Subscribe to the Design/Builders Blog

The Design Builder's Blog

If You Won’t Offer Gen Y Prospects What They Want They Will Go Away

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Mar 05,2013 @ 06:00 AM

If You Don’t Or Won’t Offer Generation Y Prospects What They Want They Will Go Away

gen Y remodeling prospects Generation Y is getting older, they’re buying homes and they are now starting to improve and remodel the homes they own.  As more and more of them grow older the number of Gen Y homeowners will quickly grow. Therefore, they will quickly become a major share of the potential prospects for remodelers and other contractors.  In an earlier blog about prequalifying and selling to Generation Y, I discussed the fact that members of Gen Y are used to getting information instantly and for free using key word Google searches to find internet content.   Technology and the internet have definitely defined how Generation Y does all their research and makes their remodeling or home improvement buying decisions. Having a contractor web site and what is put on it for information will make or break whether Gen Y prospects will be doing business with a remodeling contractor or not.

There are two ways to think about the title of this blog

First, if you don’t have a web site, or if your site doesn’t offer the information Gen Y is looking for, they won’t bother with your business if another remodeler’s business does.  Second, if your web site doesn’t explain how you do business as well as the kind of projects your willing to do, internet savvy gen Y remodeling prospects will move on. Remember, they’re probably not going to call you to find these things out. They’ll just go back to the Google search page and find another contractor’s site that does. So, if you want them to attract them and you want to motivate them to do business with your remodeling company you better make sure they find what they are looking for when they find your contractor web site.

selling to Generation Y

“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.

Wisdom is not using it in a fruit salad.”


What if you want them to go away?

Yes, you read that right. Not all Gen Y prospects will be right for a remodeler’s business. Their motivations to buy and what will be important to them may not be a match with what you offer, who you have on staff or how you do business. Working with the wrong customers can also compromise profits and might not be very satisfying for the business owner or employees. If you want to maintain a defined business process, and remain in control as you do business and produce your projects, you need to avoid working with customers who would probably be better off working with some other remodeling contractor.

To help Gen Y prospects prequalify themselves before they contact you (or for that matter prospects from any generation) make sure the content you put on your site has been strategically decided and written to serve this purpose. For example, if you charge for design services make that clear on your site. Or, if you won’t allow customers to provide any of their own materials make sure you discuss this fact on your web site. Conversely, to attract the right prospects, explain why you charge for design or won’t allow them to provide the materials.  Blogging is a great way to accomplish these goals.  Who knows, your logic might just discourage some prospects from wanting to provide their own materials or go with a contractor who offers free design!

Work towards getting them to stay

remodeling web site visitors


The point here is that if your web site visitors like your offerings and your logic you will attract them as prospects. If they don’t like your offerings and or your logic, they will go away and search for another remodeling contractor. Just be careful about how and what you write about. I’ll discuss that consideration in a future blog titled “Qualify, don’t disqualify your remodeling prospects”.


Related topics

Advice For Contractors When Working With Home Buyers Considering Renovations
Advice For Contractors On How To Work With Generation Y From One Of Them
25 Sample Questions Contractors Can Use For Prequalifying Prospects


Topics: Success Strategies, Marketing, Marketing Ideas, Web Site Related, Generation Y

25 Sample Questions Contractors Can Use For Prequalifying Prospects

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Jan 20,2013 @ 06:00 AM

25 Sample Questions Contractors Can Use For Prequalifying Prospects

Save Time by prequalifying remodeling prospects



Smart remodelers and contractors know that time is money.   Wasting time on the wrong prospects eats up the time they need and should be spending with the right prospects for their businesses.   By using methods to prequalify leads contractors can gain back a lot of time currently being wasted on people who were either the wrong client types and or were never going to buy from them to begin with.


