Marketing can be a tricky thing. Remember when Oldsmobile marketed its cars with the slogan, “not your father’s Oldsmobile”? The campaign would have to be judged a flop because the only Oldsmobiles you see on the road today last rolled off the assembly line in 2004. In contrast, the expression “not your father’s [insert term here] … ” has become a pop-culture catch phrase that has outlasted the product it was coined to promote.
Likewise, in making marketing decisions, remodelers face some tough choices in an uncertain market. What works? Tried-and-true methods or new strategies? Taking a lesson from Oldsmobile, catch slogans would seem a less winning strategy than a truly appealing product.
Judging from the response to a recent Qualified Remodeler reader survey, 60 percent of respondents favor the tried and true: repeat and referral business. Other marketing strategies show very small percentages by comparison.
One can argue remodelers rely on repeat business and referrals for a very good reason: It worked in the past and it works now. Or, one may contend they’re missing significant marketing opportunities and putting their businesses at risk by not expanding their marketing horizons. As is often the case, the truth likely lies somewhere between the two extremes.
“I would love to be able to ask my friends in the industry if [repeat business and referrals] are important to them, but, unfortunately, that’s exactly what they relied on, and they’re no longer here,” says Todd Jackson, CAPS, chief executive officer of Jackson Design and Remodeling, San Diego. Business shrank by 50 to 70 percent for those who relied heavily on repeat and referral business, he adds.
“To get a referral, you have to have a new client,” adds CoCo Harper, Jackson Design and Remodeling’s marketing director.
Part of the problem some remodelers encounter is not committing to a marketing plan, Jackson says. “I have friends who say they’re committed to spending a certain amount of dollars on marketing, and at the end of the year, they’ve only spent half of it.”
Marketing is more than setting aside a budget; it’s looking at your tactics in advance and having a plan. “By September or October [of the preceding year] , we know pretty much month to month what our plan is,” Jackson explains. “We list every tactic; we could probably have 30 headline tactics and under each of those there may be eight strategies. We plan that out month by month, how much are we going to spend and what week are we going to do it in.”
Planning ahead can have its advantages, Jackson says, relating how he negotiated a 50 percent discount on 2012 TV advertising by paying for it (and writing it off) in 2011. “We knew we were going to spend it anyway in the next six months,” he explains.
Marketing starts with the basics, Harper explains. “You have to have a good product to market. You have to have a business that has integrity and does good work. That is marketing 101.”
Beyond that, she asks, “What makes you different? What will break you away from your competitors? Who really is your client? Are they men, 50 years old? In what part of town? What are the geographics, demographics and psychographics of your clients? What is your budget for the year? Plan that. It should be a percentage of your sales. What are your goals? How many leads do you want? Set some solid goals and opportunities for yourself and then work on a plan that is detailed and involved.
“Have a consistent message, and then move forward,” Harper says. “Marketing for a remodeling company is a moving and fast-paced job.
“Our goal has always been to be the leader in what we do; that’s where I like to be, so I’m very motivated. When I first came on, everyone [in the industry] was doing the same thing, and you [as an individual remodeler] become vanilla when you were not vanilla. Clearly, you have a lot more to offer.”