Tips on tracking the effectiveness of remodeling marketing

For full-service remodelers it’s rare that a single marketing tool generates leads by itself. Over time an accumulation of good impressions — from referrals to classy promotion pieces to a good website and a healthy crop of job signs — makes the point that your company is reliable and does good work.

December 10, 2010

We need a good way to track marketing so we can figure out what’s working. Any suggestions?
— Design-build remodeler, Pennsylvania

For full-service remodelers it’s rare that a single marketing tool generates leads by itself. Over time an accumulation of good impressions — from referrals to classy promotion pieces to a good website and a healthy crop of job signs — makes the point that your company is reliable and does good work.
That said, there’s usually a single marketing device that spurs a homeowner to contact your company. Tracking marketing efforts will tell you four important things: What is generating leads, what is generating qualified leads, what is doing the best job of generating leads that result in sales, and what is bringing in the kind of sales you most want.
You can use low- or high-tech tools to track marketing sources. The easier and more automatic the process, the better. Choose a system your company is comfortable using, and get buy-in from your employees so that all leads are tracked. Rachel Perlmutter, a small business consultant with two Tustin, Calif., companies, Rachel Perlmutter & Associates and The Art of Online Marketing, says, “In 95 percent of cases when leads can’t be tracked it’s because tracking is a priority for the owner, but not for others in the company.”
If you go the low-tech route, a thorough, easy-to-use spreadsheet will do, so long as you input, tabulate and analyze the data frequently. Many remodelers like ACT! marketing software, which records leads, sales and client contact. ImproveBuildRBS (Remodeler’s Business Solution) is a popular integrated software system that monitors marketing as well as management and productivity.
Start with a tracking sheet that lists all your marketing sources, including referrals. Be specific. If you run newspaper ads, list them by date. Magazine ads? List them by issue. Mailers? List them by name or subject. John Todd, of Elite Home Remodeling, Frisco, Texas, has more than 20 lead sources on his tracking sheet, ranging from particular postcard campaigns to Elite’s retail showroom.
When prospects call in, ask how they heard about your company. If they can’t remember, ask what made them decide to call at this time. Cale Kliethermes of Kliethermes Homes & Remodeling, Columbia, Mo., says, “We don’t allow the, ‘Oh, I’ve heard your name around’ response.” Check off the appropriate box. If no box is checked off, call back.
Permutter offers a full menu of ways to track lead sources economically and automatically. For example:
• Add a company phone number that is published only in select marketing pieces.
• Keep a cell phone in the office with a low-cost plan. Use the number only for incoming marketing calls. Voice mail on this or the extra phone line can reinforce your sales message if you aren’t able to answer.
• Code calls by marketing source. On ads or other pieces, tell customers to ask for a nonexistent “Monica” or extension 4, both of which are cues to you of the marketing source. Tell callers that Monica is unavailable but that you can help.
• For ads, code coupons or redeemable offers to identify when they appeared. Codes can be added to newspaper or magazine ads at no cost.
• Large-quantity, commercially printed items such as postcards or brochures cannot be coded economically for batch mailings, but you can add stickers to track small mailings you send from your office.
Liz Hamilton, marketing coordinator for JEB Design/Build, Shreveport, La., sticks to one, clear message — “the remodeling team you can trust” — but spreads it across the market with a blanket of JEB advertising. Working with 4 percent of gross annual volume — a typical marketing budget for design/build firms — she has run print, radio and television ads and posts jobsite signs. All initial calls go to her. By closely tracking leads from all sources, she’s identified clear winners and losers. First place lead generator is the three-a-week newspaper ad campaign (“We’ve now locked into a year-long contract,” she says, so the newspaper “is more willing to work with us on deals and specials.”) Second place goes to jobsite signs. People see JEB signs and figure the company “must be doing something right,” says Hamilton. She is ramping up JEB’s signage presence, experimenting with billboard ads around town. Losers included TV ads.
Many remodelers rely heavily on the marketing firepower of company websites. A full-bodied website can be pricey to set up, but maintenance and updates are inexpensive. Once you have the names and e-mail addresses of website visitors, you can have a service put them on a pre-set schedule to be contacted regularly with simple informational emails and e-newsletters. Your goal: Build trust and keep your company front of mind.
John Todd now displays only his Web address — no phone number — as the contact information on Elite Home Remodeling magnetic truck signs. “The site does the selling” on his company and the type of work it does, he says. Leads qualify themselves before they contact Elite.
Good marketing tools generate sales, but the real keepers yield sales that are a good fit for your company. You need to calculate not only the cost of leads each marketing tool produces, but also the value of those leads. Kliethermes says, “We want fewer but better leads. We’ve stopped advertising in areas where leads are wrong for us.”
In Shreveport, newspaper ads hit the mark, bringing jobs from JEB’s target market — older homeowners who like to receive the newspaper and who are candidates for large remodeling projects.
“My number one lead source is the web,” says Todd, but “my biggest dollar volume source is previous customers.” Knowing that, Todd cultivates new business economically via the web while maintaining contact with past customers through e-mail, e-newsletters, home tours and more. His third place lead producer is print ads in the newspaper and two regional lifestyle magazines. Tracking over the past five years showed that, while these ads are not the direct source of many sales, skipping the ads for a year hurt sales. “We have to have a presence in print,” Todd says. “It’s more of a branding of our company.”

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