Most remodelers didn’t start out as marketers. They became business owners and marketers almost as an afterthought, and some of them still aren’t comfortable in that role. Compared to framing a room addition, marketing is still something of a mystery. In good years, marketing wasn’t top of mind. Word of mouth and referrals kept many remodelers more than busy. In many cases, that has changed.
It doesn’t help remodelers’ comfort levels when someone like business author Seth Godin writes a book titled All Marketers Are Liars. Instances of chicanery and malfeasance in the remodeling industry are not hard to find, making Godin’s premise all the more uncomfortable for some remodelers. Fortunately, Godin has since seen the title as a marketing faux pas and renamed the book All Marketers Tell Stories.
Godin may be on to something, particularly with the new title that will set fewer teeth on edge. Marketing is about telling a story, the title posits, and looking at it that way demystifies the process. Thinking of marketing as story telling also makes clear the risk of embellishing that story or telling it poorly; reality will quickly catch up with a fabricated or flawed tale.
What’s Your Story?
The back-to-basics questions that Godin says marketers should ask themselves are simple:
What’s your story?
Will people believe it?
Is it true?
Two remodelers with whom Qualified Remodeler spoke are indeed telling their stories, albeit in different ways. Nevertheless, it’s clear they’ve given their marketing plans a lot of thought and spent a good deal of time and effort crafting their plans.
Daniel Wolt, president and founder of Zen Windows, Columbus, Ohio, has simplified the marketing process, and he’s glad he did.
Wolt’s window business wasn’t always the “kinder, gentler window business” that it is now, he relates on his Web site. It was about telemarketers and canvassing to get leads, high-pressure in-home sales with both the husband and wife present, monthly payments and the whole bag of old-fashioned home-improvement sales tricks, as Wolt calls them.
“About seven or eight years ago, I decided this just wasn’t for me,” he says. “It wasn’t my personality, and I didn’t enjoy it.” He looked around at his family, many of whom were professionals of one kind or another—lawyers, accountants, dentists—and realized “they don’t go knocking on doors, making phone calls, bothering people and pressuring them into doing things.”
Wolt decided to remake his window business on that model. “My wife, a dentist, will not get on a phone and start cold calling people to see whether they need a root canal. If someone’s mouth hurts, they’ll call her.” he says.
Wolt asked himself why he couldn’t set up a business model where if someone’s house hurts, the homeowner would come to him.
Skeptics will certainly doubt his model, but Wolt points out, “Since the inception of Zen Windows, we have grown from roughly $600,000 in year one with one crew and myself to current revenues of more than $2.8 million for 2010 with five crews always working, a full-time assistant and a full-time Internet marketing guru.”
When people hear about Wolt’s business plan, “they don’t believe it, or they think I’m out of my mind,” he says. Nevertheless, he says he has consulted with other window installers, some of whom were not convinced and a few who saw the logic of the model. None, so far, have taken the leap that Wolt has.
The value of Wolt’s approach, even for those not willing to make a radical switch in their marketing, is that it challenges the status quo and forces remodelers to defend their own marketing plans.
Wolt has eliminated the salesperson from the process, a significant savings in overhead. “I have no sales force; it’s just me. I am the point man. Customers have multiple ways of contacting me whether it’s e-mail that goes to my smart phone, through my Web site, my personal cell-phone number or through my office. No matter what, they’ll always get me,” he says.