Rick Menendez is co-owner of Sudden Impact Marketing and vice president of sales and marketing for Melani Bros., a $16.9 million home improvement company in Yorktown, Va.

REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: Many home improvement companies are finding that traditional ways of generating leads are not as effective as they once were. What's your view?

RICK MENENDEZ: Things are changing dramatically. So many of the tools we used to make use of we can't use anymore. As a result, a lot of people have shifted to trial-and-error lead generation.

RC: What's an ideal lead mix for you?

RM: I don't think any lead source should be more than 15%, and you should always be experimenting because sooner or later stuff stops working. We're always experimenting with five or six new projects, looking for the next new lead source that's predictable and cost effective.

RC: What's your best lead source?

RM: Canvassing is one of the best. We did about $2 million in canvassing in 2005. Last year we rebuilt our canvassing program and we have plans to do $3 million this year.

RC: Many large companies use “branding” to sell themselves and their products, yet relatively few home improvement companies have been good at it. Why?

RM: It's expensive. Companies that just advertise a few times on TV or radio are not going to establish their brand that way. It has to be a repetitive program that goes on for years and years. We have a branding campaign and it's extremely important. We direct mail more than 1 million pieces a year. If you make enough impressions, somewhere, somehow, people will have heard of Melani Bros. Of course, the other way to build brand is by being in business a long time. We've been doing business in southeastern Virginia for 28 years.

RC: What percentage of your leads come from the company's Web site?

RM: About 3% to 5%. It would be great to get that percentage to 15%. Web leads are something that won't stop growing because every survey shows that more and more people use the Internet to help make a buying decision. It's all changing faster than it ever has. It's not the big eating the small anymore, it's the fast eating the slow.

RC: What do you hope to accomplish with sweepstakes?

RM: Sweepstakes tell us who in our marketplace is interested enough in our product that they'd like to win it. Last year we identified 54,000 people that way. A lot of them we can sell now, but the great majority are future customers who we can continue to contact until they're ready to buy. Of course, we're not going to aggravate them by being overly aggressive.