Our annual 40 Under 40 issue gives the editors of Professional Remodeler the unique opportunity to delve into the lives of 40 y
Marketing is not about slick magazine advertisements and complicated Web sites but about results.
|Best integrated marketing campaign|
Marketing is not about slick magazine advertisements and complicated Web sites but about results. Any size and type remodeling company can, and should, have a marketing strategy to help maximize profits. That's what the Pinnacle Marketing Awards are here to recognize.
The winning firms this year are young and old, big and small, specialty and design/build. Some spent a great deal of money on their marketing efforts; others did not.
All put a great deal of thought into who they were trying to reach, what they wanted to communicate about their firm, and what business results they hoped to achieve. Perhaps most important, they understood that marketing does not exist in a vacuum.
"Marketing is everything we do," says Terri Lodwick, president of All American Window & Door Co., winner of the integrated marketing campaign award. "It's every contact with the customer."
Depending on the category, the judges looked at a combination of the following criteria:
To find out how great marketing is planned and created, read on.
Begun at a kitchen table 17 years ago, All American Window & Door (best integrated marketing campaign) hit a turning point in 1998 when husband-and-wife owners Ben and Terri Lodwick spent a year reviewing the business and planning its long-term future. Marketing, Terri says, was identified as an essential component of the plan to achieve growth and greater visibility in the community.
In 1999, Terri hired a local graphic designer to put up a Web site. Terri liked how he helped her visualize her concepts and hired him in 2001 to assist with company branding and identity.
"The goal in marketing is to build confidence for your customer," she says. "For us, that meant showing our passion for what we do and making a difference in people's lives."
The process closely resembled a design/build project. Terri began by talking with the designer about the company philosophy as well as the words and colors that would represent that philosophy. They identified a target audience ranging from 45 to 65 years in age, with an income from $45,000 to $120,000.
The designer then presented her with three designs, one driven by pictures, one by the company logo and one by words. She spent two weeks reviewing the options and then took them to the staff, who voiced the positives and negatives of each and helped her put together a fourth option that combined the best of each. "If they believe in it, then it's easy for them to work with," Terri explains.
She and the designer then showed prototypes of the fourth design to a dozen people outside the company to gauge their reaction.
By June 2001, All American was ready to run a full-page color ad in the local newspaper. Leads were up within two to three weeks, which encouraged All American to roll out the complete rebranding campaign. That included everything from changing business cards and letterhead to developing new door hangers. So far, the $40,000 investment in design, printing, mailing and ad fees has contributed to a $350,000 sales increase in the first half of 2002.
|Best sales brochure|
Anderson-Moore Builders (best sales brochure) has faced tough competition from more established design/build competitors during its eight years in business. And within the past year, president Tracy Moore has seen a few builders switch to remodeling as the economy has slowed.
Although AMB had done well strictly with referral marketing, Moore and vice president Erik Anderson decided to develop a marketing budget and plan to help ensure a three- to six-month backlog and even out the slow and busy cycles. Their goal was to build brand awareness and ultimately to increase the number of qualified leads (and increase the number of qualified lead conversions to profitable sales) while reducing the overall amount of leads.
Going with a professional design and marketing firm was a tough decision for two reasons, Moore says. "You always think nobody knows how to do it right but us. It's the money, too. It scares you when you sit down to commit." The process helped put him in his customers' shoes, though, and he found a local firm, The Haege Group, with which he could do business the same way he likes to do business with clients. "If I can get good service and get someone who understands what I want, I'll worry about the money later," Moore says.
In 2001, Haege helped AMB develop a comprehensive marketing plan, of which a sales brochure was one part. Together, they identified AMB's target market as 35- to 55-year-old homeowners in the Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C., area with two to three children and annual salaries of $200,000 to $1 million.
Designed to be used for initial meetings with prospects or sent to real estate agents and architects who can refer clients to AMB, the sales brochure had to look high-end to appeal to the audience. The text needed to convey that with AMB, a customer receives not only a great product but also great service and a smooth building process, Moore says.
"We're trying to sell a product that in no way, shape or form is a cheap product," he explains.
At nearly $10,000, the brochure was not cheap to design and produce. Project case studies, intended to be tucked into a pocket of the brochure, cost an additional $3,600 but allow the presentation to be customized as necessary and will extend the life of the brochure indefinitely, as new projects can be added at any time. (Hard cost per unit came to $10.)
It can be difficult to determine how many leads can be attributed directly to a brochure, but Moore knows it is helping increase brand recognition and promote AMB's professionalism and credibility.
"One of the customers' first reactions is, 'If I do anything, I want you do it.'"
|Best direct mail|
The handyman division of Connor & Co. (best direct mail) started 10 years ago as a way for the firm to stay in touch with and help former clients. Over time, president William S. Connor realized it could be a real moneymaker. But as the division grew, he found increasing competition not only from handyman franchises entering his market but also from local contractors. "Handyman is catching on with front-line remodelers," he says. "We needed a shot in the arm."
Marketing was that shot. Two years ago, Connor hired manager Chris Bischoff, who brought skills and experience in growing a business. They sat down with a local design firm, Stahl Partners Inc., that Connor & Co. had used to create its company logo and a few direct mail pieces. This time, Connor & Co. developed a comprehensive marketing plan.
