The answer: quite a bit, when it comes to homeowners' impressions of contractors. Two nationwide surveys conducted in March for Kimberly-Clark Professional explored this inherently tense relationship. Extrapolating from the results, we've identified some marketing language that could serve to mitigate homeowners' concerns and boost their confidence in your company.

  • Keywords: Honest, trustworthy, accountable, locally owned. Homeowners' biggest dislikes about having a contractor in their home include: having to negotiate prices (21%); the weirdness of having a total stranger in the home (21%); and feeling the need to constantly watch these strangers (17%).
  • Keywords: Quality, craftsmanship, pride, commitment. Homeowners' “worst contractor nightmare” by far is shoddy work (40%).
  • Keywords: On time, on budget, responsive, respectful, peace of mind. Top complaints are that contractors don't start the work when they're supposed to (36%), increase the price after the job begins or finishes (22%), and don't clean up their mess (20%).

On the topic of messes, 42% of surveyed homeowners say they would be “thrilled” if contractors wore disposable shoe covers. (Kimberly-Clark manufactures disposable shoe covers, drop cloths, and shop towels.)

The survey also underscores how frequent and open communication during the project can avoid misunderstandings and mistrust. “Contractors must be clear with their clients about the service they are providing,” says Paul Feuerstein, marketing director for Kimberly-Clark Professional DIY Business. For instance, state the time crews will begin work each day, and have explicit, written documentation on the scope of the job, including what is and what is not included.

For their part, Feuerstein says, homeowners should be explicit about their expectations — such as whether they expect your crews to clean each day and which bathroom they can use. If the client isn't clear about these things, you might need to ask.