Trade Secrets

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

September 30, 2007

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

Taking it to the airwaves


When a local radio host bad-mouthed vinyl siding, Amazing Siding, based in Tomball, Texas, decided to take matters into its own hands.

"He was telling people that vinyl would ruin their house, that there were all these problems," says Bob Birner, vice president of the Houston-area company. "What people didn't know was that this guy was a paid spokesman for fiber cement."

So Amazing Siding started its own weekly radio show and hired a local radio personality to host it. Over the last few years, the program has evolved to Birner's hosting it with the local talent. He also now partners with another local remodeler, Michael Strong of Brothers Strong. The program, now known as the Remodeling Pro Radio Show, is broadcast on the second-strongest AM station in the Houston area for four hours every Sunday.

Although the program gives Birner a chance to defend vinyl siding, a successful radio show can't be self-promotional.

"We have to talk about more than siding and windows," he says. "We can't just talk about ourselves, because then people will turn it off after five minutes."

The show's format includes Birner and Strong answering questions from callers, as well as frequent guest experts on various topics.

"The biggest thing we try to do is educate the consumer about the importance of using a professional," Birner says. "We try to break them from that stigma of going with the lowest bid. Our big thing is, we're not here to help you do it cheaply, we're here to help you do it right."

Birner, a national officer with NAHB Remodelers, has also recorded a promo for the NAHB Remodelers that he airs during the broadcast.

The company now about breaks even on the show by selling advertising time to other sponsors during the four-hour block, Birner says. But that doesn't include the marketing benefits the show brings to the company.

"From time to time, someone will come to us because they heard me on the radio, but it helps us more from a branding standpoint," he says. "People hear us on the air every week, and they know that someone could call me on the radio to complain about my service, and that's never happened."

Even though there are some obvious benefits, Birner cautions that remodelers should plan carefully before jumping on the air. First of all, he recommends starting with a small time slot. His show had grown from one hour to two hours before making the recent change to the four-hour format.

"You have to be prepared to talk, intelligently, for as long as the show is on," he says. "You also don't know what the questions are going to be each week, so you have to know your stuff."

For Birner, whose knowledge was strongest in the siding and windows market, that meant studying up on all aspects of the remodeling industry. Having a partner on the air also helps, because Strong not only has different areas of expertise, but also makes it easier to fill the time, Birner says.

You oughta be in pictures


Most people remember faces better than names. That's the theory behind Pro/Craft Painting and Contracting's business cards.

All of the Gurnee, Ill., remodeler's 13 employees have business cards and all the business cards have the employee's photo on them.

"It's different; it creates a unique connection," says President Mark Lewis. "People remember who we are."

Lewis uses photos of the company's employees on all of Pro/Craft's marketing materials, an idea he brought with him from his background as a real-estate agent.

"If you look at that industry, they've got their photos on their cards, on their signs, everywhere," he says. "It just seemed like a natural idea for us."

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