By now, just about everyone knows how important it is to use technology such as apps, social media and online review sites to improve your business. While those tools are important, the 2016 Remodeling Big50 revealed some other surprising ways today’s most innovative contractors are growing their businesses.

Here are 5 simple takeaways from the Big50 that you can steal for yourself:

1. Use traditional advertising. Despite all the hype about social media and online review sites, many contractors are finding success using old analog methods, such as newspaper and magazine advertising. Particularly successful — and reasonably priced — are community weeklies.

For example, Ron Jedwab, owner of Lincorp, works in a wide geographic area. So he uses smaller regional newspapers to do “pinpoint” target marketing of those specific areas. “That’s been very successful,” he said.

2. Be of service. Whether it’s volunteering for the local food bank or sending crews out to build housing for those in need, community service is a great way to spread the message about your contracting business, build your crews’ teamwork — and win repeat customers.

Greg Rehm owner of Liberty Hill Construction treats the community service his firm does as a core part of his marketing campaign. “We’re not the cheapest guy in town, but a lot of people see us at their kids’ events and recognize that we’re giving back, which creates an argument to pay a premium,” Rehm said. “I believe the return on the investment is pretty high versus some ad in the paper. We’ve had people hire us simply because of commitment to community service. Plus it just feels good.”

3. Give advice. Several contractors are working with their local newspapers or radio stations to write monthly or even weekly advice columns. Sometimes these are “advertorials” in which contractors pay to have the column published, but often, editors are happy to have the extra copy. Either way, it’s a great lead generator.

Jessica and Dan Webber, the father-daughter team of Webber Development, have seen first hand how it works. Jessica writes a column for the community paper called “Ask the Cabinet Lady” that has made her a local celebrity. Recalled Dan, “We walked into a kitchen not long ago and there was one of Jessica’s articles sitting on the counter talking about quartz. A lot of people tell Jessica that they read her article every week.” And while those are print articles, “a lot of that print ends up online,” he concluded.

4. Be neighborly. When contractors do work on a home, they’re also working in a neighborhood — a localized, built-in audience. The best way to capitalize on this audience is to be neighborly. Put up signs that let neighbors know who you are. Savvy contractors take it a step further and let neighbors within a certain radius know the scope of the project, with a promise to keep the neighborhood clean during the process. When the project is finished, these same neighbors get invited to an open house.

Craig Postlewait, president of Pendulum Solutions, calls it “grass roots marketing.” As soon has his crews show up they post a sign in the yard. Postlewait says he’s had up to eight signs in the same area. “The signs generate a tremendous base of business for us,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘I don’t even have to check references with you. You’re working for six of my neighbors, and I ‘ve been in all their houses. I know how picky they are so, if you’re doing work in all their houses you must be the right guy.”

5. Offer a personal touch. When’s the last time you wrote someone a hand-written letter? Or sent them a birthday card? Or just stopped in to say hi? Those are just a few of the ways Big50 contractors take customer service to the next level — and transform it into one powerful lead generator.

Leo Lantz, president of Leo Lantz Construction, takes photos from before during and after at end of a job. Then he sends clients a thank you card with those photos on it. “When you personalize it like that, it’s golden,” Lantz said. “The clients will not throw it away. They put it in their purse. They show it to all their friends. It’s a great marketing tool.”