The days of relying upon a Yellow Pages ad to promote your business are long gone. In today’s market, contractors need to understand and utilize the latest marketing trends to be successful.

For many years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with roofing contractors, distributors and manufacturers on marketing plans, strategy and implementation. Through it all, we’ve found that there is no one way to market a roofing company. That said, there are some solid marketing fundamentals that can help any business improve and grow.

Take the First Step

Marketing is more than just running an ad. It’s continually establishing and re-establishing your business as a member of the community, which is critical to your success. To understand your current marketing strategies, take time to analyze them from different perspectives. What is working? Are you tracking responses and leads? Are the leads you’re generating converting into sales? What technologies are you using to supplement your marketing efforts?

The fact that today’s customers are gaining information in a totally different ways dictates taking a serious look at the way you market your business. It might be time to update newspaper ads and strongly analyze budget-busting phone-book advertising. Are those coupon value packs really bringing in the business? Or is your ad buried in the midst of your competitors?

This monthly column will share new sales and marketing concepts to help contractors learn how to make their businesses stand out while not breaking the bank on costly marketing efforts that don’t work in the current business environment. We have found that many contractors do not even have a marketing program simply because they don’t know what to do.

Everyone knows that it’s good business to engage in some kind of marketing, but how do you know what you really should be doing? Some contractors are confused about the difference between advertising and marketing. Advertising is bringing your services to the attention of potential and current customers — typically with signs, brochures, commercials, direct mailings and/or e-mail — while marketing is the wider range of activities involved in making sure that you’re continuing to meet the needs of your customers and earning value in return. It is the ability to brand your company and intertwine that brand (name, logo, culture) into a strong value proposition for the company as a whole.

Overall, most people think of marketing as advertising, and they end up buying ads in local publications and phone books without really knowing if they’re reaching their target audience or building value. So while these ads are definitely better than no marketing at all, there are ways to maximize your marketing efforts with specific, targeted activities that will deliver a much higher return on investment (ROI).

Don’t Learn the Hard Way

A contractor who had successfully run a business for many years simply by advertising in the local Yellow Pages recently learned a valuable lesson. When asking his clients where they’d heard of his company, he discovered that the majority of his business’s incoming phone calls were referrals from existing clients, not the phone book. His business was getting great reviews, but most new customer referrals were coming from people conducting Internet research. Unfortunately, this contractor had not made the commitment to a website, so it was hard to tell how many referrals didn’t even make it to a phone call. This served as a wakeup call, showing him how much the community had grown and changed the way it was communicating — and how much his company was being left behind!

Some of you might be thinking, “I’m busy enough right now and have jobs scheduled for the next few months. Why would I want to bring in more work?” Keep in mind that marketing is something that needs to be done on an ongoing basis. Why? Because it will sustain your business when you hit the lean times of the year, and it will keep you afloat during years with milder-than-normal weather that results in little strain to the roofs in your market area.

Ongoing marketing creates top-of-mind awareness, which means that potential customers will think of your company first when they have a need for your services. As you read the upcoming columns, we will share ideas on how to do this in ways that are affordable and effective.

Marketing After the Sale

As we explore a number of marketing ideas in upcoming columns, we plan to share how big a role marketing plays in your business. It’s crucial to your sales process, and it plays a role in how you generate, manage and handle your leads as well as how you craft your sales presentation. It’s also prevalent during the job and after it’s completed.

We encourage you to take the time between columns to analyze your current marketing and evaluate how it works within your business practices. Review what you like and do not like about your existing sales and marketing process. Most of all, ask your employees, customers and friends how your company is viewed in the community and what you can do to increase brand exposure. It will take a little bit of effort on your part, but you’ll develop a direction, plan and budget, as well as an understanding of how to implement your efforts for sustained success.

In writing this column, we wanted to share ideas, strategies and success stories as well as provide some thought-provoking questions and exercises for you and your management teams. Below you’ll find discussion topics and action items that will help you take what we’ve shared and turn it into positive and successful planning sessions.

Discussion Topics for Your Leadership Team

  • Review what’s currently being done to market the business.
  • Review how much is being spent on marketing and advertising.
  • Is the current sales and marketing program working?
  • What should be changed?
  • Are we getting new customers?
  • What are the customers saying?
  • Do we understand the changing market demographics of our community?

Action Items

  • Ask incoming callers how they heard of your company and keep an ongoing record.
  • Ask your employees what they think of your current marketing and how it is working.
  • If you are currently advertising locally, ask the media sources for demographic information and statistics on how your current advertising is working.