HIP 200: Marketing All-Stars

No topic is of greater interest to companies on the HIP 200 than how to generate leads for new business. At TOP 500 LIVE, four of the industry’s best marketers offered new ideas and trends for generating leads.

by Kyle Clapham

This year’s list of the largest home improvement firms, the HIP 200, is filled with big firms who are quickly scaling up. To scale up, they’ve become experts at recruiting and managing far-flung teams. Slick technology solutions are a part of how they are making it happen. Owners and managers increasingly rely on real-time information to keep things moving.

But no job function is more important in a growing organization than marketing manager. They need to feed the beast. Their jobs are to keep the flow of leads strong enough to keep call centers busy setting appointments and to help those appointment setters keep large sales teams out in the field selling every day.

This past October at TOP 500 LIVE, we assembled an all-star panel of marketing professionals to give the audience an inside look at their plans for 2023 and how they are getting ahead of the challenges offered by a growing market—one that is expected to grow more slowly throughout the next 12 months. Leading the panel was Amy Zimmerman, chief marketing officer for Tundraland, which is now a Leaf Home company.

Also on the panel were Beth Biron, the top marketing executive with Reborn Home Improvements, a Renovo company; Jill Fergusson, the lead marketer at Louisiana-based MaxHome, a Renuity company; and a home improvement marketing legend in Boston, Marci Katz of Newpro Home Solutions, a Renovo company. Katz is a legend not only because has she led the company’s lead generation efforts for many years, but she’s also been the face of the company in its advertising.

Qualified Remodeler asked each of the marketers to summarize their lead-generation presentations from TOP 500 LIVE. A full video of the program will be posted on QualifiedRemodeler.com by the end of December. A link to that video will be added to the online version of this article.

5 Ways to Get More Juice from Leads and Customers

If you are in the home improvement industry, then you’ve experienced a leads and sales boon since March 2020. Homeowners spent more time at home and took that opportunity to make major home improvements. Our call centers were busy, our sales reps were busy, and we got used to having more than enough inquiries, leads and appointments to fill our schedules. As we have all returned to our ever-evolving definition of “normal,” leads have become harder to generate. Inflation, interest rates and mid-term elections affected our prospects’ desire to act now.

So, we need to get back to our fundamentals. Accepting average performance from lead sources and taking prospects and customers for granted is going to put marketing and sales teams in the unfamiliar position of having a funnel that’s not quite full. We must treat every lead like gold and find new ways to tailor our marketing to speak to prospects who are the best fit for our business and our products.

Casting a wide net worked for the past two-and-a-half years. Homing in on your prospects. Analyzing your data and speaking directly to groups most likely to take action. These steps will lower your marketing cost, increase your demo rate and result in more net sales at a lower cost of marketing.

Have we met? Know thy customer.

  • Analyze your data. You have answers that you didn’t even know you have.
  • Phone a friend. Your vendors know your customers too. Ask them for all their information.
  • Personas are the secret sauce. Not all prospects are motivated to act in the same way. Tailor your message to your audience. It’s about their “why,” not yours.
  • Your customers are evolving, like all of us. Younger, more tech-savvy folks are getting older. Know which technology they use and make sure you have a message that meets them there.
  • Map it. Know where your customers live. Are there clusters? Are you canvassing those neighborhoods? Are you participating in events in that area?

If you’re not first, you’re last.

  • If you’re buying competitive leads, never forget that it’s a race. Treat them like ice cream or fish.
  • Call, text and email immediately. You cannot be more than a few minutes away from contact.
  • Fresh leads taste better. Eat them immediately and separate them into their own call queues. If you don’t have a call center, then you better be able to compete against the big girls or pay more for exclusive leads. It will cost you less in the end.

You look great today. Nurture, nurture, nurture the heck out of your leads.

  • Stick to them like glue until they confirm, set, demo and sell.
  • The better you know your customer, the better you can target them with content they care about.
  • You bought a deck: Here are some recipes for outdoor summer grilling.
  • Pro Tip: Use your keywords for blogging.

Call me, maybe? Or text, email, DM. It’s not over until you say it’s over.

  • Never let them go.
  • Invite them to events and home shows.
  • Keep them on your direct mail lists for promos.
  • Send them info about new products.

Move the needle.

  • If you set an appointment at an event or home show, run that appointment within 72 hours.
  • Confirm that appointment first. Don’t wait. They set appointments with all your competitors at the same show/event.
  • Remind them why you are better.
  • When all else fails, offer a special promotion to move the appointment within a 72-hour time frame.

Treat every lead, every prospect and every customer like a friend. Get to know them, have a sense of urgency, understand their why and get smarter, faster and more targeted. Next year will bring a new set of challenges. If you get back to the marketing fundamentals that made you successful in the first place, this will be your year.

