The Bainbridge Crew of Charlotte, N.C., earned $7 million last year and plans to surpass that amount in 2000. Half of the company’s sales derive from referrals, and Bainbridge markets its services through job signs, print publications, radio, television, the Internet, Yellow Pages and direct mail. It also draws on an underutilized, and inexpensive, source of publicity: awards.
Marketing manager Ben McCollum allocates a $220,000 yearly marketing budget, but the publicity reaped from awards is essentially free.
The awards in their physical form are on display at Bainbridge’s 8,000-square-foot showroom. There, each room features remodeling projects and products that result in an improved house. The awards room showcases the laurels of an improved company that, over a three-year period, experienced a 303-percent growth in sales.
Originally designated as a sitting area, the awards room walls are laden with plaques and tables are covered with trophies. Although the showroom tour exhibits Bainbridge’s 22 years of success, McCollum says he becomes humble when guiding visitors into the awards room. "As far as our awards, I don’t harp on any of it," McCollum says. "I basically wave my hand and say, ‘These are just a bunch of awards.’ I let the room speak for itself. I think it is a little bit inspiring. Most visitors don’t look at each award, but it’s a cognitive thing to look around and see that there isn’t any more space for awards. It builds credibility."
Owner Rick Bainbridge says that a recent visitor to the awards room commented that he needed to start a similar room at his own office. "The room send the message, ‘Geez, these guys are really good,’" Bainbridge says. "It takes the guesswork out of who you are dealing with and promotes security in your choice."
Plaques and trophies also travel with the Bainbridge Crew when representatives attend trade shows. "Homeowners come to these shows and see the typical product displays at every booth," McCollum says. "With our awards boards, they can see more than that - they see the different distinctions we have received." Two display boards are hung on the outside perimeter of the booth. Four plaques can hang on each board, and the bottom ledges hold two trophies.
Besides the actual awards, Bainbridge also enjoys complimentary press coverage when it collects honors. For example, when Bainbridge won the Excellence in Remodeling award sponsored by the Remodelors Council of the HBA of Charlotte, N.C., the company was featured on the front page of the Home section of the Charlotte Observer. McCollum says that when the award was first granted 11 years ago, coverage in the Observer had to be requested. Now, it is automatic that the winner is featured in a front-page spread. "It’s free press, and there’s nothing better than that," McCollum says. "You really couldn’t even buy that kind of ad on a front page of a newspaper with a readership of more than 700,000."
McCollum says that the media sometimes hesitate to print stories about remodeling awards because it does not seem to be a newsworthy topic that would appeal to the public. Therefore, Bainbridge has a public relations person who, on a monthly basis, sends out press releases heralding the company’s accomplishments to put a "bug" in the media’s ear.
"Because of this contact, our company is constantly getting splashes in the newspapers," McCollum says. These articles and mentions are then included in a pitchbook that Bainbridge representatives present to potential customers during the sales process. A full list of the company’s awards and honors can be found on their website, www.bainbridgecrew.com.
"Each of these things is just another piece of the pie," Bainbridge says. "It’s building up an armada of weapons. Television, newspapers, radio, ads, postcards, brochures, job signs, truck signs - these are all part of the promotion of our company. You know the advertising works when it becomes subconscious. When a customer knows our name, but doesn’t know where they heard it, you know our marketing is working."
Soon Bainbridge will run a print ad in the Observer that lists all of the company’s major awards. Having garnered more than 25 in the past three years alone, Bainbridge’s ad runs under the phrase "award-winning remodeling quality." A simple, but accurate statement - and one that is sure to generate even more business in 2001.