The Official Online Weekly Newspaper of NAHB
By participating in the home show produced by his local home builders association, Tim Lawrence, president of Blue Ridge Home Improvement, Inc., in Blacksburg, Va., has managed to attract a steady stream of new and repeat customers during the worst recession in decades despite not having a large advertising and marketing budget.
“Before” and “after” shots of construction work are mainstays of booths exhibiting at local home shows, but pictures don’t always translate well, so Lawrence said he decided to make his display more hands-on and interactive.
Keeping in mind that Blacksburg is often touted as a great place to retire, Lawrence focused more on aging-in-place and included mockups of actual features that area residents can have installed in their homes — including a shower with various grab bars that were decorative and not the institutional variety that discourages home owners from considering them.
Lawrence’s booth also featured offset door hinges on standard doorways and an Acorn Stairlift fitted onto a short set of stairs to illustrate how wheelchairs can be maneuvered smoothly through an existing home.
Lawrence also has had success mustering new customers through courses he teaches at local home shows and at the YMCA.
“By teaching home improvement classes, the home owners view me as an expert in my field,” he said. “They see the quality of my work and know that if a project comes up that is too big for them to handle alone, I can step in and help them get their project done the right way.”
Lawrence volunteers his time for these free classes, which are open to the public. Some organizations — like the YMCA — may provide a stipend to bring in experts to hold courses for community members.
Teaching classes at the local home show, Lawrence said, definitely provides personal connections that can give a remodeler an advantage over the competition.
Focusing on existing and former clients is an essential strategy for bringing in business when money for marketing is tight, he added. Staying connected to previous clients will keep them as customers when they decide on new jobs and also generates referrals.
“I find that people are more likely to use my services when I have been recommended to them by a friend or family member rather than be given a sales pitch through advertising,” he said.
Being creative in how you bring in new business will not only help you during the lean times, but it can also be a great building block for when times are good, he added.
For more information, e-mail Brooke Fishel at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8061.