Incorporate prequalifying questions into your lead sheet

prequalifying questions for remodelers

Below is a list of suggested questions contractors can use to help determine whether someone who inquires about doing business with them meets the business’ pre-established definition of a targeted prospect.   To help contractors make best use of this list I’ll be discussing how and when to use these questions, on the phone and or in person, at an upcoming sales workshop.   At the workshop I’ll also explain how to customize a lead sheet using questions that help prequalify a prospect and captures information the sales person can use if a sales call is scheduled.  With the right lead sheet as a tool, anyone at the office can be trained to use the lead sheet to begin the prequalification process even before a salesperson becomes involved.

What you say and how you say it

If you plan to use any of the sample questions below, be sure to put them in your voice and or use your own vernacular.   Just be sure your prospects will understand any of the words or terms you use without the need for previous construction or remodeling experience.


Questions for prequalifying prospects:

  1. Is there anything you’d like me to know before we begin; about you, your family, your home, your expectations…?
  2. Why do you want this done?
  3. Have you remodeled before?  What was that like?
  4. prequalifying questions for contractorsWhat are you looking for in a contractor?
  5. How long have you lived in your home?
  6. How long do you plan to stay in your home?
  7. Do you know what year your home was built?
  8. How long have you been thinking of remodeling?
  9. How long have you been considering this project?
  10. Are you trying to stay within an investment amount?
  11. What is your ideal start date?
  12. What is your ideal completion date?
  13. Have you done any research on this project?
  14. Where are you in your research process?
  15. Are you looking to hire a carpenter, or a professional remodeling company?
  16. Are you speaking with any other contractors?
  17. Is there a reason you haven’t already decided to work with one of the contractors you have already spoken with? 
  18. Is there something you were hoping I would be able to do differently?
  19. Do you have any plans or a design in mind?
  20. Are you interested in financing or paying cash?
  21. How will you decide which contractor you will partner with for your project?
  22. How will you measure whether or if your project has been successful?
  23. Will there be anyone else involved in making decisions about this project or which contractor you will choose to work with?
  24. When Mrs. Jones referred you to us/me, was there something she said that stood out and motivated you to contact us/me?
  25. Are you looking for an estimate or a fixed price for this project?

Bonus question:

What do you think we will need to do or discuss if you want me to give you a fixed price for your project?


Remember, contractors make money selling the job, not building it!

Want to sell more jobs and make moe money?  Need sales training or coaching to help you and or your team reach your sales goals?   Contact Shawn today to discuss how he can help.  

Topics: Sales Considerations, Marketing, Prequalifying

You Need a Target Before You Can Target Your Marketing

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Dec 23,2012 @ 06:00 AM

You Need a Target Before You Can Target Your Marketing

Target Customer for remodelers


Recently three of my consulting/coaching clients have started the process of updating their web sites.   All three of them had sites that were created several years back and have since sat on the web with few if any changes, updates or the addition on any new content. Only one had a blog. All three of them also came to realize that prospects were not finding their sites via search engines.   However those prospects were going to their sites to find out more about the remodelers after they already had a first meeting and became aware there was a web site to look at. As a result of my questions and little follow-up discussion with their prospects these remodelers came to realize they essentially had static on-line brochures that offered little to differentiate their businesses from other remodeling businesses. And, they also learned that their sites did not attract prospects or help them move them along to a decision during the sales process.

targeting remodeling customersI’m sure this story is true for many remodelers. If you’re one of them and you’re tired of never ending sales cycles, having to sell on price, working for people you’d rather say no to and you can’t seem to generate enough volume and or gross profit to have a healthy business; it’s time to decide who you want to target for prospects and start strategically marketing so they can find you and so you can convert them into customers.


Think of it like this 

The target below offers a shooter points no matter where the bullets land, as long as they land on the paper.  However, if the bullets land in the center the shooter will get far more points than if they hit somewhere around the perimeter.  The goal for the shooter should be to calibrate his or her weapon and then properly aim so the bullets hit the center each time.   The same holds true for remodelers.  If your margins are low because you’re not hitting the paper, or if you are and you’re only getting low scores, it’s not the targets fault and it’s not the weapon’s fault, it’s the shooter who needs to make the adjustments.

target customers for remodelers


Need help?

