I’ve met exactly one marketing genius in the remodeling industry since I began specializing in remodeling marketing in 2005. His name is Brian Elias, the charismatic owner of Hansons Windows in Detroit. He’s built an impressive business somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million a year—not by having better products or service than everyone else—but by lapping the field in marketing.
I had breakfast with Brian a couple years ago at a hole-in-the-wall diner near his office. What impressed me most was not Brian’s grand plans (he has many) or his mountains of success (ditto); what caught me totally off guard was how everyone in that diner reacted to him.
This window salesman-turned-TV-star had the entire diner craning their necks and pointing fingers. The waitress was clearly star-struck—she asked for his autograph (no kidding), and requested a picture with him so she could text it to her daughter. The commotion was about on par with what you’d expect from say, Neil Diamond or Chevy Chase. And we all thought the Kardashians were famous for no reason… this is a guy who sells windows, siding and roofing for a living.
To be fair, in addition to the fact that Hansons recently earned a coveted Window & Door Dealer of the Year award, Brian has been—and will continue to be—a fixture on the top 10 of Qualified Remodeler’s annual Top 500 list for a variety of reasons. He’s harnessed technology like nobody’s business. He has a commanding presence and is good at getting things done. He has built systems into his business ensure a perpetual smooth flow of business, and he hovers over minute details of the business like a pageant mom. But it’s his marketing genius that’s doing the heavy lifting.
When it comes to marketing, most companies are no Brian Elias. But the good news is, you don’t have to be in order to make all the money you want in your business. Allow me explain: In my experience, there are six major business functions companies in the home improvement/remodeling space must master in order to thrive instead of just survive:
- Sales Ability: Remodeling is hyper-competitive; salespeople better be able to outsell the rest.
- Sales Management: Managing the sales team is a distinct skill from just knowing how to sell.
- Operations: Somebody has to know how to manage the business, including hiring, firing, paying bills and ordering.
- Finances: More than one remodeling company has bit the dust due to poor handling of finances.
- Production: Getting the products installed the right way and in a timely fashion is muchos importantes.
- Marketing: The team’s sales force has to have qualified, eager prospects to sell to.
Guess which two of the six sub-specialty backgrounds most remodeling company owners hail from: sales and production. Sales-guys-turned-owners usually go out and find somebody who’s “good with details” to manage the business (operations, finance, production). Production guys usually partner (or hire) with sales gurus and figure out the operations side. Almost nobody figures out the marketing side of the business. So next week, I’ll provide some tips and actions window companies can take to improve this end of their business. Stay tuned.