You need customers, and somehow, some way, you set out to find them. That — the need for lead generation — will never change. What has changed, and it's changed a lot in the last few years, is hand-held technology. I mean, specifically, the smart phone in your pocket or the computer tablet in your briefcase. These can, in seconds, download e-mail or other Internet access, or (in the case of the phone) shoot a video and then transmit it. You may think of that device you're talking into as an enhanced phone, a convenient way to read and respond to e-mail at any place and time. Actually, smart phones — projected to outsell laptops by the end of next year — and touch-screen tablets can and will have a big impact on the home improvement business by streamlining efficiencies, eliminating redundant procedures, and making communication between the different parts of your business — sales, marketing, admin, installation — nearly immediate.

In the Now

First off, think of your sales presentation. That three-ring binder will soon carry all the cultural overtones of the horse and carriage. With a smart phone in every other pocket, how will thumbing through the plasticized pages of that binder look to the client, even the older client, when the company before you and the company after you come in with a touch-screen tablet such as an iPad and use it to bring up their website, customer testimonials, government sites featuring energy saving tips, etc.

Today these devices are relatively new to most people. Just bringing them into play in the sales presentation gives you an opportunity to get homeowners' attention.

How about canvassers, store promoters, and people working shows and events? Many companies outfit their field marketers with iPads and other tablets. Tablets make it easy to carry an unlimited amount of information. Marketers can display customer testimonials, product descriptions with high-resolution photos, and before-and-after pictures. And they can do this instantly.

Smart phones and touch-screen tablets also present big opportunities for direct input from the field. Think about the efficiency you can achieve in setting appointments. Your direct marketing personnel — canvassers, show and event staff, in-store demonstrators — can enter appointments in real time, as they're generated. This not only saves on the time and cost of data entry but also gives everyone in your company an accurate and up-to-date schedule of open time slots. Office staff will no longer need to field inbound calls from marketers in the field, so they'll be free to focus on other tasks.

See It, Film It

One other thing: There's a big opportunity in enlisting canvassers to take photographs and video in the field. In some cases they¹re simply taking photographs of bad workmanship done by unqualified contractors. In other scenarios they¹re filming brief testimonials of satisfied customers who they happened to come across while knocking on doors.

If you coach and train your staff properly, outfit them accordingly, and provide solid, obtainable incentives, they will take these technological opportunities and come back from the field with more than just leads. They may surprise you.

—Sales and marketing consultant Tony Hoty has been a home improvement company salesperson and owner. Visit his website or reach him at or 888.447.3969.