Remodeling customer demographicsOne resource remodelers can take advantage of for help with better targeting is their vendors.  Vendors who carry well known product brands know which demographic of customers buy different products based on their quality, benefits and related cost.   They also typically get support in this area from the product manufacturers and distributors they do business with.   If you establish a relationship with a good vendor who offers marketing help and support, it can be like having a whole team of marketing experts working on helping you find more and better customers.   The great part about it is that helping the remodeler helps the vendor, the distributor and the manufacturer all at the same time.  When something gets sold everyone one wins!

Recently I had a discussion about this topic with Marshall Baser, Business Development Manager for AW Hastings in Enfield CT.   Hastings is a distributer that specializes in the Marvin Window and Door brands.  Marshall and his team work with the vendors they supply to help remodelers and replacement contractors improve their businesses and therefore sell more.   One way they do so is to help contractors better target their marketing to the right prospects for the different price points of windows Marvin offers.  In addition to help with strategy, Hastings also helps vendors and remodelers attract quality leads through joint advertising that highlights the remodeler, the dealer and the products. If that has you excited you’ll love the fact that Hastings and their vendor partners typically share the cost of the advertising with the remodelers they work with. 

Marketing strategies for remodelersReady for the new normal?

Being successful and profitable as a remodeler is and will be different as we eventually enter into an improved economy with new and changing customer demographics.  Smaller remodeling businesses with fewer resources need to find ways to gain an edge in the marketplace.  I think Marshall summed it up really well for these businesses when he shared this advice:  "Contractors should consider aligning themselves with retail suppliers who truly understand them and their business.  They should get to know each other well, and create a strong business partnership with one another.  A quality retailer can be a tremendous resource helping the contractor improve their overall business volume and profitability through the products that they sell, as well as through the value added services that they offer, including targeting the right prospects for those products."


Topics: Working with Vendors, Sales Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Marketing, Mentoring/Coaching, Business Planning

Contractors and Remodelers: Decide Your Niche and Then Go Get It!

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Dec 16,2012 @ 06:00 AM

Contractors and Remodelers: Decide Your Niche and Then Go Get It!

Choosing a Remodeling Niche


Choosing a niche for your remodeling business should be done with care and can include much more than most remodelers might realize.  When I ask remodelers what their niche is, most cite just one characteristic, typically a work type, such as windows, kitchens or historical renovations.  Rather, I suggest remodelers consider many characteristics when establishing a niche. 

The idea is to assemble the ideal niche or niches for your business.  To do this at my own business I used the five “W’s”; who, what, when, where and why to help me.  By thinking back about past clients and their projects, I filtered out and then assembled the characteristic that consistently lead us to successful and profitable projects with customer we enjoyed working with.


Targeting Remodeling CustomersLooking back our ideal customer was a middle aged middle market married couple, both working with either very young or high school age children.  These people worked hard to earn their money and therefore respected the fact that my employees and I also worked hard to earn our money.  They looked at my employees as partners in the project, not nail bangers.  Due to the age of their children, they had little time to do their own work, they didn’t want to move or change school systems, and they typically needed more space at their homes.  Unlike wealthier clients I had worked for, these clients would say; “I know I will owe you the next payment on Monday, but I won’t be here.  Can I pay you today”?  I never had to use my line of credit to finance their projects because waiting for a stock dividend delayed progress payment.


Marketing help for remodelersThese clients needed additions to their homes, but we didn’t want just an addition.  We wanted an addition with a kitchen and/or a bathroom.  We came to find that simple family room or bedroom additions came with too much competition from laid off framers or inexperienced low price remodelers.  If the project included a kitchen and or a bathroom, most low price completion lacked the skills to design and build the project.  We also found that these projects, because of the baths and kitchens, were material and sub contractor intensive.  We found it easier to mark up and manage more materials and subs, rather than more labor.  We also found they brought in more gross profit in less time than labor intensive projects.


