REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR recently spoke with Ron Sherman, president, and Ron Jumper, Web sales director, at Ron Sherman Productions, in Little Rock, Ark. The company has been involved in making home improvement commercials and directing advertising for home improvement companies for 25 years. Ron Sherman Productions suggests that TV and online, working together, will give a home improvement company the biggest return on its marketing investment.

REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: How are the biggest home improvement companies positioned for Web marketing, compared with retailers?

Ron Sherman: The top 30% of home improvement dealers are where they need to be. For the rest, it's not like they're lagging behind retailers, it's that their goals and priorities are different. Home improvement companies' top priority is generating leads. Retailers want to engage consumers via social media to maintain and monitor the brand.

RC: How are news consumption habits changing?

RS: Print is the main casualty. Surveys show a continuing decline in the newspaper as a news source. In the 1980s, 60% of people 35+ got their news first from the paper. Today it's television, with the Internet catching up fast.

RC: Is it your sense that social media — sites such as Facebook and Twitter — is driving Internet use?

RS: Social media has completely changed the way consumers get and sort through information. It serves as a news aggregator. You have a different level of engagement. People watch something on TV and then talk about it on Facebook.

RC: So TV and online work in sync?

Ron Jumper: Very much so. If you're watching a TV show, it can suddenly become a trending topic. You don't get that same interaction between other types of media. TV and the Internet are intertwined and are going to stay that way. So we're doing a lot of social media in-house for our clients. We have some clients who have 3,000 followers on Twitter.

Business Generator

RC: How does a home improvement company generate business from social media?

RJ: Actually, search engines — rather than social media — are significantly more effective in generating leads. They're much more efficient in terms of lead costs. There are 10 billion Google searches each month in the U.S. alone. Google is the new Yellow Pages. People use it to find everything.

RC: So are Facebook and Twitter primarily for branding?

RJ: Even if you're doing it correctly, social media is only going to account for a small percentage of your leads. But you need to start this process now as opposed to five years down the road. If you have a thousand followers on Facebook or Twitter, that's a resource. Once you have them you can send a message and it goes to all of them. Building that network now is like putting your money into savings.

RC: What works for home improvement companies when it comes to the Internet?

RS: We've had the most success, month in and out, with the traditional offer. We'll run a promotion on a TV station and combine it with a strong promotion on the company's website. Sometimes that might involve putting a banner ad somewhere else, let's say on the website of a local broadcast affiliate. The click-through rate is quite low, but if we run a sweepstakes or similar promotion, that's more attention-grabbing.

Headed for Prime Time?

RC: Isn't TV strictly for big companies?

RJ: If you do two or three million in sales, you can afford television. If you're a smaller company, say with one or two sales guys, you may have a little trouble. The bigger thing is: If you do it, can you process the leads? Do you have a call center? You could end up burning through leads because you get more than you can service.

RC: What if a company is not on TV?

RJ: If you're advertising via search engines — say a PPC [pay per click] advertising campaign or optimized site — the only time your ad appears is when someone's searching on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. So if you need to do a million or more in sales, you're not going to do that just from online. You're going to have to do TV.

RC: A lot of companies say that TV doesn't work for them. Why?

RJ: Most TV advertising is not done correctly. In many cases, the local TV or cable station comes to the company and makes them an offer, and the station produces the TV spot and nothing happens. So companies learn a $20,000 lesson. The first thing to do is to establish what the goals are. How many calls do you want and at what cost? It has to be structured very specifically to work for home improvement companies.