Seeking a “cohesive marketing and branding strategy,” a growing ten-year old company in the South, which specializes in fiber-cement siding and wants to grow its roofing and window segments, has just hired its first marketing manager. Her first order of business? Build a referral program at a company where most leads come from a manufacturer’s website or online lead generators like Angie’s List and Home Advisor. In other words, augment with referrals a lead model that is already almost entirely inbound.
Marketing for a home improvement business might seem like a straightforward proposition. Your job is to generate customer inquiries (leads) and convert them to appointments that the salespeople then run and, let’s hope, close. Tell a marketer who’s never been in the industry that and he or she will nod appreciatively, though likely they’ll know little about generating leads for short cycle construction projects.
Full Time or Part Time
Leads drive everything at a remodeling company, and especially at a home improvement business. When it comes to finding a contractor for needed or desired exterior improvements, homeowners are slow to act, for several reasons—how much they’ll spend and fear of the contracting process top the list. And owners of home improvement companies often hire a full-time marketing director late in the game. In the early life of a company marketing tends to be someone’s part-time job, often the owner’s.
A recent report from indeed.com says marketing managers at home improvement companies make $40,000 a year. The same website claims sales professionals in this business average $96,150. Can it actually be the case that a marketing director makes less than half of what a salesperson makes? Unlikely, when you consider that the average starting salaries of marketing majors graduating with a bachelor’s degree was $53,400 in 2012. The website PayScale.com lists the median salary for a marketing director at $82,647, as of this year.
That doesn’t necessarily mean home improvement companies are stingy. What it reflects is that “marketing director” is often a part-time position at many companies, split between the office manager and the owner, or the sales manager and another admin employee. Many owners are former salespeople who want a direct hand in marketing and sales management. A survey late last year of members of Certified Contractors Network, a networking organization whose roughly 350 members are mostly exterior contractors, found that 40 percent of respondents had a dedicated marketing person. At 48 percent of the companies responding, it was “part of someone’s job responsibilities” (i.e., part-time), and at another 12 percent, marketing was outsourced.
Not Easy To Come By
A company has to be of some size or ambition to take on the additional overhead of, let’s say, a $60,000 salary. On the other hand, if your home improvement business is running seven salespeople and those salespeople need at least two qualified appointments a day, you’re going to need 70 qualified appointments a week, and many more leads than that, since not all leads convert into appointments. That’s a full-time job by any definition.
So where do you find someone to fill that job? Just because marketers appear to be plentiful doesn’t mean a really good, effective marketing person is easy to come by. “Although competition for marketing jobs is high, 51 percent of human resource managers report that they have current openings for which they can’t find qualified candidates, and 46 percent say these positions go unfilled for three months or longer,” notes WeddingWire marketing strategist Sonny Ganguly. “Finding the right marketing hire to fill a particular role can be a difficult and time-consuming undertaking.”
It’s especially difficult in home improvement. The learning curve can be daunting, so past experience working for another home improvement company is a huge plus. In “Why Marketing Has Become The Hardest Position to Hire For," marketer and writer Benji Hyam notes that marketing majors at universities get little or no hands-on experience. They’re taught theory. And experienced marketers applying for the job are prone to exaggerate prior achievements, so that in interviewing them you’d be wise to drill down into their answers to your questions. Hyam also advises getting a marketer to hire your marketer. “If you don’t have a marketer in your company to help you with hiring, call in a favor to a friend or reach out to someone to help. You’ll be a lot more successful at finding a quality marketer if you can have another marketer help you hire.”
So say you’re hiring your first dedicated marketing director. You need a job description that clearly communicates the scope of this person’s responsibilities. “The first item under the job title should be a summary overview of what the position entails,” writes Christine Lagorio-Chafkin at Inc.com (“How to Hire a Marketing Director”). “Depending on what your company needs in a marketing director, that list could include identifying opportunities to launch new products or to enter new markets; managing marketing budgets; projecting revenue and growth potential; identifying technology and marketing partners; conducting necessary market-research studies; and building and overseeing the company's marketing staff. Bullet points work best for organizing these responsibilities.”
Your marketing director will be a key player in planning for ongoing growth, since you’ll need to know how many leads will be generated and at what cost, month-to-month, quarterly, and for the year. The ability to test new lead sources will also be important, as many traditional sources lose their effectiveness over time or become obsolete.
Beyond outlining these key responsibilities, what attributes should you look for in a marketer? Initiative and creativity top the list according to Lisa Schneider, Chief Digital Product Officer at Merriam-Webster, who lists seven criteria she uses when hiring a marketing manager.
You’re going to want to hire someone who learns quickly and is always willing to try a new way. Don’t expect even seasoned marketing pros to know anything about canvassing, direct mail campaigns, setting up and working a booth at a show or event, or the outbound marketing you may be using to balance what comes in via online. Those are, however, skills the right person can quickly learn. But since so much of home improvement marketing today involves inbound leads - that is, customer inquiries steered to your website by online activity - skills such as website design, content creation, and social media marketing are critical to the job and need to be in place when you make the hire.
The less your new marketing director knows about your business, and this industry, the less likely you are to have a successful long-term hire. Frustration will quickly mount, and with it, stress. Your onboarding process is key here. If you leave it at making introductions around the office and showing him or her where to sit, you’re cooking from a recipe for disaster. If all she knows about what you do is what she reads on your website, she won’t have any clear idea as to the nature of the task at hand. Make it clear from the outset that this is all about sales leads and in-home selling, which will mean, according to an article at Hubspot, “finding unique ways to attract people” to your business.
That company in the South hiring its first marketing director had her ride with its best salespeople on appointments. “She came back,” the president says, “and she could see how sales and marketing tie together.” He says he wanted her to understand “how we’re speaking to the customer in the home and how our brand is represented there.”