Ways We’re Recession-Proofing Our Lead Plans

Operating in a high-inflation environment with the looming threat of recession on the horizon creates uncertainty for marketers in the home remodeling industry. Reborn Cabinets, provider of cabinet-refacing, one-day bath transformations and windows in California, Nevada and Arizona, is planning to stay ahead of any potential softness in the market by thinking strategically about how to “recession-proof” lead generation plans for 2023. Here are five of the ways we are planning to stay ahead of the game.

Adjusting channel mix: With softening in paid digital and increasing lead costs from aggregators, Reborn is focusing on returning to channels that were put “on the shelf” pre-COVID: events and other face-to-face marketing, direct mail and referrals, and in-showroom customer experiences. Additionally, testing and diversifying vendors to be prepared to turn on and turn up new sources is being prioritized in preparation.

Targeting new segments: Identifying underserved populations and personas for whom the Reborn products are a great fit is being undertaken using existing customer data. Reborn has specifically identified an under-served middle-income parent persona and is developing marketing media plans to better meet and maximize that customer segment opportunity.

Adjusting messaging: When thinking about downturn, messaging that addresses the current macro-economic environment can resonate with consumers facing uncertainty. In addition to testing messaging that addresses consumer concerns, as well as adjusting promotional offers to address their current fears, is where Reborn is focused on testing its messaging strategy.

Creating strategies for unproven channels: Whether it’s cracking the code on geo-targeting or OTT, planning a micro-influencer strategy or ideating the best approach to new social channels, Reborn is creating executable plans to attack new media channels to ensure plans are available when there is a reduction in leads from proven sources.

Focusing on efficiency: Ensuring that each lead is well-managed from end-to-end is the cornerstone of any great marketing plan; in a recessionary environment, making every lead count is paramount. Building a tested and well-integrated lead nurture process including multi-channel (phone, SMS, email) outreach can make all the difference when lead counts suffer. In addition to focusing on the continual refinement and testing of its lead handle processes, Reborn is focused on building capabilities to mine aged data leads to find continued value.

Leverage Personas for More Effective Lead-Gen Campaigns

Finding and speaking to your ideal prospects can be challenging. And throwing a wide net is costly and ineffective. That is why it is so important to build your personas and deliver content that engages your personas on the channels they consume.

The processes can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not working with a third-party vendor, but it doesn’t need to be. At MaxHome we took a grassroots approach to building, defining and proving our persona by:

1. Diving into our CRM, which is enriched with notes from our call-center agents and design consultants.

2. Interviewing our customer-facing teams, asking one question: “What are the most common problems they see/hear from our customers?”

3. Interviewing customers and asking: “What problems they were having with their previous (bathroom, windows, roof, etc.)?”

4. Reading company reviews.

5. Tracking the commonalities, we generate theories and crafts three personas identifying:

  • Pain points
  • Demographics
  • Project goals
  • Project expectations
  • Project fears
  • How they obtain information
  • Why they chose MaxHome

We tested our theories with third-party vendors and audience-based research platforms that provide actionable audience insights.

At MaxHome we are hyper-focused on targeting our personas through all our lead-gen efforts. Our content always addresses the persona’s pain point, and we position ourselves as their guide. We build our campaigns with interlinking architecture and A/B test every campaign, even in mass media channels. Then we repeat and repeat again.

Attracting the right eyes and ears to your campaigns lessens your conversion time, but it cannot happen unless you know exactly who you are speaking to and what problem they are trying to solve.

Humanize the Brand

Human to human (h2h) is the new b2c. NEWPRO has humanized its brand with easy-to-execute steps and strategies that have excelled its business and established its brand personality representative of its culture, values and mission.

What makes an organization unique is the people associated with the process. NEWPRO has invested in human storytelling composed of consistent, relevant messaging. Starting at home with employees, to capturing the voice of the customer, to philanthropic initiatives, NEWPRO has differentiated itself using unique, personable content that inspires, connects and attracts audiences. A humanization strategy deserves as much attention as a lead-gen strategy.

Some key takeaways:

  • Create your brand personality representative of your mission statement, core values and culture.
  • For every one product/offer promotion, tell three experience stories.
  • Invest in people—survey customers and employees.
  • Spotlight humans—employees and customers—and let them tell your story.
  • Be authentic and transparent.
  • Deliver consistent and relevant messaging. Do you have a spokesperson who represents your company and connects with your audience demographic?
  • Engage with your audience.
  • Bring your marketing to life—use QR Codes!
  • Enrich your data.
  • Feature customers in your marketing.
  • Use internal communication platforms, i.e., Workplace, to share employee stories, successes, and project pride.
  • Give back!

Humans connect with humans and experiences, not products; the features and benefits of a product alone do not differentiate. The way it changed or impacted a life is the difference. Your brand should be associated with the humans and experiences behind it. QR

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