Strategic Marketing for RemodelersWe purposely timed our marketing for addition work relative to the New England weather realities as well as the typical lead time required to sell, design and permit additions.  The idea was to get foundations in the ground and shells constructed before the weather made it impossible or impractical to work in the cold.  Using similar tactics, we marketed in advance for Kitchens, baths, attics and basement remodels to fill the cold months.  We marketed these projects to the same client type.  The attics and basements typically included bathrooms.



Remodeler NichesAs the business grew and competition increased within our market, we decided to expand our footprint.  Through experience and detailed job costing we came to see that commuting more than 30 minutes from our office typically lead to increased costs, compromised supervision on projects, a dip in client satisfaction and therefore a dip in referrals.  We also found it ideal to work on homes built in the 60’s or later.  These homes were built with standard lumber sizes, drywall rather than horse hair plaster, PVC drain lines rather than cast iron, copper water supplies and poured concrete foundations.  These homes were easier to work on, they made it easier to anticipate and estimate costs and they were typically one of many similar homes within concentrated subdivisions.  By marketing to target home owners in target neighborhoods within 30 minutes of our office, we attracted addition projects in high exposure locations, leading to more work and more referrals in those same areas.



Marketing ideas for remodelersTo me the why was the easy part.  The why’s were all the benefits my business came to enjoy as a result of defining our ideal niches, the biggest being improved profitability.  If you concentrate your efforts in a defined area, you and your team naturally become better and more competent at what you do, leading to improved efficiency across your business.  We realized efficiency in our marketing efforts because we knew who and what to market for and how to get their attention.  Estimating and sales also became simplified because projects and clients were very similar.  It was easier to find and train good employees and subs because the work types were fairly consistent and the clients were almost always a pleasure to work with.  Because we could successfully deliver the right projects to the right people we enjoyed a steady flow of high quality referrals.   Because, because, because…


Just like the Dating Game?

Choosing the right customers


Think of defining your niche as being similar to defining your ideal spouse or partner.  If you date enough people you will eventually recognize the qualities that come together to define a good fit, someone you want to live with for a long time.   If you have been in business for a few years and think back on all of the clients you have dated, I bet you can filter out the ones worth marrying your business up with. 



If you would like to attend a workshop offering the insight and information you need to develop a marketing strategy and the tactics needed to redirect the future of your business check out Workshop #2 of 6 titled: "Choosing and Targeting the Right Customers and Project Types for Your Business" of this Contractor Success Program that starts on January 22, 2013.


Topics: Starting a Business, Success Strategies, Marketing, Marketing Ideas, Marketing Considerations

Five Great Books for Remodeling Business Owners

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Dec 09,2012 @ 06:00 AM

Five Great Books for Remodeling Business Owners

Good books for remodelers

 I have always loved reading to learn about new subjects.  When I was first in business as a remodeler I read a lot of articles in trade magazines.  They offered great ideas, best practices and sample paperwork or forms I could put to use right away.   However, right about the time I sold my business I also started reading books on business related topics.   After reading a handful of titles I came to the realization that the articles in the magazines were helpful and offered individual solutions for a variety of typical business challenges, but the books I was reading offered much broader and more comprehensive views about big picture business strategies and opportunities. 

In many ways the books I read helped me understand how I had grown my business, what made me and my business more successful than many other remodelers and their businesses, and they helped me better understand why my business had salable value beyond just the value of the hard assets.  I quickly came to the realization that, had I read those books much earlier in my career, perhaps I could have increased the level of success I enjoyed.   I also came to realize that I would have dramatically reduced the time it took to build my business had I read those same books when I first started my business.  

Good Good books for remodelersThe books in the list I offer below fall into the top five books I think remodelers should read if they want to grow a successful business and reduce the total time it takes to do so.   More importantly, these books can help remodelers avoid the frustrations, wasted time and wasted money that come with the trial and error approach of going it alone as a business owner.   Even if you still can’t build the business you want on your own after reading these books, you will definitely know what help you will need to get there


“The E-Myth Contractor” by Michael Gerber

EMyth Contractor



This is one of several E-Myth books by Gerber.  They are all worth reading, but if you’re a contractor this one gets right to the point about what you need to do to build a contracting business that runs without you needing to do everything yourself and be there every minute of the day so things get done.   If you ever want to sell your remodeling business, or at least be able to take an extended vacation, make sure you grab this book.


