Trade Secrets

If you have a Trade Secret you would like to share, e-mail Senior Editor Jonathan Sweet at

November 30, 2007

If you have a Trade Secret you would like to share, e-mail Senior Editor Jonathan Sweet at

Making Angie's List work for you

What gets said about your company online can be one of the hardest things to manage. Whether it's comments on a local forum or postings on a national service like Angie's List, you never know what potential clients will see written about your company.

While some companies are scared of that, Remodel Works Bath and Kitchen in Poway, Calif., has embraced Angie's List as an important part of its success. (Angie's List is an online service that homeowners can use to rate their experience with service providers in a number of fields. Companies are rated from A to F on a variety of factors including quality and customer service. For more information, visit Last year, the company won the Angie's List Service Provider of the Year award as the highest-rated company in San Diego.

When Angie's List started out several years ago, the remodeler found that it was getting business from the site because of positive reviews left by past clients.

"This wasn't something we knew about, but once we did, we embraced it," says General Manager Ryan Christenson. "Now we encourage our clients to use the site to leave feedback for us whether it's good or bad."

Christenson estimates that referrals from Angie's List account for 30 percent of the company's $6.5 million in annual sales.

A wish book for big kids

When HP Builders decided it was going to focus on the high-end remodeling market, President Terry Keenan knew the company's marketing had to change as well.

"We stopped doing regular advertising because that didn't bring the customers we were looking for," he says of the West Chester, Penn., design/build firm.

Instead, the company put its marketing dollars into a catalog that features a sampling of the company's projects, including captions that describe the remodel. The company eliminated all other advertising, including getting rid of its Yellow Pages listing. Keenan got the idea when he was looking at a Pottery Barn catalog.

"I realized these were the same customers we were trying to reach, so if a catalog worked for them, it would work for us," he says.

The catalog has been a key component of increasing the company's average job size from $25,000 to nearly $500,000 over the last five years. The catalog is mailed to local homes valued at more than $1 million and distributed to other high-end service providers such as home theater dealers and targeted real-estate agents.

"It's been a great source of referrals, and it's gotten us a lot of business we never would have gotten otherwise," Keenan says.

Seeing the big picture

When Greg Theis brings potential clients into his showroom, he hopes the display separates him from other remodelers.

Theis, president of Greg E. Theis Remodeling in St. Cloud, Minn., recently added a 42-inch television to the showroom that he can use to show clients plans using Chief Architect or visit product Web sites. He's just started using the new television but plans to have his system running smoothly by the time the slow winter remodeling season is over.

"We try to get them here because they can see we're a serious company," he says. "It's a big difference from the guy working on a tailgate or writing things down on a napkin."

"It's another great tool for the clients," Theis says. "It's better than sitting around in my office or trying to show them everything on my laptop, which is what we have been doing."

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