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Marketing and Advertising

Market Niches

First select a market niche and market by clientele. Then, or concurrently, decide what products to offer as part of the handyman service. The most important criteria in selecting products is whether you can find a delivery system. You might find the hottest product in the market to sell, but if you can't get anyone to install the product at a price in which you can make a profit, then you may choose not to offer that product.

The type of company you are and how broad you want to make your service will also have tremendous impact on the products you sell. A carpenter or tradesman out in the handyman business, and wanted to change from doing remodeling projects and doing all the work themselves, would probably limit handyman services to carpentry and related items. On the other hand, if the new handyman service is looking for the broadest array of clientele and products and wants to expand rapidly, they will certainly start out with carpentry and related items, but electrical, mechanical, plumbing and equipment repairs as well.

It is important to note however, that the major plumbing, electrical, HVAC and equipment service delivery system is already established in many areas.

With some effort, all facets of the handyman product field can be handled profitably, and a company that establishes itself as a one-stop service for all housing needs will develop the greatest impact in the marketplace.

The handyman business truly requires niche marketing and market segmentation. In fact, it goes one step further into individualized marketing. One of the secrets of a successful handyman business is developing a database of customers and storing and using information about those customers.

First let's talk about the major market niches or segments according to clientele or customers.

WHITE COLLAR/INFORMATION WORKER

The handyman business will probably not be successful in the typical blue collar market. A blue collar worker is usually very hands on, and if he can't do the handyman projects, he is likely to call a friend who is a carpenter or a tradesmen to help him. The good news is that the blue collar market is less than 15% of the total and diminishing rapidly. The key market for the handyman will be the white collar, information, non-hands on type of worker. This comprises over 80% of the market and should be the overall target market for a handyman service. The white collar worker is divided into at least three classes, and maybe more:

The Rich. While the rich market is probable for the handyman service, there may be some limitations. The rich market has historically been the one that had a handyman almost at their beck and call and if they dealt with a remodeling contractor, liked their work, they would almost turn them into a handyman service for all of their large and small jobs, regardless of whether they wanted to specialize in that business or not. The point is that, the rich for years have been the targets of the best handymen and any remodeling contractor who has zeroed in on that market is forced to be a handyman in order to gain referral and repeat business. The rich want to deal with the owner and this might not lend itself as well to the handyman business. On the other hand, if the rich call a handyman company, and like what they get on the first call with the individual handyman, it is quite likely that they will call again and again and insist that individual handle all of their work. There is no doubt that the rich are a prime market and should at least be thoroughly tested and over time, a tremendous amount of business can be developed.

Upper Middle Class. The upper middle class is a prime market for the handyman for several reasons. This is the market where usually the husband and wife both work and if the wife does not work, she is at least very busy in outside activities and does not have time to be the traditional family homemaker. The upper middle class are time sensitive and they are the classic family that does not have enough time to do it themselves. Also, they do not have the skills to undertake any do-it-yourself projects other than the most simple. Because they are upper middle class they also live in relatively expensive houses and they are the quickest to recognize the fact that it is probably better for them to spend time working at their jobs at high salaries, rather than try to do handyman work at low salaries and risk affecting the resale value of the house. The upper middle class is also characterized by the fact that they are always spent to the limit and they do not have the money sitting in the bank most times in order to pay the small handyman. Therefore, they are the most likely to use the credit card to pay their handyman bills.

On the other hand, it must be emphasized that the upper middle class historically has been the most sophisticated buyer, the toughest price shoppers and will give more scrutiny to the estimate, the proposal and the bill than any other segment. This means that in order to sell the upper middle class market, that the handyman service must be the best organized, the most thorough, and must overpower the YUPPIE with paperwork so that they understand what is involved, and make sure they complete the job to their satisfaction and with their approval. The upper middle class is the market that holds tremendous opportunity for the business oriented operating system type of handyman service. Customers in the upper middle class are used to dealing with professionals in every aspect of their lives, and they are the quickest to pick up on handyman as well. Understand, they are the most picky and the hardest to collect money from. Scale your payments in such a way if the job is to run, and if there is any question of not collecting money on the spot, at least then work it into a down payment with the final payment and keep the final payment small.

White Collar Middle Class. The white collar middle class is taking on most of the characteristics of the upper middle class, with less resources. This is also a market segment where both husband and wife typically work. Where they are both white collar and they do not have time or skills to do the handyman projects. They are, however, by definition, very cost conscious because they do not have the budget and are also likely to use credit cards but will likely be harder to sell up on projects that will stretch their budget. The white collar middle class will more and more look for value oriented handyman services but will likely call them on a regular basis.

