Why You're Terrible at Marketing

I’ve met exactly one marketing genius in the remodeling industry since I began specializing in remodeling marketing in 2005. His name is Brian Elias, the charismatic owner of Hanson’s Windows in Detroit. He’s built an impressive business somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million a year—not by having better products or service than everyone else—but by lapping the field in marketing.

I had breakfast with Bryan last September at a hole-in-the-wall diner near his office. What impressed me most was not Brian’s grand plans (he has many) or his mountains of success (ditto); what caught me totally off guard was how everyone reacted to him. This window salesman-turned-TV-star had the entire diner craning their necks, pointing fingers, and whispering “it’s that guy from TV” in hushed tones. The waitress was clearly star-struck: After asking for his autograph, she requested a picture with him so she could text it to her daughter. The commotion was about on par with what you’d expect from say, Neil Diamond or Chevy Chase.

And you thought the Kardashians were famous for no reason. This is a guy who sells windows, siding, and roofing for a living. In Detroit.

To be fair, Brian has been—and will continue to be—a fixture on the top 10 of Qualified Remodeler’s annual Top 500 list for a variety of reasons. He’s harnessed technology like nobody’s business. He has a commanding presence and is good at getting things done. He has built systems into his business ensure a perpetual smooth flow of business, and he hovers over minute details of the business like a pageant mom. But it’s his marketing genius that’s doing the heavy lifting.

And then there is you.

Sorry to break it to you, but when it comes to marketing, you’re no Brian Elias. But the good news is—you don’t have to be in order to make all the money you want in your business.

In my experience, there are SIX major business functions that must be mastered within a home improvement/remodeling company in order for it to THRIVE instead of just survive:

  1. Sales Ability: Remodeling is hyper-competitive; you’d better be able to outsell the rest.
  2. Sales Management: Managing the sales team is a distinct skill from just knowing how to sell.
  3. Operations: Somebody’s got to know how to manage the business. Hiring, firing, paying bills, ordering.
  4. Finances: More than one remodeling company have bit the dust due to poor handling of finances.
  5. Production: Getting the products installed the right way and in a timely fashion—muchos importantes.
  6. Marketing: Making sure your sales force has qualified, eager prospects to sell to.

Guess which TWO of the six sub-specialty backgrounds most remodeling company owners hail from? That’s right: Sales and Production. There’s nothing wrong with this—it’s just a statement of fact and observation. Sales-guys-turned-owners usually go out and find somebody who’s “good with details” to manage the business (operations, finance, production). Production guys usually partner (or hire) with sales gurus and figure out the operations side.

But almost nobody every figures out the marketing side of things. Most company owners I talk to either handle the marketing themselves and/or have a “marketing person” that is essentially a glorified traffic control cop (coordinates mailings, places ads with publications, contracts with website companies, etc.).

Almost NEVER is there a bona fide marketing expert involved in the mix. There’s nobody who really understands how to write ads that sell. Or create web copy that converts browsers into prospect and prospects into customers. It seems like everyone in the industry learned their marketing from “the company they used to work for” or from “looking around and doing what everyone else is doing.”

This is how we get THOUSANDS of websites that all pretty much look the same and say the same thing. How many websites start out by saying: “Welcome to XYZ Remodeling. LLC. We’re a family owned and operated business that has proudly been serving the Dallas, Fort Worth, and surrounding North Texas areas since 1978.” When your marketing looks, smells, feels, and sounds like everyone else’s, nobody stands out, and everybody suffers. Then guys like Brian Elias swoop in and devour all the market share. All of it.

Your Business Is On Trial

Think of your business as if it was on trial—and it was a life or death sentence at stake (because it is!). Would you want to be your own attorney and defend yourself? Or maybe you would hope that the court-appointed lawyer with his online law degree would get the job done. Remember, if you don’t gather all the evidence you need and present it to the jury (prospects, in your case) in a bold, compelling, and passionate way, you’re dead meat.

So here’s the good news: It’s not your fault that your marketing stinks. Your background probably hasn’t built marketing into one of your strengths. So just like with a court case, I would encourage you to reach out for professional help. Sure it costs more than doing it yourself, but paying a little more up front beats the heck out of getting clobbered and losing.

That being said, you absolutely MUST be careful who you hire to help you get where you’re trying to go. There are a LOT of companies out there that SAY they know what they’re doing but in reality don’t have the foggiest clue. In my next blog posting I’ll talk about some of the common problems with marketing companies, and how to make sure you’re dealing with a real pro who can present your company in a powerful, precise, and passionate way.

Rich Harshaw is the CEO of Monopolize Your Marketplace, a marketing services company that has specialized in home improvement marketing since 2005. To learn more about Rich and his company, please visit www.MYMonline.com/remodeler, or email Rich at rharshaw@mymonline.com.