Referral Marketing For Home Improvement Contractors

In these tough economic times, it is imperative that home improvement contractors implement a fully-functioning referral marketing strategy. If they don’t, they are potentially losing thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars in sales and profits.

If designed and executed properly, this referral marketing system will help home improvement contractors:

o Attract a steady flow of ready and willing customers for your most profitable services;

o Give your business an “UNFAIR ADVANTAGE” by locking-out your competition from the best customers and the most profitable markets;

o Build your image as THE authoritative home improvement expert in your area and command top-dollar for your services;

o Enjoy the freedom to raise your prices year after year, while your competition has to discount to survive;

o Generate a torrent of profitable referrals from existing and past customers through referral marketing;

o Dramatically increase the VALUE and salability of your business;

o Have your customers enthusiastically giving you permission to contact them for future business;

o Have a 24 hour a day/7 day a week profit-producing referral marketing system that creates leads while you are sleeping, fishing, golfing, relaxing, and spending time with your family;

o Dramatically reduce your workload so you’ll have plenty of time for yourself.

But with the demands on home improvement contractors to service their current clients while still hustling to find new ones, the referral marketing program that they institute has to be all-encompassing and not place more work in their already busy schedule. The last thing they need is a referral marketing program that includes a bunch of useless books and manuals they have to read, software they have to install, or huge home study courses that take months to complete.

There’s no doubt that the successful home improvement business is the one that has the most effective systems for attracting, retaining and multiplying happy customers. Most home improvement companies are so obsessed with getting new customers that they completely ignore the gold mine of opportunities with their former and existing customers and never consider any type of referral marketing program. All this does is make the home improvement contractor rat race worse for those who participate… especially when the economy slows.

But, home improvement companies that know how to develop long-term relationships with their customers, have an active database of happy customers that they communicate with on a regular basis, and that can rely on their customers to feed their business (and their families and employees), day in and day out – year after year – even when the economy takes a dump…those are the home improvement companies that are going to be successful through referral marketing.

Many home improvement contractors throw away thousands of dollars on ineffective advertising because they’re chasing that elusive new client. The truth is, their current client base – if used properly through referral marketing – can provide the instant sales and profit that they need. The value of a satisfied client is immeasurable when a properly designed and implemented referral marketing system is put in place.

How Utilizing Home Improvement Leads Can Generate Business

As homeowners shop around for the best rates in order to fulfill their home improvement needs, home improvement leads help brokers and businesses find these potential clients.  These leads within the industry are generated from a number of sources including sales points and websites to compile the number of people needing these services.

Home improvement leads can include a variety of needed products services such as basement remodeling, bathroom remodeling, exterior paint, fencing, gutters, HVAC, interior paint, kitchen remodeling, landscaping, out buildings, paving, plumbing, pools, replacement windows, roofing, security systems, vinyl siding and other such services.  They include information for a potential client such as first and last names, city, state, zip code, email address, home and work phone numbers and a best time to call.  In addition to the property type, another vital piece of information is what type of quote the client seeks such as a sun room.

Those selling for a brand name or individual dealers can follow these leads.  Those who deal with specific brands may want leads in order to boost dealer profitability and satisfaction, facilitate dealer recruiting, launch national online lead generation with little to no investment or risk and of course maximize product sell-through.  Dealers may also want to boost lead volume with little to no risk or investment, get instant hot transfers of telephone leads and harness the Internet for sales leads.

Many times, leads can be bought exclusively.  There are also services that not only generate the leads but also provides call center agents to talk to prospects then transfer the hot lead directly to the broker.  In other words, this type of service answers all in-bound calls or calls back Internet needs before the prospect even speaks to the actual broker.  This way unqualified leads are screened out.

Sales representatives need to set up appointments immediately for motivated leads and make sure the appointment is confirmed at least 24 hours before time.  Some services can even manage these appointments and send out email run-sheets of upcoming appointments so that the representative efficiently schedules appointments to maximize the success rate.

The Need for National Guidelines and Testing in the Home Improvement Industry

It is time for Washington to step up and put legislation in place that will force states to better regulate the home improvement industry. Up to now Washington has left the regulation of the home improvement industry up to state regulators, and for whatever reason(s) many states have fallen considerably short.

There are still some states that do not even have contractor licensing in place for home improvements. For some of the states that do have licensing, the license requirements do not include that the applicant demonstrate the ability to do any type of home improvement work. (That is like saying I will issue you a license to cut hair but you don’t have to demonstrate that you know how to cut hair……… ouch!) Then why do states bother issuing licenses if there are no requirements to demonstrate competence? Revenue? Or could it be that they need more consumer complaints for Consumer Affairs and BBB to handle? The unfortunate consequences of this problem are that homeowners are the ones who are paying the price by receiving poor workmanship and a cascade of home improvement problems.