All of the above three segments of white collar individuals are very networking oriented and run in groups. What this means is that if a handyman services sells one in their group, there is a good chance that they will tell all their friends about the handyman service, and the referral business will skyrocket. They are on the other hand, the quickest to find fault and are the quickest to pull the plug on a handyman service that does not respond quickly to problems or complaints.

Two people in family working. While this is often white collar, it may apply to a family that is half blue collar and half white collar in that both husband and wife work. If the family tends towards blue collar, they are not as likely to use a handyman service as white collar, but it is clear that given a choice of two families in the rich upper middle class or middle class or you are selecting a data base to mail to, the two person family is probably going to be a more frequent user of the service than is a one person working family. Families where two people work are the ones that have the least leisure time per week to do it themselves, and are time conscious and will pay for the service.

Singles. There are in this country somewhere between 37 million single women and almost 30 million single men, for a total of 65-70 million singles. Each year the percentage of single households increases and it is over 25% of the total. This group is as are two working person families, very limited as to time, although since most do not children to care for, they might have more time but they also have other time constraints and do not have time to do it themselves. Many of this group are very interested in keeping their house in top condition and are willing to spend the money for the handyman service.

Singles, i.e., widowed, divorced with children. Singles who are widowed or divorced with children at home, are usually prime candidates for a handyman service, provided they have the money to pay for it. This is a key consideration but usually when a family has gone through a divorce, the last year before the divorce, the husband or wife has moved out of the house, everything is disarray and no one is paying any attention to keeping up the house, because there is little social activity going on and there is a malaise over the entire family's activities. This means that when the divorce is settled, and one of the two spouses gets the house, there is usually a tremendous amount of deferred maintenance to catch up on. This is a prime market to solicit for a handyman service.

Active retired. The generation in America between the ages of 50-70 has more disposable and discretionary income than any generation in the history of America. This generation is in its peak earning years, their children have left home and they are empty nesters, they have bought and sold 1-3 houses and usually have tremendous equity if they do not own the house free and clear, and often their parents have died and left them an inheritance. This generation was the original do-it-yourselfers and now they do not want to do it, but they do understand about maintaining the house and are usually very meticulous about its maintenance. They are also the type of customer that does not want to defer maintenance because they know the consequences. They are also very cognizant of the fact they should prepare their house for their later years if they plan to stay in the house, so that it is relatively maintenance free. If not, and they are going to sell the house in the 1990s soft real estate market, the houses that sell the quickest are those that are in mint condition.

When you add it all up, the active retired market is one of the prime markets for the handyman service. It is important to understand that in this market, these homeowners do not need anything but can pay for everything. They are the ones that have been in the last 10 years, the most likely to remodel and spend $30,000-40,000 on a kitchen, to put in a $120 a sq. ft. sunroom and so on. From a handyman standpoint, they are gadget freaks. They are the ones that are going to pay for new closet interiors, put a skylight over their favorite room to get additional light, take out two windows and put in a bow or a bay, built a small deck for morning coffee and so on. They also are becoming more and more gadget freaks and might be likely candidates for an alarm system, skipped thermostats and so on. Having something to sell them with bells and whistles can often result in additional work.

The Graying Market. By the year 2000, one out of every 6 people in America will be over the age of 65. This is a tremendous market and one that requires a great deal of hand holding and attention but is a very profitable market. Do not get the idea that the elderly are poor because they are not. Only 1 out of 10 persons over the age of 65 is poor, 60% of the people over 65 own their own home outright and this market has in most cases, available cash to spend, particularly at the middle and upper ends. This is a market that does require someone to do their large and small jobs and wants to find one handyman service to do everything. They want to find one company and preferably one person within that company whom they know and trust and can call to do everything, change a thermostat to replace a hot water heater, to fix a broken window and so on.

This is the type of market that has to be catered to. You must spend time explaining the work. You have a lot of coffee time with them and the handyman will get free lunch more often than not, and so on. Still, it is a market that is also networking and when the word gets around that there is an honest handyman service that responds promptly, there is a tremendous referral base to be tapped. One of the downsides of this market is that people at this age grew up at a time when $5 an hour was a lot of money to pay a craftsman and sometimes they have to become indoctrinated to the high prices of the 1990s. Still, they have been burned so many times by other contractors that when they find an honest one, they are willing to pay for top service. This is also, the type of customer that you may have to do the simplest of handyman services on a regular basis which is clean out gutters, turn off their hose bibs in the fall, activate/deactivate their humidifier, change the filter in the furnace, and so on. They are also likely prospects for service contractors that accomplish this type of job.

