Qualified Remodeler Magazine

OCT 2013

Qualified Remodeler helps independent remodeling firms to survive, become more professional and more profitable by providing must-have business information, namely best business practices, new product information and timely design ideas.

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PROFITS: Market Insight | By Rob Heselbarth Protecting Your BRAND When protecting a remodeler's brand, both proactive and reactive strategies can protect the company's reputation T en years ago, creating a brand for your remodeling business was straightforward. Design a logo, a slogan and a mission. Then, push all of it to customers, and boom, the business has been branded. The rules of todayÕs branding game have changed, mostly due to social media sites like AngieÕs List and Yelp that give because customers the same power to affect a brand as the business owner. Remodeling business owners arenÕt defenseless, however. In fact, the same websites that empower customers provide the same opportunity to remodelers. Remodelers and brand experts agree that if a brand doesnÕt have an identity on social media and customer review sites, customers will create the brand whether remodelers like it or not. No remodeler is more aware of this phenomenon than Chris Dietz, owner and president of Dietz Development in Washington, D.C. ÒA customer created a negative image of me, and now IÕm playing catch-up trying to re-establish my good brand,Ó he says. Dietz filed what 46 October 2013 QR is now a high-profile lawsuit aimed at removing the negative and harmful comments about Dietz and his business. The trailblazing case has potential to redefine this countryÕs rules about what can and cannot be written on sites like Yelp.com. DietzÕs case has reached Virginia state supreme court level. ÒMake sure youÕre involved in social media, or at least monitor what is being said out there. Social media is very important. Be aware of your surroundings.Ó Remodelers can take additional proactive measures to minimize the potential for clients posting negative online reviews. One such action is good communication. ÒDo a good job communicating with a customer, maintain an open line of communication, and most problems can be resolved before they get out of hand,Ó says Howard Rittenberg, president, Roof Masters in Rockville, Md. RittenbergÕs contracts include terms and conditions stating that disputes must be settled with the homeowner, who canÕt post anything online without his permission. ÒItÕs in there with 30 other things. Everyone signs it.Ó ForResidentialPros.com John MacDougall, owner and president of JMC Home Improvement Specialists, Parsippany, N.J., has similar language in his proposals. ÒPoint two [in the proposal] states that the homeowner agrees to write a review on Houzz and/or AngieÕs List if they are satisfied. ItÕs all about controlling expectations, thatÕs all itÕs doing,Ó he explains. ÒAt our final good bye with clients we ask them for a review. Then, we send them an email with a link to the comment sections, to make it easy for them.Ó Additional proactive measures can include weeding out potential trouble-making clients before they hire you, Rittenberg adds. ÒMaybe you can ask a potential client about their experiences with other remodeling projects and other contractors. If they say that theyÕve taken every contractor theyÕve worked with to court, well, thatÕs a problem customer. Beyond that you have no idea.Ó DEFINE YOUR BRAND For remodelers who think they donÕt need to worry about whatÕs being said online about their brands, think again. Any past clients who werenÕt 100 percent satisfied can post anything on the internet, and, they might already have done it. This is why remodeler Joe Levco, president, Levco Builders in Boise, Idaho, promotes and defines his brand on his blog. ÒMy blog is an opportunity to define what differentiates me from others in terms that are not purely financial,Ó Levco says. ÒFor example, my next blog post is about my approach to contracts. I want to make sure that itÕs clear to people who I am. I want to protect my niche, and I do this by being a clear communicator of who I am, what IÕm about and what I stand for.Ó LevcoÕs blog is updated each Tuesday and is blasted via email to roughly 600 addresses. ÒI simply discuss whatÕs going on in my world. Lately, most of my calls come from people who have found my blog. By the time they call me, they know who I am and how I think, so my blog practically sells work for me.Ó Because remodeling comes more easily to Levco than writing, he began paying a high school student, who has now graduated, to edit his blogs.

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