What works, what doesn’t (in construction marketing)

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Jason Whipple in West Pawlett, VT, sought his peers’ guidance at remodelcrazy.com on a newspaper ad he planned to have published last summer.  The design and wording he chose didn’t win universal support — other contractors expressed concern that the ad would be utterly ineffective and a total waste of money.  One reviewer even went out on the limb and indicated in a posting that he would put his money where his mouth is, and offered to pay $50 for each sale the ad generated (thinking the offer would never be ‘called’.)

Whipple went went ahead and paid for the ad to run for three weeks, with a follow up in a local directory.

My results from the first ad was 10k worth of work. The second ad in the Fall flier produced nothing. Could be me, could be the economy, who knows…

and NL still owes me $100! lol.

Whipple, of course, is working within the unique framework of his own business and his own market area.  Vermont’s smaller towns are not New York City, Los Angeles, Miami or Nashville.  His skills and abilities are not the same as a renovation contractor working on suburban tract houses or high rise condos.  These points suggest, rightfully, that the marketing approach and media which would work for him may not be equally effective elsewhere.

Equally, in his postings, he described some issues that relate to his own experience and marketing challenges.  Previously, he had worked either as a sub trade or through architect and owners for commercial projects — not a direct match for direct-to-consumer heritage work — or accepted leads from leads services where the potential clients were most interested in a low price, and not much else.  So the (generally wise) advice of another marketing consultant to check with his existing clients to review the potential advertising just wouldn’t apply here.

Whipple’s big challenge is validating and establishing consistency.  If the ads worked “once”, will they work again in the same media?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps he tapped the available (obvious) group of potential clients looking for his services from that media and further advertising won’t be nearly as productive.  He cannot find out unless he commits to a more consistent strategy, either repeating the advertising week by week, or setting regular “runs” for the ads.  Then if he sees signs of success, the marketing experts would suggest he try variations, comparing the original successful advertisement in  different media and formats (one change at a time).  Each success creates a new and hopefully more successful baseline.

Ahh, this is not as simple as it sounds.

Then there is another aspect, which I advanced to him in an email.  Why not seek out some local media publicity?

I asked if his clients would be willing to let the media into their homes.

All my clients co-operate and they are very gracious with reviews on all my media platforms. The problem, I feel, is they they are speckled around my area and not so easily identified. There is no mass market in preservation but there is a whole lot of people who think the trade is gone or too expensive. Neither one is true. The fact is, these historical building don’t still exist because they have big, fat wallets; they exists because it’s affordable to preserve what they have. Why wouldn’t 1000′s of home owners understand this? Especially the ones who fear the high price solution?

Instead, they believe that replacement is the best option and if it’s too much, they do nothing.

Whipple has many things right here; a unique selling proposition, understanding of his local market and the willingness to test run and share ideas in a safe environment (a peer-based forum, accessible only if you register and obtain a password.)  One size doesn’t fit all.

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