Homeowner seminars, home shows, volunteer projects, cause marketing and sponsoring sports teams are just a few of the proactive event marketing activities remodelers regularly engage in to showcase their businesses, keep their names in front of the public and establish relationships with potential clients.
Home shows and volunteer projects statistically are among the most common, but there are plenty of other venues where remodelers can gain exposure and establish connections.
“We have been doing seminars for about four years,” says Peter Michelson, CEO of Renewal Design Build in Decatur, Ga. “We got started because our sales process is a consultative process. We understood pretty early on that people want to learn a lot, and there is a lot of misinformation out there, especially when it comes to design-build firms.”
Kitchens are always a hot subject for Renewal. The company also has presented seminars about aging in place, financing, home performance and general open-forum question-and-answer sessions. Seminars are most often held in Renewal’s office and showroom. “We want to get people in the door to see we have a physical presence — that we’re not your run-of-the-mill contractor but a full-fledged, full-service design-build firm,” Michelson says.
Renewal has given seminars at home shows, but homeowner-targeted expos are not high on Michelson’s list of preferred marketing venues. Typically, products featured at home shows, such as replacement windows, siding, garden tools or patio furniture, attract a different clientele than those a design-build remodeler is seeking. “We get a better return when we sponsor our work on different home tours,” Michelson says.
“Metro Atlanta has a lot of different home tours,” he explains. “Some are sponsored by local towns, but the ones we are doing are sponsored by the Junior League [a women’s volunteer and charitable organization with chapters in major cities]. It took us a couple years to get onto that tour because you have to wait for someone to drop off before there is a space available — if you have even qualified to join the tour.”
Targeted and Specific
Michelson says Renewal’s marketing is targeted and specific and doesn’t use mass advertising to promote its seminars and other events. “We don’t put up a lot of flyers around town; we use a lot of Internet-based resources to get the word out,” Michelson says, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Renewal’s own website, email blasts and local blogs such as Patch.com
Seminars are presented by Renewal staff who are experts in the topic of each particular seminar.
“Seminars need to be very engaging,” Michelson says. “That sort of goes without saying, but I like to begin the seminars by asking people what they’re hoping to get out of the talk. We typically have between 10 and 25 people at the seminars, so it’s not a large crowd and there is a nice intimacy about it."
Not an Infomercial
“You cannot promote your company,” Michelson warns. “It’s not an infomercial. You’re clearly demonstrating that you are an expert on the subject, and that should speak for itself. It’s an educational experience for the people who come.”
Michelson feels strongly that people should get what they came for, but says, “you don’t know why they’re there until you ask the question. Then you can truly engage.
“I’m not a big fan of saving the Q&A for the end of the presentation,” he adds. “I’m a huge fan of engaged conversation — having people ask questions and wanting to go deeper into something.” That way, he explains, there might be 50 questions during the course of the presentation as opposed to two or three at the end. “Chances are it wasn’t because you answered all their questions; it’s just because they forgot what their other questions were. Saving questions for the end is more for the benefit of the presenter than the audience,” Michelson says.
Pictures are better than words. Do a PowerPoint presentation, but if you have a 60-minute presentation, you should have at least 50 or 60 slides, Michelson advises.
Experimenting with different times of day and different days of the week also is advisable. Michelson admits he still hasn’t found the magic bullet when it comes to scheduling, relating that he’s recently tried a lunch-and-learn seminar in cooperation with a local bank. The latter carries with it an implied endorsement of the hosting institution, although it’s a validation that can work both ways.
The noontime lunch-and-learn brings up the subject of refreshments. Michelson offered light sandwiches for that gathering, but notes, “It doesn’t matter how good the food is that we bring to a 7 p.m. seminar, 90 percent of it is still there at the end. [In the evening], we offer beer, wine, soft drinks and juices and maybe desserts, crackers and cheese.”