Marketing Masters

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In this second installment of Professional Remodeler's two-part series on sales and marketing strategies for increasing local market share, we illustrate the ways one company, DesignLine Remodelers Inc. of Richmond, Va., has created a detailed marketing strategy based on a well-defined client profile, clear sales goals and quality materials. 

July 01, 2006

Sidebars:
Marketing Tips
Web Site Strategies

SECOND OF A TWO-PART SERIES

In his book, "Monopolize Your Marketplace: Separate Yourself from the Competition — Then Eliminate Them," Richard Harshaw describes effective marketing like this:

"To distinguish your business from the pack and lead prospects to say, 'I would have to be an absolute fool to do business with anyone else but you — regardless of price.'"

The CEO of Y2Marketing, one of Inc.'s Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies from 2002–2004, goes on to describe exactly how any small business can develop a comprehensive strategic marketing plan that will eliminate much of the pressure from the sales call and prime prospective clients for a quicker and easier decision to hire you.

In this second installment of Professional Remodeler's two-part series on sales and marketing strategies for increasing local market share, we illustrate the ways one company, DesignLine Remodelers Inc. of Richmond, Va., has created a detailed marketing strategy based on a well-defined client profile, clear sales goals and quality materials.

The goal

When DesignLine owners Wayne and Dorothy Booze decided they wanted to take their then seven-year-old remodeling company to the next level in 2003, they had some important decisions to make.

How fast do we want to grow? What kind of projects do we want to specialize in? Which kind of customer do we want to reach?

With a new marketing plan in place, all signs are pointing up for Wayne and Dorothy Booze of DesignLine Remodelers. 
Photo by Bill Geiger

"We try to be very realistic about our growth because I think managing growth is the key to success," says Dorothy, who oversees all marketing, financial and human resource operations within the company. "It's been very tempting to want to try and grow too fast because of the way the economy's been over the last several years. There's a lot of business out there, but we've been very strategic about our growth."

The Boozes decided 20 percent annual growth was a reasonable, achievable goal. To do that, they figured they would need to target upper-middle class clients who were interested in large design-build projects within a 25-mile radius of DesignLine's office. Their target audience became clearly defined: couples age 45 or older, owning a home at least seven years old between $450,000–$750,000, with a desire to improve the house or fulfill a need such as an in-law suite, aging in place adjustments, space conversion for a different use, or an addition that usually included a kitchen.

The strategy

DesignLine began by hiring Biz-comm, a Fairview, N.C. marketing agency specializing in the remodeling industry, to plan and implement a new marketing program in 2003.

Several meetings with Biz-comm President Patrice Olivier-Wilson followed. The discussions started by identifying DesignLine's past clientele then branched off into defining a detailed target client profile, designing a new version of its logo, developing a coordinated set of collateral materials and developing a stronger Web site.

"When we first met them, their marketing budget was limited," says Olivier-Wilson. "So we started them off gently budget-wise with a Web site and a series of 'neighborhood' postcards that worked small areas at a time."

As sales have increased through the additional marketing, DesignLine has also upped its marketing budget, which is about 3 percent of annual gross sales, or $43,000 in 2006.

"It really is a whole process," says Dorothy. "When I started working with Biz-comm, they really educated me on the fact that it isn't just one facet of marketing. You really do need to have a marketing plan. And we try to touch every facet of the target market. Every piece that we send out does something different."

The direct-mail strategy Biz-comm devised went like this: after the targeted neighborhoods received DesignLine's "introductory" piece, they moved from that list to the newsletter list that also includes past clients and anyone who had called on them at any point in the past.

These efforts were revamped in 2006 by a more aggressive campaign that identified a larger list of potential clients who were mailed cards with a series of messages over a six-month period. Those geographical areas that show the most response from the 2006 campaign will be added to the newsletter list.

"Before, we were sending our newsletter out to not only past customers but quite a large prospect database, and we decided that we were going to reserve the direct mail for our universal targeting and only send our newsletter out to people who really know us, who already have a relationship with us," says Dorothy.

DesignLine's Web site has been a work in progress. In 2003, the company simply updated the site to resemble something of an online "brochure" of high-profile past projects.

This year, it redesigned the look of the Web site to better convey the high-end image the team developed and added the "clients only" module that allows DesignLine to efficiently communicate product selection, change orders and anything else that comes up during a project's lifespan.

"As they grew in size, they also grew in quality of leads," says Olivier-Wilson. "Hence the need for a more upscale image."

"In 2004, we changed quite a bit as a company," says Dorothy. "We have a different target market. Our projects are much larger. So we just had to redesign the Web site. It was a few years old and with the new postcards, we wanted to tie everything together. And we really wanted to look at our Web site not just as a brochure of pretty pictures. We wanted to use it as an interactive tool. We wanted prospects who may have received our mailer to go on to the Web site and learn more about who we are.

"And we wanted clients who we were working with on projects to be able to use it to keep in communication with us. Each client has their own password, so they can upload photos, upload change orders, notes, what have you, and there's a good documentation of conversation that's going on between us. It's really about communicating with and educating the client."

"It's exciting because we do think that the Internet is the wave of the future and we want to make sure that we're staying up to date and truly using it as a tool. So many remodelers out there, I go on their Web sites, and they haven't changed it in years and it's outdated. Why have it if it isn't going to be a strong marketing tool for you?"

DesignLine's marketing plan also includes the typical job signs, print ads, company shirts and gift baskets, but Dorothy also utilizes All The Buzz, a Richmond public relations specialist, to place articles in the local media, a strategy that produced a feature story in a high-profile business magazine called KLEOS this year.

