November 2007 Table of Contents

Featured Articles
Home Improvement Financing

If financing is something you've never thought much about, keep reading. Our lead feature, "Custom Fit," is a primer on what kind of financing products are available and how they match up with different customer types. "Same-as-Cash" takes an in-depth look at what it takes to make a zero-percent financing offer work -- and what might cause it to backfire. Finally, in "Second Chance," we provide answers about subprime lending. The mortgage crisis in the housing markets is a special case, but second-tier financing isn't as risky as all the headlines make it seem. Read more

Old New Business

You're driving along and you pass the house where your company did a bang-up job installing siding three years ago. You give the house a glance to admire the quality of your work and see how the job's holding up. Read more

Wake-up Call

A few years back I got a call from the manager of the local dump to let me know that a subcontractor installing a job for my company had disposed of several squares of shingles, still wrapped, at that location. Read more

Same-as-Cash Financing

Retailers such as The Home Depot and Best Buy have found deferred-interest "same-as-cash" credit promotions an effective way to increase sales. The store lets the customer walk away with the purchase for no money down, and agrees to not charge interest if they pay in full before an agreed-on deadline, which could be 30 days, 6 months, or 1 year from the date of purchase. Read more

Custom Fit

Most contractors find that people who finance home improvements tend to spend more than those who pay cash. Contractors who understand the various types of credit products and know how to present them will be more likely to lead the customer to make the decision to finance. Read more

The Producers The Producers

On an afternoon in mid-August, John Smith spent five hours with a homeowner and came away with a $51,000 contract. Many home improvement sales reps would have headed straight for the bar to celebrate, but not Smith. A few hours later he went back out and sold a $12,000 project to another homeowner. Read more

Street Smarts

Carlo Pinto trudged up and down a lot of streets, going door-to-door to find customers for the home improvement business he was starting. "I did the canvassing myself. I knocked on doors during the day and two evenings a week, then I'd run the appointments at night," he recalls. That was in 1998. Read more

Meet Me at the Fair

Finding sales talent -- never an easy task -- is even more difficult these days, and not just for home improvement contractors. In 2006 and 2007 "sales representative" was cited as the most difficult job to fill in an annual talent shortage survey of some 37,000 employers conducted by Manpower Inc., a leading international employment services company. Read more

Sign Me On

Here's a quirky fact: In an era when ad revenues for broadcast networks are shrinking, revenues for outdoor advertising (billboards, mainly) are expanding. Frankly, I've never been very enthusiastic about billboards, but technology has changed all that. Billboards can now be very effective in gaining a prospect's attention and then redirecting him to a greater source of information. Read more

Old College Try Old College Try

Local colleges could be an excellent source of sales and marketing recruits. Read more

On Message

Last winter Windowizards, in Philadelphia, had a mystery shopper call 10 home improvement companies of similar size across the U.S. and record the interaction with each company's phone room. Then Windowizards' management had that same mystery shopper call Windowizards. Read more

Fit to Print Fit to Print

Coastal Empire Exteriors runs a four-page insert in the 80,000 circulation Read more

Referral Rewards Referral Rewards

Ross Marzarella wanted a referral program that would stick. That is, he wanted one that would make happy customers think seriously and often about suggesting All County Exteriors, in Lakewood, N.J., for a roofing, siding, or window job. Read more

The Big Yawn

Ninety-nine percent of all advertising is a jumble of hyperbole, fluff, and platitudes. A big yawn. Terms such as "professionalism," "cheapest," "service," "quality," and "convenient" are everywhere. They do nothing to communicate why you're the best value to your customers or how you solve problems that nobody else solves. Read more

As Seen on TV As Seen on TV

Some people refer to television as the "boob tube" or the "idiot box." But you're unlikely to hear Scot or Jill Hayes putting it down.The husband-and-wife owners of New York Sash in Whitesboro, N.Y., near Utica, are more than pleased with the reasonable cost of and strong response to their weekly half-hour TV program, Read more

Knock, Knock

You knock. No answer. You ring the doorbell. No response. You call. The machine takes it. You've been stood up.Do you reset the appointment? Read more

Check the Metric

With lead costs up, many home improvement companies are paying closer attention to sales productivity metrics such as presentation rates, gross close rates, and net close rates. How often are reps tracked? Read more

Take And Make

Contrary to what you might have read or watched on television, we are not in a recession. The housing market has faltered but it is still considerably larger than it was a decade ago. Employment is at an all-time high.So what's the problem? Read more

Sit A Spell

Eric Wortman knows all the reasons why a lead fails to convert to a "sit" or product demonstration: forgotten appointment; one-legger; the homeowner thought he was shopping a repair, or he only wants a price. Read more

Packaged Deal Packaged Deal

Shawn Shelton, president of Rembrandt Remodeling, in Atlanta, was searching for a way to stand out. The problem: How do you stand out and sell a profitable job when there are so many siding installers and few, if any, products with branded appeal? Read more

Inner Space Inner Space

Is basement finishing the next hot home improvement category? Manufacturers seem to think so.Until recently, Owens Corning, which pioneered basement finishing products in 2000, had the category to itself. But in the last 18 months it's been joined by window giant Champion, sunroom manufacturer TEMO, and Total Basement Systems, a division of Basement Systems, known for its waterproofing products. So how much of a market is there? Read more

Blue Skies Blue Skies

Runnin' and gunnin' is usually the way things go on roof replacements. But for skylights, slow down, lay out, and dial in.The reason -- especially for new fenestration -- is that skylights tie in to interior finishes and have a big impact on customer satisfaction. It's usually carpentry-oriented workers who best handle the framing, shaft, and trim details. Read more

Partial Window Job: An Opening

At the beginning of this year, one of Chicago's largest window replacement companies, The Window Guys, dispensed with its required minimum number of windows per job. Now, says company president Lloyd Gillman, The Window Guys will take a one-unit or two-unit job, which it installs using company crews, even though, he adds, that policy has resulted in a lower average sale this year. Read more

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