The Handicapped. The handicapped market is just becoming recognized as a major market in America. 1 out of every 6 Americans is handicapped; 35 million Americans have arthritis and the numbers are constantly increasing. As the population ages and people continue to live in their own homes, the only difference between the graying market and the handicapped market is a fall or a physical defect. The handicapped market though, is a specialized market and one that if you are planning to tap as a niche market, you must learn the ins and outs of the market. Marketing to the handicapped requires someone who knows occupational therapists, insurance companies, vendors of products such as wheelchairs and lifts, and so on.

It also means that you need to know the types of things that handicapped and elderly people need such as grab bars in the bathrooms, wide doorways, handicapped commodes, kitchen cabinets with space for wheelchairs to go under and the list can go on. Even so, it is the handicapped market alone that is in the neighborhood of 5-10 billion dollars and growing rapidly. When you add the gray market to this, it is an enormous part of the overall remodeling market and even a greater share of the handyman market.

The Move-Up Market. All of the 76 million people born between 1946-1964 are now in the late twenties to mid forties and most of them have bought their first home. After 5-6 years in their first home, many of these families are in a position where their housing requirements have changed, and need to change their house to fit these requirements. This can be accomplished by moving up and buying another house. The luxury part of this market can do that and usually sell the first house and move up, or do a major remodeling project. The larger part of this move-up market is what is called the "affordable" move-up market and they at most are only able to afford 25-35% more than the first house cost and often not even that. Here is where they could well become prospects for a handyman service, particularly in a soft real estate market where it is impossible to sell your first house so that you cannot move up.

While there is a market for $25,000-50,000 additions that still come under the category of 25-35% more than the existing house, there are many small handyman services that can be advertised and sold that will help on the short term to make the house liveable for the new requirements. This could involve organizing closets to get more storage space, installing a second vanity into one bathroom in an adjoining bedroom so that more people can have bath facilities in the morning. It might include adding a shower to a powder room in the basement so that there is a second or third shower in the house. It might mean building a small deck for additional living space and so on. Some of these will add up to remodeling projects rather than handyman but the move up market is certainly one that should be tested and looked at in your specific area.

Real Estate. The whole area related to estate is a hot one for market niches for the handyman service. Here are some specific categories within the real estate group:

New home buyers

Studies show that people who buy a house, new or used, do more work in the first two years then they will do in the next 10. Sometimes that is major remodeling, but more often than not it is a myriad of smaller projects. This could include installing deadbolt locks, changing the builder's molding to something more decorative, installing a vanity in the bathroom, installing an attic stairway for more storage, organizing the closets if the builder did not do so and so on. Most every new home buyer has some customizing they want to do to the house and builders in the past have not been receptive to their requests. Therefore a marketing program for new home buyers will likely be effective. Since the new home is usually in a sub-division, this can lead into tremendous referral business.

Existing home buyers

The statistic above holds true for existing home buyers but probably even to a greater degree. Every used house has some defects, deferred maintenance, integral parts that are going to wear out or features that are not modern or specific enough for the new home buyers. Often the existing home is bought more for value and location than they are for house condition. Contacting people who have just purchased a house and moved in is a market niche that will certainly pay dividends.

With both new home buyers and existing home buyers, because they have just moved, sometimes they are cash poor and this is another reason why a handyman service with credit card capability will be more likely used than a small handyman who requires cash.

Relocation

People moving in from out of town who are buying new and used houses, are the most likely prospects almost of all for the handyman service. Why? Because they don't know anyone in town and they are sea on finding someone they can trust to do the work.

Relocation companies

Companies that buy houses from their employees who move and cannot sell their homes, always do all the fix up items before putting them back on the market. This is another market related to the relocation field.

Termite Damage

If you live in a part of the country where termites are very prevalent, often there is termite damage to be corrected. Many termite companies combine structural damage correction with their termite service, but they sometimes overcharge and are not as skilled in doing the work according to high standards. There is at least a market to be the second opinion on this and handle the termite damage through the handyman service.

