With easy-to-use Web development software and a plentiful supply of Web designers, creating a Web site has become viable for small remodeling companies. Many potential clients will expect you to have a Web site so they can research and evaluate your services at their leisure. Not having a site can send a negative impression to some of them.
A Web site lets you provide new and updated information about your company at any time. You can provide virtual tours of your projects as well as photo albums. You can also provide links to relevant sites to assist prospective clients in their research. And a Web site can be a terrific communications tool between you and your clients. Many small companies are developing Web sites for less than $5,000. Maintaining a site depends on your individual needs but usually costs $250 to $1,000 annually.
At a minimum, your site should include your company history, detailed descriptions of your services, case histories, accreditations, references, and a lead form or request for follow-up. Metatags, which are unseen but useful Web tools, are keyword attributes coded onto your site. When a consumer uses a keyword search in a search engine, the metatag code brings up your site in the search.
Other Internet opportunities include marketplaces, which are local or national sites where consumers can go to source products as well as contractors. They are fairly inexpensive and can be a great supplement to a Yellow Pages program.
CD-ROMs are great for a photo album of your projects. They can be used as a “leave behind” after a sales call, for lead fulfillment or even as targeted direct mail. Using a digital camera, you can copy multiple photographs on a single CD to show your capabilities. In addition, you can customize a CD to meet a prospective client’s specific needs. For example, if a lead is interested in a bath remodel, include photos only from bath projects. Most new computers include a rewriteable CD drive. If yours does not, you can purchase external drives for less than $200. CDs cost less than a dollar each.
It’s not what you say, it’s who says it
Next to referral marketing, public relations can be your most cost-effective tactic. Strong public relations efforts include everything from writing and sending press releases to networking in the community. But this can be time- consuming, so you have to determine if you can afford the time to attack public relations opportunities consistently.
According to a 1994 study by the Allen Communications Group, public relations can have a greater influence than traditional advertising on potential consumers, primarily because the information is delivered by a third party perceived as objective. “Public relations helped establish our credibility in a short period of time,” says Linda Minde of Tri-Lite Builders in Chandler, Ariz. “Word of mouth is always the most cost-effective, but through marketing and public relations we have been able to reach a great deal more potential clients.”
Work with the local press and chamber of commerce to be the “go-to” person for expert opinions and information. If the local paper is doing an article on home remodeling, make sure the reporter knows to come to you for information, direction and facts. Or offer to write the article. Sharing your knowledge and expertise earns respect within your community.
Newsworthy topics for press releases could include new products/services you are offering, a project with a twist, special awards or recognition, or an open house. Always include your contact information and, if possible, photography.
Community involvement is a great way to generate positive awareness of your business, especially construction-related activities such as Habitat for Hu-manity builds and neighborhood revitalization. Send press releases describing your activities and the community cause. Have your logo in a ready-to-use format so the community organization can include it in its marketing and promotion.
If you don’t have time or are limited in marketing creativity, hire a consultant. Qualified help can be retained for as little as $500 to $1,000 per month. You also can negotiate for support on a project basis.
“I made a determination to use marketing to grow my business, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it,” Minde says. “I placed a specialist who had unique yet practical ideas on a monthly retainer. It was one of the best business decisions I ever made.”
Minde says it’s too early to see direct sales results from the marketing efforts, but she has noticed more interest and leads. Press releases have prompted calls from editors who never called before, and mentions of Tri-Lite in newspapers have resulted in leads.
OK, but what do I spend?
This question is tough to answer in general terms because markets and company objectives vary. Most remodeling companies spend 2-4% of gross sales on marketing, while more aggressive contractors spend 5-7%.
Evaluate your market, your position, your business goals and your competitors to determine a marketing budget that you think will give you presence and maintain expected profitability. And walk before you run. If you are unsure, slowly begin to use creative marketing tactics and measure the results. As you experience success, continue to expand, using cost-effective methods that return value to your business.
The key is consistency. No matter which marketing tactic you implement, use your logo, unique selling message and graphics consistently. Every impression you make on a potential customer counts. If you make three impressions but they’re inconsistent and confusing, you are better off making only two that deliver a single image of your brand.