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Marketing: To Survive or Thrive?

With a proactive marketing plan, you can not only survive but thrive through the tough economic times.

February 13, 2006

Doug Dwyer
Contributing Editor

The economy continues to fluctuate because of concerns about the war; natural disasters in the southern part of the United States; the cost of gas, oil and related products; concerns about the government and bankruptcies of large corporations around the country. If you're a consumer and read the news on a bad day, that can be depressing!

Most remodelers have not felt the impact of these concerns to date. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that all things have a natural cycle. Is your business ready to handle the down part of this cycle when it eventually comes?

Let me share a story of a Midwest remodeling company in the year following Sept. 11. Many markets and remodeling businesses felt the negative effect of that challenging time. This particular company had planned for 30 percent growth for that year and was disappointed they were only experiencing 3 to 5 percent growth. Yet I knew of another company in his market that was down 30 percent. There were several other local companies contemplating closing down.

Though the one remodeler didn't grow as much as planned, at least his business wasn't shrinking or sinking. He had a full-blown marketing plan with average job size in dollars, how many leads he needed and how he was going to generate those leads. He used newspaper ads, home shows, magazine ads, award contests, yard signs, decaled vans and direct mail.

With a proactive marketing plan, you can not only survive but thrive through the tough times. Many remodelers I have spoken with during the last 10 years are very proud that 80 to 90 percent of their customers come from referrals. On one hand, this is a great accomplishment. Your company has a great reputation for producing quality work. The downside is that when the economy shifts, you're really going to feel the effects.

It's not a question of whether or not referrals are a great lead source. They are. It's having them as your only lead source that is dangerous.

The solution to thrive is to use five to eight proactive marketing techniques at the same time. This is over and above reactive referrals, phone book ads and vehicles with company decals. These additional tactics might include home shows, newspaper ads, magazine ads, direct mail, television ads, billboards or radio spots.

If you develop a comprehensive marketing plan that includes advertising, you have positioned your company to survive and thrive when the economy negatively shifts.

One note of caution is to do your homework on what marketing techniques really work for our industry. Look at what other remodelers are doing and investigate regional differences. Then, make sure the quality and content of your marketing pieces, brochures, ads and commercials are strong. It is well worth hiring a consultant to get some opinions. You can survey people or hold focus groups of people who are the age and income of your typical clients. Maybe ask a past client. You don't want to do things that won't perform; this will help ensure greater levels of success.

One concern you might have is what happens if you generate too many leads. This is a great challenge to have. Why? Most remodeling companies should raise their pricing 10 percent or more to achieve a fair profit and salary for the owners. Having more qualified leads creates a safe opportunity to make the transition.

It takes extra effort and an investment to produce consistent, sustained growth. I like the old saying about physical health: "You either take time out to be healthy or you will have to take time out to be sick." Take the time — you will be happy you did. Be a thriver, not just a survivor!

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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

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