Chris Donatelli hangs up his remodeler hat for two hours a month and wears a different cap: advice nurse. The San Jose, Calif., remodeler uses that time to answer phone calls and e-mails from past clients about minor home problems. His company, Donatelli Castillo Builders, sent out a letter saying, "Don't know what to do about everyday problems that affect your home? Let us be the advice nurse for those troubles."

Donatelli says making himself available from 4 to 5 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of September through December prompted 15 calls and e-mails. "It was a great way to keep in contact with our customer base," he says. "That was the intention -- that our name come up again and they'd get a perceived value for it."

And because work slowed at the end of last year, he and partner Tony Castillo also wanted clients to know they provide service work.

Donatelli got calls on such topics as treating granite countertops and a chimney separating from a house. And the letter also prompted the call that made the campaign pay off: a $45,000 remodel of two bathrooms.

Donatelli designated a time he thought would be convenient for clients. Some did call outside the appointed hours, but the contractor or his staff handled those calls as well. "Follow up is a critical piece of this," he says. The company mailed 200 letters, and with stamps, they spent about $150. "It was a great return on investment, even with one job," Donatelli says.