Credit: Illustration: Ingo Fast

A year ago, David Goodman, vice president of Windowizards, in Bristol, Pa., saw something he thought could add both cash flow and new customers. The product was a mobile door shop, towed from jobsite to jobsite. Workers remove the existing entry door and re-mill it with openings that are then filled with glass products of the homeowner's choosing. The average cost is $1,500 to $2,000. Goodman was so convinced the service would fly that he offered to personally finance the purchase of equipment. Since then, the service has generated $750,000 in sales.

WHAT? HOW? Many home improvement companies have added new products or services, preferably in a cost range that can be charged, or paid in cash. But before taking on a product, here's what you need to ask yourself:

  • Is there a market? Do some research, says marketing expert Michael Morgan, of Morgan Success Group, in Colorado Springs, Colo. He suggests surveying select current clients to see if they would be interested in certain new products or services; and even if you're only actually planning to add two, ask about five.
  • Always ask. When Windowizards confirms an appointment, personnel always ask what other projects prospects might be interested in. Goodman says that the $500,000 that Windowizards does annually in flooring results from a slip inside the packet that sales reps leave behind. American Vision Windows, in Simi Valley, Calif., added kitchen remodels, window coverings, and smart technology to its window offering after compiling a list of customer product/service requests.
  • Are we looking to sell this to past customers or to reach out to new customers? Conventional wisdom holds that it's five times more expensive to market to new customers. If you have a database of previous customers and leads, you have a natural target for your promotional effort. But there's no reason you can't sell to both.
  • Does it fit the profile of what we're known for, and what we're known to do, as a company? “It's going to take a lot more energy to establish yourself as an expert than to re-establish yourself as the best,” says Marc Slutsky, of Street Fighter Marketing, in Gahanna, Ohio. The product/service should be a natural adjunct to what you already do.
  • What's your pitch? When Franklin, Wis., home improvement company Weather Tight Corp. added Owens Corning's new blown-in insulation system — job cost $3,500 to $5,500 — it marketed the product in a 12-page energy saving booklet mailed to past customers that explained how the company's various products would enable the homeowner to “turn the thermostat down,” says director of marketing Michelle Vincent. Weather Tight had a dozen calls on it before signing a single contract.

EXTEND THE SALE American Vision Windows uses mailers and e-blasts to market new items to past clients. Windowizards promotes its door renovation and new garage organizing systems in TV and print ads. Goodman says that he found it important in his advertising to separate Windowizards' new products from its generic company ad. American Vision Windows president Al Alfieri says that it's critical to know exactly how you plan to promote a product, and budget for that, before taking it on.