Marketing in this industry means finding ways to get people to respond — creating opportunities to make presentations and ultimately to sell a fair percentage of the respondents. Leads are the lifeblood of a business, and a large, successful home improvement company is usually a “lead factory.”

The successful home improvement retailer uses a variety of methods to consistently keep the lead pipeline full. The plan to do so is frequently regulated by the territory, economy, average contract size, weather, and even the news of the day. The marketing plan includes a budget that designates how much will be spent and where. It also includes projections to ensure sufficient leads to provide prospects for salespeople.

A key is the number of leads necessary to produce net good business. In a plan where the salesperson sells a minimum of two contracts per week averaging three presentations to one sale, and where there's a 30% falloff from leads issued to actual presentations, the plan calls for nine or 10 leads per salesperson per week.

Because an issued lead may cost between $175 and $200, staying within budget may require salespeople to self-generate a percentage of their own leads.

How do you know your plan's working? Measure the number of leads that have been generated, those that are confirmed, presented to, and sold, less those that cancel or are credit rejected.

If an aspect of the plan isn't working, adjust rapidly. Eliminate low-producing methods and intensify methods to produce less costly leads — canvassing, for example. Rehash unsold leads or those not receiving presentations. Experimentation with new methods of lead production requires concentration and control. Ultimately, the measure of a successful marketing plan is the amount of net business (ready for installation) you have sold against the cost of procuring the leads to sell that volume of business. If the cost of your program measured against this net business exceeds budget, modify the plan. —Dave Yoho ( is president of the oldest and largest consulting group serving the home improvement industry. He will present seminars on New Effective Lead Getting, Creating Your Price Formula, and How To Sell Value vs. Price, at the Remodeling Show, Oct. 6 and 7.