This year, like each of the 18 years prior, REMODELING editors searched high and low for companies that embody what it takes to be a top-notch remodeling firm. The result is our Big50 Class of 2004.

The award means little, however, if no one knows about it. A properly leveraged award can be worth thousands of dollars a year; one that isn't used at all is worth less than the shelf it sits on. To that end, we set out to find the very best ways that remodelers spread the word about Big50. Four companies caught our attention, and they can now claim another honor: winners of our second Big50 Marketing Contest.

[Grand Award] Talmadge Construction A member of the Big50 class of 2003, this Aptos, Calif., company wasted no time in publicizing its accomplishment. Within two weeks of the award being made public, company owners Jeff and Adele Talmadge were on the phone with an independent media consultant, making plans to get the news out to the local papers. The Talmadges are still receiving leads from an article that ran on the front page of one business section nearly a year ago.

Novelty items like a stuffed bear (given to a client who recently had a child) and a clock (which hangs in their conference room), along with business cards, stationery, and company shirts that all sport the Big50 logo, constantly associate the company with the award. "We just keep putting it in front of people," Adele Talmadge says.

[Merit Award] McGuire, Hearn & Toms Remodeler C. Mason Hearn took advantage of his Big50 award, exploiting the opportunity to show off the recognition to anyone who comes in contact with the company's workers. McGuire, Hearn & Toms employees proudly advertise the company's Big50 status on baseball caps and golf shirts. (The hats are so popular with employees, no one wanted to part with one to submit to this contest.) Hearn also uses the Big50 logo on postcard mailers.

[Merit Award] Gayler ConstructionJust months after winning their Big50 award last year, the husband and wife team of George and Darlene Gayler emblazoned the official Big50 logo on all of their company's printed materials, including mailers, flyers, business cards, and stationery. The Gaylers landed two jobs from the Big50 postcard mailing, and they say promoting the award has gained them credibility with prospects who "equate the national recognition with professionalism."

[Honorable Mention] Stephen C. Gidley Inc.A Big50 winner in 1994, remodeler Stephen Gidley has featured his award prominently in promotional efforts ever since. Gidley advertises the award on stationery, mailers, and company T-shirts (below). Associating the company with a national honor has provided credibility, Gidley says, that has proved essential to his company's success: "Bottom line, without the tremendous lift achieving Big50 status afforded us, our firm would not be where it is today."