"This magazine is distributed to senior level executives, high-income households and high-level career people, and I was amazed how many people have come up to me and said, 'I saw you in KLEOS this year,'" says Dorothy. "The phones haven't necessarily been ringing with people asking for remodeling jobs, but because it's such a highly respected publication, just to have been involved in it really put us in a different arena.

"We've had a few articles written this year in various publications that are local to the Richmond area, and it's just a great way to keep your name out there."

All The Buzz President Linda Barrett helped DesignLine put together a new marketing concept last year, an idea house, which essentially is an open house held at a past client's home from 4 to 8 p.m. on a Friday. They sent a mailer to the adjacent neighborhood and some target neighborhoods inviting prospects to tour the home and enjoy complimentary refreshments. Between 50 and 60 people attended and talked to Dorothy and Wayne, the project manager and designers and filled out a lead sheet.

"It was very successful, and we're going to do another one this fall," says Dorothy. "We keep trying new things. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. But the key is to just get your name out there."

Dorothy, who was chairman and co-chairman of her local NAHB Remodelors Council from 2002–2004, organized a remodeled home tour in conjunction with the Richmond Parade of Homes, in which DesignLine participates.

"Last year we entered into it and had a nice entry," says Dorothy. "But we really needed to get the word out and let people know that it was happening. So we got a wonderful news article written about it, and we had over 500 people come through. It was hugely successful. A lot of people saw the article. So we're doing it again this year, and little by little it's gaining popularity."

The results

Although most of DesignLine's leads still come via repeats and referrals, the fact remains that the marketing strategy has allowed the firm to increase its annual installed sales volume 46 percent from 2004 (about $1.1 million) through 2006 ($1.6 million projected).

"Most of our business in 2005 and 2006 comes from referrals, which many remodelers will tell you is ideally what you want," Dorothy says. "The thing I'm finding, though, is that in talking to customers and prospects that come into our office, they are seeing our direct mail, they're seeing our newsletter, they're seeing our articles in the newspaper, so it's all working. In essence we're creating top of mind awareness. I know that I may send out a direct mail piece and they may not necessarily pick up the phone right away because they don't have a need yet. But when they do have that need, I want them to think of us first."

She is quick to point out, however, that the increase in business would not have been possible if DesignLine's staff wasn't able to keep up their end of the bargain.

"Our team is one of our best marketing assets," says Dorothy. "They represent our company and define our company image. It is of no value to generate numerous, well-qualified leads if we do not have the systems and team in place to execute the process that will result in a satisfied customer."

Promotion Cost Leads Contracts Sales
Web site $3,185.00 7 2 $196,750
Uniforms $2,273.04 - - -
Print Ads $3,210.00 3 0 $0
Direct Mail $2,891.09 1 0 $0
Newsletter $3,690.12 0 0 $0
Company Functions $1,784.60 0 0 $0
Customer Gifts $548.80 - - -
Awards $716.94 - - -
Membership Fees $2,088.60 - - -
Photography $3,370.54 - - -
Postage $86.00 - - -
Parade of Homes $7,770.29 23 2 $316,107
Idea House $1,737.14 1 0 $0
Referral - 53 5 $740,551
Repeat - 9 4 $125,702
Job signs - 1 0 $0
Other - 2 0 $0
Total $33,352.16 100 13 $1,379,110

 

Marketing Tips

There is no magic bullet for marketing; a remodeling firm can only position his or her company to be the remodeler of choice when a homeowner is ready to remodel.

Patrice Olivier-Wilson, President of Biz-comm Inc., a marketing agency specializing in the remodeling industry, suggests the following priorities when designing a marketing plan for growth:

  1. Strong corporate identity. This includes logo development for use on stationery packages, yard signs, truck signs, direct mail, Web site, presentations, etc.
  2. Effective Web site. It's a waste of money to develop a strong campaign if a remodeler doesn't have a good Web site; if folks get a card, go to the site and are disappointed, it's a lost effort: It's better to have no Web site than a poor Web site.
  3. Direct mail postcards.
  4. Direct-mail newsletters. Ideal for staying in touch with past clients and those homeowners who have already been introduced to the company via directmail postcards.
  • For more information on marketing strategies for remodeling firms, visit www.biz-comm.com.

  • Web Site Strategies

    Not having a strong Web site puts you at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to landing new customers as well as generating the repeat and referral business that will help you grow your business.

    Here are some tips from Brian Kraff, CEO of Market Hardware in Bethesda, Md., a small business Web site marketing consultant specializing in the remodeling industry:

    • A remodeling business Web site's design should be somewhat conservative with little to no loud graphics, cute animations, wild colors or very large fonts. You don't want customers feeling as though they have landed at a used car lot.
    • Have your site built so search engines know how to match you. If you build a site yourself, do your research on how to use metatags and how to set your site up for the best possible search engine placement. If you use a company or design shop, ask how they optimize your site for searching and how often they update their techniques. Those updates are important as search engines frequently refine or completely change their formulas.
    • Your front page must deliver a message in less than 30 seconds — the length of time that most consumers take to decide whether they stay and read more or leave your site. Put the most important information — what types of projects you do, your specialty, why a potential customer should consider you — right up front in an easy-to-read font style and size.
    • Make sure your page background color and font color don't conflict.
    • Make sure your contact information is available on every page of your site.
    • As your business changes, your site needs to change as well. When you have new certifications, specials or seasonal services to highlight, make that information available quickly.

    For more information about Web site marketing, visit www.markethardware.com

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