Last February David Tyson, owner of David Tyson Remodeler, in Charlotte, N.C., noticed that his backlog was shrinking and the phone in his office was silent. For the 27 years that he has operated his company, David Tyson Remodeler, he has almost exclusively relied for new business on customer referrals and doing additional work for previous customers. Last year, for instance, seven of the company’s 19 jobs were repeat, nine were referral. Generating new work has never been a problem — until people stopped calling.

“We’ve seen a lot of our friends shut down," Tyson says. "So we decided to get aggressive.” He met with the company's operations manager and production manager and brainstormed. They determined that they needed a marketing plan — a plan that would leverage the company’s existing strengths rather than expend big dollars. Besides longevity, those strengths included a solid reputation and deep roots in local communities.

The first idea, Tyson says, was to “increase our jobsite presence.” He had his yard sign redesigned. He bought steel and fabricated new sign holders for signs and permits. Then, taking a leaf from new-home builders, he created a "Take One" box for all his jobs, and designed and printed flyers using Microsoft Publisher software.

Tyson also spent several thousand dollars wrapping the company’s two trucks in ads, relaunched the company’s quarterly newsletter, and directed his project manager to drop courtesy letters at homes in neighborhoods where the company has a job going.

Tyson's not hoping to double his volume. He simply wants to get through the slowdown with the employees he has. “Our whole thought process here is that we’ll be well-poised to come out of this thing.”