“Good to Great” by Jim Collins

Good to Great



Many business owners are happy having good businesses.  Others decide that their businesses, when compared to other businesses, fall into the good category; a term sometimes referred to as relative success.   If you want more than just a good business Collins and his team has done the research to figure out how it’s done.  He offers some great strategies to consider as well as some great examples of companies and their leaders who made the jump from good to great.  He also shares the importance of and the type of leadership required to achieve greatness.


“The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack

Great Game of Business


 If you would like to have an open books business that involves all employees in the creation of and sharing of company profits you should definitely read this book before you do so and well before you start creating your plan.  Not only does Stack share strategies for doing so, he lets you know the challenges to expect, how to get ready for them and how to identify employees who will never go along with the changes.  He also shares a process to use to help educate employees about business financials relative to their job positions, how profits are earned and how they can measure their individual contributions in ways that are real for them.  As I mention in my blog about profit sharing, businesses that share profits often earn more profit as a result!


“Selling the Invisible” by Harry Beckwith

Selling the Invisible


Back before the September 11th attacks my remodeling business was humming and qualified leads came in faster than we needed them.  Then, after the attacks and up through February, we had only sold about $15,000 worth of new work.   I had to do something to get the business back on track.   That’s when I found “Selling the Invisible” and it changed forever they way I looked at and did marketing.   In his book Beckwick discusses the difference between the “outside perception” people gain of your business from traditional marketing and the difference a business can enjoy if its marketing projects the “inside reality” customers who do business with you come to know.  Customers spend way more money to get something they consider different.  If your business has an inside reality that really differentiates your business from the competition you will not regret reading this book.


“Managing for Excellence” by David L. Bradford and Allan R. Cohen

Managing for Excellence


There are all kinds of books available on the subject of business leadership and I’ve read at least a handful of them during my career.   In my opinion this is the best book on leadership that I know of.  If you looking to not only be a great leader yourself, but also create a whole team of leaders at your remodeling business this is the book that best describes how.  As a word of caution; if you’re afraid that one of your employees might become a better leader than you, don’t bother getting this book.  As you will learn in the book, the only way you can become a great business leader and create a great business is to create other leaders who can replace you.  If you want to sell your business someday you need to read this book.


Topics: Business Financials, Profit Sharing, Success Strategies, Differentiating your Business, Financial Related Topics, Earning More Money, Marketing, Business Planning, Leadership, Books for Contractors

How Your Website Can Get You Involved in the Homeowner's Sales Cycle

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Jun 14,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Spencer Powell, TMR DirectGuest Blogger: Spencer Powell, Inbound Marketing Director at TMR Direct.  Spencer joined TMR Direct to spearhead their social media marketing efforts and to assist clients who want to implement social media marketing campaigns.  He also specializes in helping builders and remodelers who are frustrated with the lack of leads they are getting from their current websites.  Recently Shawn and Spencer have teamed up to help several of Shawn’s consulting clients.  First, Shawn helps remodelers strategically identify and decide their target customer(s), project type(s) and niche(s).   As an Inbound Marketing Certified Professional, Spencer and his team then help remodelers get found by their targeted prospects on the web. 


How Your Website Can Get You Involved in the Homeowner's Sales Cycle

Remodelers using google search



Just think about it for a second.  That's how you find EVERYTHING today.  Yes, I'm talking about Google.  If you're looking for a product or service, there's a good chance the first place you'll go is the web.  This is where your research process begins.  Well, it's the same for homeowners who are looking to remodel their kitchen, bathroom or any other part of their home.