Let’s be honest, the home improvement industry does not seem to attract the most reliable, honest and competent individuals. The lure of a quick buck and the relative ease to “qualify” to do home improvement work, brings many a “character” to your door. When I was a contractor I needed to hire people for a variety of field positions. Most of the people, who I interviewed and sometimes hired, seemed to have the same type of problems with past employers. These problems consisted of substance abuse issues, honesty issues, and reliability issues. The labor pool never seemed to have an over abundance of talent and employability to pick from.

I remember always reading article after article that dealt with the significant manpower shortage in the home improvement industry. The bottom line of each article would always be the same, “If you can find an honest, reliable and competent person to work for you, pull out all the stops to keep them!!!! Do whatever you need to do to keep that person happy because you’ll never know if you will be lucky enough to find someone to take their place.” As an owner, it was a very constant and stressful problem to deal with. You were almost afraid to try and increase project production because you knew you would have to try and find someone to do the additional work. Finding employees was always an adventure, an adventure that I never looked forward to.

For the last 10-15 years the number one problem in the home improvement industry is the lack of manpower. Many contractors are training and hiring minorities to try and solve this major problem.

If you were to talk to your state authorities about what is being done to improve regulations and screening in the home improvement industry, they will probably tell you something is in the works or there is no money for more regulations (testing). I have been hearing this for 30 years. The county in which I live (Suffolk County, New York) still does not require any demonstration of home improvement ability to obtain a home improvement license. The fee has consistently gone up but the requirements have pretty much stayed the same. We are one of the highest taxed counties in the country, so I refuse to believe there is no money to develop and implement a better policing and screening process in the home improvement industry.

The National Association of The Remodeling Industry (NARI) http://www.nari.org is the only national organization that offers certification of home improvement individuals. They have a number of different certifications that one could obtain. To obtain these certifications the applicant needs to demonstrate a variety of knowledge, ranging from good business practices to project knowledge. NARI’s main certification is called – Certified Remodeler (CR). This certification requires the applicant to prepare an extensive matrix or resume of their experience and knowledge as well as obtaining a certain score on an 8-hour exam. There are only approximately 1000 CR’s, out of the hundreds of thousands of home improvement contractors in this country. I earned this certification in 1994 and still proudly hold this certification today. I will admit that obtaining this certification is a time consuming process and does take considerable effort, but it was well worth it. What I also like about this certification is that it has to be renewed every year by demonstrating continued involvement and knowledge in the home improvement industry.

Why then couldn’t Washington mandate some type of screening, nationwide, that all people interested in doing home improvements must be able to “pass” to obtain a license? This license could be used nationwide. Use a screening process that emulates what NARI does for its certifications. You could make the screening as simple as a comprehensive test with multiple choice questions. A test that could be machine scored.

I think an ideal situation for licensing would be to divide up home improvement licensing into sub-licenses. For example, if you were a bathroom contractor you would obtain a license for bathroom home improvements only. This would refine what licensees are qualified to do, rather then issuing one license that could wrongly give the impression that the licensee is capable of doing any type of project.

The reason I think Washington needs to get involved with this problem is because the American public doesn’t have the time to wait for each of the 50 states to come up with a similar solution, individually.

However, if Washington were to step up and mandate a national screening and testing situation, you would still have to address the screening of the people who show up to work on your house. (if they were not the person(s) who was screened and licensed) These people would hopefully be employees of the person who was screened. Is the homeowner then back to square one with not knowing the qualifications of the people working on their house? I tend to think not, because the person who went through the screening and obtained the license would want to keep the license. It is in the best interest of the licensed individual to make sure the project is done correctly. Problems develop when a contractor has too much work and attempts to get it all done by using inexperienced and unqualified help. The lure of completing more work and making more money sometimes leads to his or her business getting “out of control”. This subsequently leads to quality and project completion problems. Employees of licensed and screened contractors need to “qualify” on some level similar to NARI’s lead carpenter certification.

Will any of these desperately needed changes occur any time soon? To be honest, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Washington to step up to the plate and I don’t think your state or local governments will dramatically improve home improvement regulations either.

So what should a homeowner do to protect their home and property? Get the right “tools” and knowledge to be able to protect your home from poor home improvement decisions and situations.

The Home Improvement Success Club of America(TM) (http://www.homeimprovementsuccess.com) can give you all the right knowledge and “tools” you need, without spending hours and hours doing research and trying to figure out what to do. This club has a variety of forums (chat room, message board, phone consultations and project estimate-contract evaluations) to answer your questions about how to get great home improvement results. Membership to this club also includes the use of The Home Improvement Success System, which is a step by step home improvement system that shows you exactly what to do and what not to do. This system can be used with any project. The club also includes a 30-day money back guarantee if you are not delighted with being a club member.

If you’re serious about doing a home improvement project and protecting your home, then join The Home Improvement Success Club of America(TM). You will be happy you did!

The Home Improvement Success Club of America(TM)
http://www.homeimprovementsuccess.com//>

[email protected]
P.O. Box 653
Smithtown, NY 11787
Phone: 631-360-7722
Fax: 631-361-3582

By Hank Jaworowski, CR
Founder and President of The Home Improvement Success Club of America(TM)
Author-The Home Improvement Success System