When was the last time you updated your corporate identity? Chances are it's been a while. “Most people wait until they have a problem before they start taking a look at their marketing materials,” says David Alpert, president of Continuum Marketing in Great Falls, Va. “By then it's kind of late to start.” Alpert suggests reviewing your marketing when business is good; that is, when you can afford to devote the time and money toward upgrading your presentation.

“Marketing and sales are part of the same effort,” he adds. Focused marketing will bring in more qualified leads, with greater success for your sales staff.

Perfect Timing How do you know when your marketing materials need a facelift? Unfortunately, the time to overhaul is not cut and dried, according to Victoria Downing, president of Remodelers Advantage, in Fulton, Md. “When your materials start looking out of date, or when you change the services you're offering, that's a good time to take a fresh look at your image,” she suggests. Downing advises contractors to “ask yourself how you want to be perceived. What's your niche? Do you want a larger clientele?”

Terry Skilling, president of Rhino Builders in Kansas City, Kan., began updating his company's image last year, when the organization — which divides its energies between design/build and specialty remodeling — moved toward a new and different market position.

“We felt our stuff was getting stale, and we were making a switch to full-service remodeling,” Skilling explains. Rhino Builders changed its company colors, upgraded its logo and other graphic elements and developed a consistent look for all promotional materials, including its Web site.

Alpert says contractors should pay particular attention to their Web identity. “More middle- and upper-income homeowners do their research online,” he says. “If you have a mediocre site, you're never going to get called.” On the other hand, a professional-quality site will ensure that when customers call, they're ready to do business.

Integrated Approach Alpert also stresses that “an integrated strategy is important.” That means the logo on your truck should be the same as the logo on your signage, company uniforms, invoices, etc. Promotional materials that reflect your image with consistency and style help you become more visible and project a sense of competence. “It increases brand preference,” Alpert says. “You will compete less on price than on the attributes of your brand. You can grow faster, increase your fees, and be more selective about your clients.”

Skilling says he spent about $5,000 updating his marketing materials. He plans to be more disciplined from now on and review his promotional materials at least every two years.

“Times and styles change,” he says. “People's perceptions change. If you track your leads, you'll know pretty quickly if something is working or not.”