In the first article in this series, I described the importance of high-quality printed materials, including business cards, brochures and letterhead. This time I want to discuss other marketing tools that, while often printed, aren't considered printed materials in the usual sense.
Websites. Someone once said, "The difference between handymen and remodelers is the price of their truck." While that's not really true, it is a perspective to consider. The same goes for your website. The main function of the site provides information about your company, officers, location, expertise, how to contact you, etc. The second function is to validate from the clients' perspective that they win by choosing your company.
The visitor must be able to find information quickly. This is one area in which a focus group helps tremendously, either with your current site or before you decide on a new site. An interesting fact in our society is that people think more highly of sites that come up higher on searches. Experienced website viewers know this is irrelevant, but there is a correlation between the quality of the site and higher search-engine rankings. A sure-winner practice is to emulate those bigger, better, more expensive sites that you yourself really like.
Yard signs. Yours should have your company logo, phone number, slogan and an overall design that is visually captured quickly. This might be as simple as bright colors or a pointed "roof." You'll probably have less than 30 seconds of eyeball time, so placement is also critical.
Newspaper ads. Few custom builders or remodelers in major metro areas can afford to spend enough on newspaper advertising to really make a difference. If you're in a smaller town or you're just sure this is an option for you, remember that a small ad is usually a waste of money. Also, using color is much better than black and white, and an image is a must, as is a call to action of some type, such as "This discount is available this week only. Call now!"
Public relations. Keep in mind that other types of items, such as authored documents for the local newspaper, testimonials, letters of reference, portfolios of images or anything with your company name, image or logo are essentially marketing tools, since they’re extensions of you, your reputation, your company and ultimately your profit margin. A warning, though: Creating customized imprinted products can be expensive and have a long list of pros and cons. Consider whether your ideal target prospect—for example, someone with the means to spend $150,000—will really use or appreciate yet another ballpoint pen or keychain before you order 3,000 of them. You might be better off putting that money into upgrading some of your other marketing materials, such as using heavier paper for your letterhead or adding another color to your yard signs.
Special items. Many small-business owners don't realize they can publish their own magazine. It is a simple process. A custom-publishing company produces all the inside pages, and you get the cover and the inside cover, front and back. Someone else in a different market gets the same content but different covers. In this case, you want a magazine that has content for your market, which may be the same as for realtors, landscapers, interior designers, etc. These publications exist for every major industry.
These are full-color, glossy, well-written magazines but with your personalization on it. Some companies have minimums of as few as 25 and will even handle shipping for you. Other companies will do a custom-publishing project especially for you, and you personalize the entire content. In both cases, advertisements by your key trade contractors subsidize the cost.
Alliances. Align your company with another totally different type of company with the same target market. For example, a financial adviser might be a nice match for a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) remodeler. A bank would be a good partner for a first-time home-buyer builder. Similarly, a Hispanic bank for a builder in a Hispanic market may make sense. Join forces and create a dynamic, visually superior promotional piece.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the first article, quality and effectiveness have a definite relationship in marketing materials. If you keep that in mind as you put your own marketing plan together, you'll be a step ahead of competitors who try to make do. It's a simple formula: If you want high-quality jobs, you need high-quality marketing.
Erik Cofield, CGA, is the owner of Power Consulting and a business strategist for builders and remodelers applying best business practices to local operations. He is also a speaker and freelance writer. Cofield is the former chief operations officer of Houston Structural Inc., Houston, an award-winning residential design/build remodeling company.
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