $3.3-million-a-year design/build company that includes a custom home division and handyman service. Typically, the company spends about $33,000 a year on marketing.