It’s been said the more things change, the more they stay the same. Remodeling without a doubt has changed in response to economic conditions during recent years, and no one knows when or if it will return to its former state — or even if it should.
Yet, remodelers, at first glance, seem not to have changed a lot. They still rely to a surprising degree on word-of-mouth marketing and on a reputation based on quality work, according to a recent survey conducted by Qualified Remodeler.
But while word-of-mouth may still be king, that venerable marketing tool is not what it once was. Where word-of-mouth marketing used to take place between, say, past clients and potential clients, remodelers today are less shy about joining in that conversation or even starting it. That may be where the real difference lies.
Word-of-mouth used to mean passively waiting for the phone to ring. Now it means making the phone ring. Remodelers keep their names in front of past and potential clients in any way they can, from old-fashioned postal mail to e-mail. Their brochures today are increasingly likely to be digital online documents rather than ink on paper, but while the medium may be different, the intent is the same: Create an identity and make sure existing customers remember it and new ones are introduced to it.
Taking traditional brochures to another level, Web sites and social media are high on the list of things remodelers are doing to market their businesses. Old or new media, however, is secondary to doing more of whatever works and doing it more enthusiastically and consistently than ever before.
With that in mind, our survey didn’t set out to quantify how many remodelers have Facebook accounts or how many still prefer direct mail. Instead, we asked what was most effective for them. Following is a compilation of their responses.
1 Host a home improvement show. Opportunities are often available on local radio or TV. It boosts name recognition, keeps your name in front of potential and past clients and helps establish you as an expert in the industry.
2 Target specific demographic groups. One reader has launched “Operation Geritol,” which includes mailings to retirement communities and ad placement in local “mature living” publications. One of the most effective has been a tiny ad in the newspaper’s obituary section, he says.
3 E-mail newsletter. Many remodelers do this, but one respondent notes that he sends out his e-mail newsletter every two weeks — not just when he gets around to it. Consistency and frequency are keys to success.
4 Not your father’s Web site. Web sites are de rigueur but today they must be more than just a digital place to post your print brochure. The goal should be to drive the maximum number of qualified leads back to your site and capture demographic information. Link everything together: Outbound (e-mail, webcasts, etc.) with social network activities, referral service initiatives and your updated Web site. Each must refer to the other to gain maximum synergy.
5 Search engine optimization (SEO). That’s what’s under the hood of your Web site — embedded key words that speak directly to the search engines that steer the bulk of all Web traffic. These key words play a huge role in how high your company appears in results that your clients seek. Professional assistance is suggested.
6 Social networking. Often referred to as Web 2.0, this includes applications like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and many others. The goal is to expand your brand and drive traffic to your Web site. Best of all, they’re free.
7 Creative inserts in local newspapers. Direct mail and holiday cards are among the ways one respondent keeps in touch with potential clients. All cards are designed in house.
8 Word-of-mouth. It may be old-school, but many respondents insist that word-of-mouth is still the best way to market their businesses. The lesson is: Don’t look for new ways to market for the sake of doing something new; sometimes what works is right in front of you.