Helpful information is key

So, how can you ensure that you'll be a part of their research process...and how can your website help you do that?  There are a few factors that we want to look at.  First, your website needs to have lots of helpful information that your prospect might be looking for.  This could be information on the process of going through the design phase.  It could be warning signs to look out for when selecting a contractor.  It could be information on cost and why certain things cost more or less.  It could be information on change orders.  Think about it.  The more information you can provide to your prospects, the fewer questions they'll have when they contact you. 

BUT...most importantly you'll position yourself as a trusted advisor in your industry because you're the one helping them make an important decision.

Google LOVES content

SEO for remodelersIn addition to becoming a trusted advisor, the more content you create on your website, the more chances you have to actually get found in search engines like Google.  Google LOVES content, so the more you create, the more you'll be found.  Just think of your website like a planet.  The more pages and articles you create, the bigger the planet gets, and the more gravitational pull it has.  So, you'll be pulling in more web visitors. 

Once you have more prospects coming to your website because of the content, you'll notice that your website actually helps you get heavily involved in the homeowner sales cycle because you're helping them with their research.  In addition, your information doesn't all have to be readily available.  It's a good idea to have and offer much more in-depth information that a visitor can download.  This might be in the form of an eBook like "10 Kitchen Design Trends for 2012".  However, in exchange for being able to download it, they need to provide their Name, Email, Phone Number and Zip Code.

Once captured, nurture those leads!

Lead Nuturing for remodelersNow you're in great position to solidify your company as one of their options for helping them achieve their goal.  This is where lead nurturing comes into play.  Lead nurturing is simply sending out helpful emails with more information that helps your prospect do research.  These emails allow you to stay in touch with the prospect all the way through the sales cycle.  How to execute a lead nurturing campaign is the topic for another post, but are you starting to see how your website can really get you involved in the homeowner sales cycle?

What are YOUR thoughts on this?  Are any of you using your websites to participate in your prospects’ sales cycles?


Topics: Success Strategies, Sales Considerations, Marketing, Guest Blogs, Marketing Considerations

A Resurgence for Design/Build?

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Feb 28,2012 @ 05:00 AM

A Resurgence for Design/Build? – Is The Economy And Our Government Helping It Happen?

One of the many benefits of the Design/Build approach to construction can be reduced project costs.  Although it is not always easy to help residential remodeling prospects see or accept this benefit should they be new to the Design/Build approach and how it works, many customers who have already experienced true Design/Build can attest to actual cost savings.  Now it would appear that local governments have also realized costs saving by experiencing design/build for government funded projects like road construction, bridge replacement and even construction or renovation of schools. Will the use and success of using Design/Build for public projects help get the word out about the benefits of Design/Build to residential remodeling prospects too?

Design build constructionHere is an example.  In a March 22, 2012 article posted to author David Bodenheimer reported that at a business roundtable meeting between N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, the business community and government officials, the speaker was asked by Davidson County Purchasing Director Dwayne Childress to consider adding exceptions to the state's design-build project list that would allow county officials to construct under that model.

To back up his request, Childress cited the example of an Interstate 85 project over the Yadkin River that was awarded for $136 million, although initial estimates assuming the traditional design-bid model had the project ballooning toward $330 million.  Secondary to the cost saving but equally important, Childress said, is the ability to deal with one contractor throughout the entire project. 

"That's a big benefit," Childress said. "Sometimes you get the finger pointed (between the architect and builder). But when you put those two guys on the same side, it's going to clear up a whole lot of issues that we have."

Childress said without a doubt design-build projects would save the county money, in some cases upward of 20 percent.  "You would eliminate a lot of up-front architectural fees and limit change orders," Childress said.

Econony help Design BuildI think this recession has forced both the government and consumers to rethink how they approach construction and renovation projects. With money being tight and strict budget limits the norm; I believe true Design/Build is ready for resurgence. If this is true, those Design/Builders who can help educate prospects on the process and benefits of Design/Build during this resurgence can gain market share before their competition even realizes the opportunity is in front of them.


"Things may come to those who wait, but only those things that are left behind by those who hustle."

- Abraham Lincoln


What say you?

Topics: Advantages of Design/Build, Marketing