One thing that remodelers who are succeeding in a down economy have in common is they rarely talk about the economy being down. Certainly they acknowledge economic reality, but they don’t obsess about it or let it daunt them. If anything, they use it to their advantage. They fine-tune their businesses, making adjustments to their sales and marketing efforts, controlling costs and reevaluating priorities.
“I’ve never used the term down economy in almost 30 years in business,” says Bruce Pinsler, president of Galaxie Home Remodeling, Lincolnwood, Ill. “I just don’t buy into that, especially in my business. If homeowners can’t sell their homes, they have to work on them. The difference is we focus more on needs than on wants. If your roof is leaking and you can’t sell your home, you have to find a way to fix your roof. I’ve had my biggest growth spurts in what others consider down economies.”
Despite reports of an unfavorable climate for kitchen and bath remodeling, Galaxie Home Remodeling’s kitchen business was up nearly 100 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, Pinsler relates, and the company’s bathroom trade was strong, as well. Bathrooms are a necessity, Pinsler explains. “If water is getting behind the walls and you have a mold problem, the bathroom must function. A lot of times, instead of just putting a Band-Aid on it, people are going to invest in their future, knowing they’re going to be staying in the house for a long time,” he says.
Customers may have lost 40 to 60 percent of the equity in their homes, depending on the neighborhood, Pinsler acknowledges. “We’re all in the same boat when it comes to that, but for most of my customers, their home is still the single biggest investment they’ll make in their lives.”
"Branding and credibility are important, but nothing happens overnight. If you start a marketing campaign make sure you have the finances to see it through."Bruce Pinsler, president, Galaxie Home Remodeling
Pinsler notes he has aggressively marketed Galaxie Home Remodeling during the past several years, explaining the company started out as a marketing company with a lot of print advertising. That gave way to nearly 100 percent telemarketing with a dialer room and more than 30 people working six days a week. “The no-call list wiped out almost 80 percent of the phone numbers,” Pinsler says. “And of the other 20 percent, 80 percent had caller ID.”
With telemarketing no longer a viable option, Pinsler recalls he went back to what he was familiar with—print. For nearly three years Galaxie Home Remodeling has been running full- and half-page ads almost daily with the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. More recently, he has expanded to the Daily Herald, a newspaper with circulation that covers a wide suburban-Chicago area.
Newspapers aren’t dead, Pinsler has found. “If you had asked me three years ago, I would have told you the Internet would be driving my company today. When my daughter or sons [who are in their late teens and early 20s] are running the company, that may be true,” he says.
Pinsler says he’s aware newspaper readership is dropping but contends people still trust newspapers. “Don’t get me wrong; I get nowhere near the response I got 20 years ago, but newspapers are still a vehicle for my business,” he says.
In September 2009, Pinsler started a television campaign with two local stations, WGN and WCIU. Although Chicago is a major media market that gives advertisers a great deal of exposure and credibility, Pinsler says, “It took almost a full year before the phone really started to ring from the TV ads.”
Not one to let opportunities pass him by, Pinsler is talking with Chicago radio stations to include that medium in Galaxie Home Remodeling’s growth plan
Another avenue that Pinsler has chosen to follow in sports-minded Chicago is sponsorships with the Chicago Bulls basketball team and Blackhawks hockey team. As a sponsor, Galaxie is allowed to identify itself as the “official home remodeler” of the Blackhawks and the “chosen home remodeler” of the Bulls.