Back in the glory days of smoking, Marlboro had a stroke of marketing genius. While other cigarette companies sought to convince smokers to switch brands, Marlboro decided to court those who weren't yet smokers. By pursuing the youngest legal age group (18 and up) Marlboro captured a market segment no one was going after. Brand loyalty at a young age delivered a huge bonus for years to come.

Today the home improvement industry mimics the smoking industry of old. Since people under 35 usually don't own homes, our marketing efforts often fail to take them into account. At some point, though, many will own homes. Win over this group now, and you will have them for life.

BEFORE THEY GET THERE You may think: It's not till someone becomes a homeowner that we can start to talk to him or her or that they will care about our message. Should I really be throwing marketing dollars at a segment that's not even thinking about home improvement? I'll reach them when they're ready.

All that's true, but at the same time, people under 35 think about buying a house long before they ever actually own one. Then, suddenly, they're owners. And soon enough they need someone to work on that home. By reaching out to future customers while everyone else is trying to capture the interest of those looking to buy now, you position your company as the “Marlboro of the home improvement industry.”

WHO'S THE EXPERT? This is why social media is so important in today's business world. To get more leads, you need more lead sources and more effective ones.

Meanwhile, the world is moving from what's called “interruption-based” marketing — messages not asked for — to “permission-based” marketing. Increasingly, you need to create relationships to get leads. People want to do business on their terms. My goal as a marketer is to use these technologies to reach future customers, earn their trust, and, eventually, support our sales goals.

Social media may not bring in huge business right away, but if you can get the younger segments to “Like” you on Facebook, connect to you on LinkedIn, and “Follow” you on Twitter, they will come to you when they need you.

This spiderweb of interconnected media — apps, texts, tweets, blogs, etc. — can be difficult for some to grasp. How does the end result generate interest and get the sale? How does it work to generate repeat business?

But once you figure out how to use social media, it has virtually no cost — apart from time spent updating. That's an appealing return on investment.

Here's the thing: in order for people to connect on social media, we have to have their permission. People will find you using search terms most relevant to their now and future needs. They decide what they want to hear and when. Those are the terms we're careful to include on our blog and across all social media. We invite and respond to questions. We provide a hash tag (#) so people can start a dialog. We want to get “future buyers” to be part of our organization so that when the time is right, guess who's the expert? Best of all, doing these things assists in capturing “now buyers,” while intriguing future buyers. —Adam Bressler is head of the marketing department for Builders & Remodelers, in Minneapolis.