Get Focused on Profits

The world is full of remodelers who are busy helping customers. But the world is also full of customers who could be busier helping remodelers. I'm talking about focus groups, that academic-sounding idea of asking customers (and the people you would like to win as customers) how they make purchasing decisions for remodeling needs.

June 30, 2006

Doug Dwyer
Contributing Editor

The world is full of remodelers who are busy helping customers. But the world is also full of customers who could be busier helping remodelers. I'm talking about focus groups, that academic-sounding idea of asking customers (and the people you would like to win as customers) how they make purchasing decisions for remodeling needs.

Can you think of an easier way to find out what's important to your target market than simply asking? Whether it involves people who already know your business, or people you wish would know your business, what matters to them needs to matter to you — and a focus group is a good way to get there. But where do you begin?

Focus groups can be highly complex and expensive, and involve third-party research firms that specialize in the business. Or, they can be as simple as assigning an employee to survey customers of completed jobs. The important thing is to start somewhere, collect data and gauge your company's performance. Based on feedback, you may get a wealth of information for how to market your services and win even more business.

When you've completed a remodeling job, don't consider it the end of your relationship with the customer. He or she could be the ambassador you need, someone who can refer others to your business. One way to find out is to ask. Invite your top customers to a focus group. Consider feeding them and paying them for their time. Make them feel special for being chosen to participate. Start by asking how and why they chose your firm, and ask if you lived up to expectations. Invite suggestions for how you could improve the business, and ask them if they would recommend you to others. Foster a dialogue among participants without steering the discussion. And don't get defensive when they point out weaknesses. Remember, this information is meant to help you make better decisions, it's not meant to dictate how you do things. You may be the remodeling expert, but they are the reason you are a success and could make you be an even bigger success.

Choosing the right participants is key. You don't want "do-it-yourselfers" advising you how to run your company, because they are not going to hire you or pay a premium for what they might tackle on their own. You do want "do-it-for-me" — prospects and customers" — who have already used your services. They can tell you why they would retain your firm for a particular project, use you again; or refer you to a friend. And they are willing to pay for a quality job. That should be all the motivation you need for doing a little research that could create a roadmap for the future.

Lastly, focus groups aren't just a way to affirm what you have done. They can provide direction for what more you can do. In the 12 years that my company has conducted focus groups, we've had customers tell us they wished the salesperson had been better because they were only sold what they were willing to pay for versus what they really wanted, and they were unhappy with the results. In truth, they would have been willing to pay more for what they wanted if they had been confident it was what they would truly be getting. They wanted to be sold on a job that would make their dreams come true and were willing to pay more to get it.

The feedback was an eye-opening experience that helped us improve our sales approach, encourage higher-grade materials, and offer more bells and whistles to confidently sell at higher margins. In return, remodeling projects have reached higher price points and profit margins have increased dramatically. Ultimately, this showed that we had very satisfied customers as well as a way to create cheerleader customers. We got focused. You can, too.


Author Information
Doug Dwyer is president and chief stewarding officer of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide, one of the nation's largest remodeling franchises. He can be reached at doug.dwyer@dwyergroup.com.


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