Customer Satisfaction: Lead Development

by Kyle Clapham

It is the eternal paradox: There are remodeling contractors who sometimes get more inquiries than they can deal with, then ignore the overflow and add to the negative images of the industry. There are large specialty contractors who have inadequate or no follow-up on leads, which didn’t turn into presentations or sales. They may believe in a very old concept of “sell it or forget it.”

Both sides of this issue miss the point. A prospect contacted them responding to an advertisement, show/event or solicitation, and the respondent indicated an interest. The prospect then deserves respect, affirmation and a professional response to “opportunity.” In some future date, these same companies, large and small will complain about the lack of leads, net closing rate, or profitability, failing to understand that they are a major contributor to the problem.

Leads (inquiries) are the lifeblood of the home improvement industry.

Leads are the response to your advertising, promotion and the projected customer satisfaction image you are striving for. Companies who ignore this fact build a low-level customer satisfaction image (rightfully earned). The “sales savvy” efficient company, which operates with a sophisticated closing technique and fails to take into consideration that much business is generated beyond this “tight” model, has also failed to measure the accurate costs of the company’s leads, the waste of opportunity and/or the diminishment of customer satisfaction.

The prospect’s values, concerns and needs are at the core of that prospect’s expressed interests. When the smaller contractor ignores the inquiry, it is callous. When the more savvy sales/marketing contractor submits the prospect to a “rock ‘em, sock ‘em, sell them or forget them” sales methodology, they show little understanding of what could be done to build their business. Nothing in this statement denies the need for someone to use efficient sales methods and “ask for the order.” It does call for a better understanding of how prospects think, feel and follow instincts created by customer satisfaction marketing.

At the core of a sound marketing plan is an examination of how the prospect thinks and feels.

The contractor who does not “follow-up” on an unsold lead because it might appear “pushy” or “overly-aggressive” also misses the point. In our surveys of prospects who didn’t buy after showing interest, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase “the contractor/or salesperson never called back.” The “big box” theory is they walk through our store; if they don’t buy today, they’ll be back tomorrow. The majority of small businesses cannot adopt this laissez-faire attitude regarding prospects. The prospect’s interest indicates both response and respect for customer satisfaction oriented marketing.

Lead costs are soaring, yet your best prospects are still out there. In one of our recent seminars, dozens of new, low-cost lead-getting ideas were unveiled. Exhibits at fairs, malls and all sorts of public attractions ranked highly. Methods involving large and small retail outlets for displays have become exceptionally productive and internet marketing in various forms was abundant; however, to make these sources effective, it requires a change in attitude.

You have to change your “mindset” on how to deal with leads from all sources.

Email addresses and cell phone numbers are a key. They will aid you in becoming more efficient with your leads, solicitation for referrals from completed jobs, and similar tactics used by creative marketers.

Lead intake requires scripting, as does the language of the sales rep. However, with a proper plan and script writing, an email format can be achieved or enhanced inexpensively. The same is true for re-scripting and training sales reps.

Programmed email enables you to confirm the lead received or the sale you made today within minutes, with a brief message. You can introduce your referral system while the job is being completed and even follow up after completion by soliciting around your completed job.

Can direct mail still be a valuable source for leads?

A wise pundit once said, “Junk mail is only junk mail if it is junk.” Direct mail, if used wisely, is an ideal source for building leads. However, it is a method that has to be approached with some caution. Issues such as: to whom you will mail (hopefully, property owners), when will you mail (timing is a major factor), how often will you mail (one shot programs are seldom effective), how will you tie this into other advertising campaigns (TV, print, shows, canvassing, or internet). What will you mail? You’ve got to stand out from the hundreds of other pieces, which they receive regularly or what you mail may end up in the trash bin, unopened.

A well-designed, unique mailing piece sent to targeted markets, such as property owners in the vicinity of completed jobs, past prospects and previous customers, or a lead list as an aftermath of a show can be effective even if they return a small percentage of the mailing.

Using effective database management leads

Leads that did not receive a presentation, or those presented to and not sold, are worthy of multiple follow-ups. Direct mail campaigns tied to jobs in progress, special events, programs in a showroom, seasonal or energy conservation issues usually have an improved return.

Beyond getting the reader’s attention (what’s in it for them), a direct mail program tied into another marketing format increases return. If you have just come out of a home show and you are using that list coupled with old prospects, plus an area in which you have jobs in progress and there is a bonus or savings involved, again you will usually increase your lead return. If the area in which a job is being installed received door hangers, then four days later a piece of mail, followed by a well thought-out and scripted canvassing program, it may even get better.

In this age of sophisticated computers and software, compiling your own mailing list is simpler than ever. Increasing your base by using special lists is not complicated and with the ease of acquiring graphics, as well as inexpensive color printing, mailing is still a viable source.

Marketing costs continue to rise; the fully loaded cost of an issued lead can range from as low at $125 to over $600. So what’s the answer? Total all marketing costs including the rent, light and heat, etc. of your showroom (if you have one). Divide the total by the number of leads you actually give to your salesperson, which is the fully loaded cost of an issued lead.

Be sure your company is keeping pace with the methods for producing high-quality leads, then using them effectively. QR

Dave Yoho is the president of the oldest (since 1962), largest and the most successful small business consulting company specializing in the home improvement industry. His recorded materials are sold throughout the U.S. and many foreign countries. His company employs a staff of consulting experts who specialize in advising companies on how to become more profitable in their business. His company sponsors ongoing seminar programs. For more information on their products, consulting services or seminars visit or contact

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