The homeowner called us in tears. Her roof was leaking and she needed someone to tend to it immediately. I asked how long it had been leaking.  The reply: “Since August.” (And I’m thinking … That’s four months ago.)

Here’s the old myth about exterior contracting: There’s no business to be had between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. If you can’t afford Florida, take inventory. 

Actually, there’s some truth in that. This is a seasonal business, but this is the season—at least if you’re north of the Mason-Dixon Line—that’s hardest on a house. During this time, the demand for exterior products, such as roofs, increases. Our company is already getting calls from people, like the woman mentioned earlier, who want their roof and want it installed yesterday. Last year, ice damming was so bad that people were using pots, pans, and buckets throughout their homes to collect the water that was leaking in. 

So develop some strategies to get that winter business.

Strategy 1: Do Repairs 

The need will never be greater. As long as you can get to the house, you can perform work and get paid. 

How do you find these homeowners? Do repairs. Work your old database. And canvass.

If someone has a leak or a roofing problem requiring immediate attention, all roads lead to one place, and that place is online. You can either do a Google AdWords campaign or buy those keywords so that you’re optimized to reach searchers. “Roofing repairs.” “Leaking roof.” “Broken window.” 

Three things can happen on a repair call. First, the homeowner needs the service, you perform the service, you generate enough cash to pay for the cost of the call and a little left over. Second, the homeowner may buy something more. Instead of just repairing the roof, they may contract to replace it. Third, nothing might happen—except that you now have detailed data for that potential customer including contact information and the condition of the property.

There are home improvement companies that won’t do repairs. OK, but aren’t you at some point going to have to make a service call on work you’ve performed? Why not set that up to be a lead source? Create promotions such as a Pre-Winter Home Inspection. Go in and give the homeowner good information and a fair price. Offer financing on repairs, if they’re extensive. 

Strategy 2: Be the Hero

Here’s the other thing that doing repairs will do for your company: Make you a superstar when it comes to reviews. 

We had a call not long ago from a homeowner whose house had a roof leak. She had had four other roofing companies out there to look at it and had received four bids, all for between $2,500 and $3,500 to replace a section of the roof. Those companies weren’t overcharging her, they just weren’t looking. We went in the attic and found the leaking pipe that was the actual source of the problem. The cost to fix: $150. But the write-up we got from that homeowner on Angie’s List was advertising I couldn’t buy. 

The thing about reviews on Angie’s List is that while you can repost them, most of what’s there will only be read by other Angie’s List members. To get the SEO traction, you need Google reviews. This is one other area where you need to be continuously working your database. Once a month we send an email message to a list with a link to our GooglePlus site. The first time around we said: “Would you mind sharing about your experience with our company on Google Reviews?” It took half a day to send out those emails. Within a week we had 12 Five Star reviews. From an SEO standpoint, it’s the next best thing to blogging. 

Strategy 3: Canvassing

Winter canvassing is a goldmine. In that brutal January of 2008, we wrote $800,000 worth of business from canvassing and kept $500,000 of it. Can you canvas in the cold? Yes, just dress for it. And because the trees are bare, it’s far easier to spot gutters falling down or icicles hanging off the roof. Here’s a guarantee: None of your competitors will be out there.