"This is the first time we've done it in an efficient and economic way," Connor explains. "Stahl spent time on the front end, and we acknowledged and paid for that." A series of four postcards was the easiest piece to turn around quickly. They decided to send quarterly mailings to more than 1,600 clients from the past three years. Most are college-educated, white-collar professionals with incomes ranging from $75,000 to $275,000 and homes worth $200,000 to $1.5 million. Connor wanted to remind them that the handyman division could handle their small repair needs and to present Connor's handymen as a cut above: intelligent, professional and trustworthy.
The pieces were designed to be "large enough not to get lost, colorful enough to stand out and catchy enough to stay with you," Connor says. The blue and gold colors are consistent with Connor's other branding efforts. The mailing also launched a new slogan for the handyman division: "Know someone dependable."
Since the mailings went out (design and printing cost $9,000), Connor & Co.'s handyman division has realized a 109% increase in revenue.
|Best multimedia advertisement|
The goals of All American Window & Door's (best multimedia advertisement) radio advertising were to increase name recognition and to convey the warmth, passion and sincerity identified as key company attributes in its integrated marketing campaign.
For that reason, although Terri Lodwick worked with a copywriter, she served as the voice talent herself. Spots run on the local oldies station twice during the one-hour program When Radio Was, which All American has sponsored since March. It also runs two quick announcements during the day encouraging listeners to tune into the program, and airs the full ad two other times each day. One week a month, the company runs ads on a local talk radio station.
Ads change occasionally to keep the campaign fresh while sticking to the basic themes. For instance, a winter ad referred to "hot fires, hot chocolate and snuggling with our children in front of the window."
Each ad costs $400 to produce, and the costs of running the ad total $600 weekly. Terri points to $100,000 in sales that have resulted from the radio ads, plus community recognition of "the radio lady" with the "trustworthy" voice.
|Best print advertisement, small market (less than 250,000)|
Wanting to publicize (and capitalize on) the anniversary of his 10th year in business, Keith Lay, president of Southland Remodelers (best print advertisement, small market), decided to run a series of testimonial ads, his first advertising ever, in his local newspaper. Active in the local chamber of commerce, Lay picked customers with high profiles in 27,000-person Oak Ridge, Tenn., including real estate agents, doctors and the retired former head of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge operations. He made sure to choose a range of homeowners -- singles, couples, senior citizens -- representative of his overall middle-class ($40,000-$60,000) clientele.
Designed by Southland, the ads ran in black-and-white or with one color and included a photo of the client and his or her home, a statement from the client, an actual signature, and the company's logo and phone number. Lay originally planned to run just a couple of ads, but when the newspaper ad sales representative pushed him to run 10, he agreed -- as long as the paper took the pictures, obtained the quotes and produced the ads.
Lay notes that while his ads don't have "the polish of a Madison Avenue marketing agency or a multimillion-dollar company," he was "elated with the results" in terms of increasing recognition within the community and generating leads. Of the 28 leads this ad campaign, which cost about $2,400, generated, Lay converted 17 to sales.
|Best print advertisement, large market (250,000+)|
The Bainbridge Crew's (best print advertisement, large market) 2001 marketing plan called for an ad in Remodel Charlotte, a special section of The Charlotte Observer, which has a circulation of about 275,000. Because the company's target demographic is owners of single-family homes who range in age from 25 to 65 and have an annual income of at least $75,000, this ad let The Bainbridge Crew reach most of its potential clients with one effort. Buying the centerfold ($2,000) allowed the company to include information about both of its divisions in one ad.
After Bainbridge designed a rough version of the layout in house, the newspaper staff finished it on its software. Bainbridge also runs ads in a neighborhood section of the paper and in the local business journal.
Dakota Report helps Dakota Builders Inc. (best newsletter) turn prospects into clients. Owner Greg Miedema, CGR, prefers the newsletter to direct mail because he says it has a longer shelf life. He ensures that's the case by packing its pages with informational articles on new types of products and how the remodeling process works, as well as by highlighting Dakota Builders' projects and community involvement.
"We want to present Dakota Builders as a leading remodeling firm, well- connected nationally," Miedema says. "A team of skilled craftsmen who are good listeners, lifelong learners, great on-site managers and good neighbors."
In addition to sending the quarterly newspaper to 3,500 current and past clients, plus industry and trade partners, Dakota Builders mails it to a purchased list of about 5,500 that includes everyone in Pima County, Ariz., who bought a home valued at $125,000 or more in the past year. Another 1,000 are distributed to real estate agents through a partnership with a local agency.
The newsletter costs about $5,000-$6,000 each issue to produce, and in the past year it has generated 110 leads, which turned into eight projects totaling $215,000 in sales. The suppliers that sponsor the newsletter help absorb some of the costs and allow Dakota "to say we are in good company," says Miedema.
|Best Web site|
With the February 2002 relaunch of its www.bainbridgecrew.com Web site, The Bainbridge Crew (best Web site) redesigned the look so that it reinforced the company's print marketing. The company also added a substantial amount of content, including a frequently asked questions section, an information request form and an employment application.
The redesign, performed by a local Internet service provider, cost $1,000. The Bainbridge Crew staff can easily update pictures, text and graphics, using the ISP's software, at no extra cost.
The ISP hosts the site for $25 per month.
The site's primary purpose is to educate clients, but in four months the new site also has generated 16 leads, two of which were converted to $4,200 in sales.