I heard the knock on the door just as I was about to sit for dinner - a warm squash soup with feta cheese. The wind was owling outside and I had had a long day. Here they are, two young men ready to solicit business for their boss: "we do home improvement," they said in unison, "no project is too small." They looked like they had been out all day, in the cold, knocking on doors that would not open.
That is interruption marketing.
I felt for them, I did. Yet my dinner was getting cold and I was in no mood to discuss home improvement. Many of my neighbors had the same reaction. The two kept walking up and down a dark street trying to drum up business.
There are also those who put a flier into every mail box, or wedge it on your door. Maybe some people call and request an estimate. I do not know. What I know is that unless there is a home renovation project already in the pipeline, people generally do not make that decision on the spur of the moment. Usually, we procrastinate -- due to the expense and inconvenience of having the house half done for a spell.
Many homeowners have switched to doing the work themselves. Over the years I learned how to sand hardwood floors, tape, spakle, sand and paint drywall, replace doors, build window frames and sills, replace sockets and switches and rewire rooms. Yes, I am your typical handy-person. For those like me, and for the rest in the neighborhood, there might be a better way to sell home improvement.
Do it in Plain Sight
- Pick a house in the neighborhood that stands out and could use some help. Approach the owner with a proposal - you offer to split some of the renovation cost with them if they allow you to (let's say) replace their siding that month you need work and you can talk about it and publicize the job. They get a needed/wanted renovation at a lesser cost. You get the expo site.
- Or find a local real estate agent who is familiar with the neighborhood and knows, for example, that a particular house may go up for sale in the spring. Or maybe it's the widow in the corner lot who is planning to sell before year end. They may have already made the connection. Partner with them. They get the potential listing, you get the tip.
- Go to the local home improvement centers - Loews and Home Depot for example - and ask if they'd be willing to sponsor you for some of the cost of the material in exchange for publicity.
Spread the Word
- Prepare fliers that mention how all the participants to the project came together and provide lots of good home maintenance tips. Make sure you include the home's story. Set it up to open a marketing conversation among people at the local grocer, dry cleaner, coffee shop.
- Put a sign up at the curb with some of the fliers, just like at an open house, on the sign write something interesting, like "Mary is moving up, are you?" or "Holy Cow, look at Mary's new siding!" People love to see what's happening in the neighborhood.
- Contact a popular home improvement radio show or locally syndicated Web site like Ask the Builder and plan to get on air with a video before, during and after the project. Have checklists and special advice ready to go. With the appropriate tags, the video can be searched on YouTube and people will find you from there. Give the video to the home owner, too. She might be tempted to show her family and friends.
What Happens Next?
I noticed this over and over again. A neighbor has their driveway or siding done and in the months following the project, two or three more do the same. In fact, putting the project in plain sight will generate interest. How do you capitalize on it?
- Do good work. There is really no trick to that. Good work shows better. The siding will not buckle a short while after installation, it will weather next season with grace. You're putting on a show and what you're showing is your craft.
- Give a discount to the first home owner who signs up. Put that information in the fliers. Depending on the month of the year and your work load, as well as you new partnerships, you may be able to afford a couple.
- Stay energetic, positive, and interested in projects that may not be immediate. Offer to follow up with a home owner who is not quite ready, but is thinking about it. Or better yet, book your time with them when you can still offer a discount if it is low season for you and they can get a fast turn around.
We love the idea of sampling. I remember when busy at work on my house, many a neighbor stopped by to inquire as to which materials and tools I was using. Showing off your work is a great way to tell a story. That house in need of repair at the corner now looks great, the whole neighborhood gains from it, and you are the hero who did it. Referrals are the best form of publicity.
[image from Italian Villas, showing La Florenza, Florence area, Tuscany]