Home Inspectors

Home inspectors by their professional society standards, are not allowed to do work on houses they inspect and cannot use the inspection service as a way of getting business. Therefore, home inspectors after they find defects if they are asked for people to recommend, will sometimes recommend, or if not will at least give the purchaser or seller a list of companies they have heard no adverse comments about. The home inspection field can be a tremendous source of business for a handyman service.

Property Management

Historically, real estate property managers have been a poor source of business for handyman services because they always wanted to buy the very cheapest service and were not willing to pay enough for any handyman service to make a profit. This still holds true with many property managers who just use either small individuals who work part time or constantly turn over their sub-contractors and workers. There is however, a huge market to solicit property managers of middle upper end homes, apartment houses, and condominium units. They want good work and are usually willing to pay for it. The secret here is to slant your search towards those and test them out. If it is done strictly on a price basis, drop them and look elsewhere.

Absentee Owners and Second Home Owners

If you live in an area with second homes or where there are many absentee owners, finding out the names through the recorder of deeds and sending them direct mail or making phone calls to them to do the maintenance work in off season or when they are out of town is usually a good niche to find. Absentee owners and second home owners are looking for someone they can trust and if they have one source to go to for all the work, it is usually to their benefit.

Repossessions

In many parts of the country, there are many repossessions by banks and savings and loans, and subsequently by the Resolution Trust Company from the government. Anytime a house is being repossessed, it has almost by definition been trashed by the owners who have let things go. This means there is almost always maintenance work to be completed prior to putting the house back on the market for resale. Contacting banks that have repossessions and even the government or real estate companies dealing with these properties is a good source.

Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate is another potential market for a handyman service. Leasing agents, sellers of property, property managers for commercial properties, have the same priorities as do those for residential properties, except the work is usually of a slightly different nature. Even so, there are many building owners, leasing agents and property managers who need to have handyman services on call in order to respond to their tenant's or owner's needs. This can be anything from replacing a lock, fixing a broken door, patching the roof and so on, but it is work they have to have done and done quickly.

Owners

Many owners manage their own business and are too busy to do it well and they would love to have a handyman service which almost functions as a property management arm of their company and handles all the maintenance items. This is also the case with franchises. Only a few of the franchises have their own maintenance crews and most franchise managers or owners have the authority to spend money without higher approval for maintenance jobs up to a certain dollar amount. Finding out what those amounts are, contacting those franchise owners and keeping in touch with them on a regular basis, will bring work. This is also another one of the cases where the got to work is very key.

Retail Shops

Retail owners who are often working on a net/net lease which means they must handle all the maintenance, usually do not have the time or skills to do so and would be good prospects for the handyman service. It is also important to know that retail space in the 1980s has been overbuilt to the point where there is twice as much space available as will be necessary for the 1990s. This means there will be tremendous movement as tenants move out of older shops in to newer shops and when this is done, there is almost always maintenance type of work to complete before re-renting the space.

Condominiums

There are two market in condos, one for single units and one for condo associations. In the single unit condo, this may sometimes be townhouses, but most often apartment units in larger high rise buildings. While the only maintenance work that is needed is that within the unit itself because the rest is handled by the condominium association, there is a tremendous market to contacting these unit owners and offering maintenance and repair and upgrade handyman type of work. Many of these units have been converted and all of the original equipment has not been upgraded and the new owner wants to do so immediately. There is always a space problem and closet interior refinishing is a common product to sell, vanities, bookcases, and moldings and something to customize that unit are good. The condominium market is a market typically occupied by single men and women, elderly people, and divorced or widowed people with one child.

Condominium Associations

There are 120,000 condominium projects in America, 10,000,000 condominium units, 25,000,000 million people living in condominiums. Every condo association is almost required to have a building property inspection every year to analyze the existing condition of the property, review maintenance procedures, and establish a reserve for capital improvements. While a handyman service will not work for a major project, there are many smaller projects such as roof repair, lock replacement, hall painting and so on that will lend itself to the handyman. Contacting condominium associations will also lead to work by the individual condominium owners.

Insurance Repair

While the insurance repair business is a twenty five billion dollar one, and is specialized, and one that unless you are not going into it full time, you should stay away from, there are some small jobs needed to be done by adjustors and emergency work that needs to be done. Contacting insurance adjustors and insurance agents can be a profitable niche to exploit.

Appliance Dealers and Distributors

More and more of the American public wants to have their products installed. Many times, they will go to an appliance dealer and buy a double oven to replace a single oven that was installed in the original house. To install that double oven means cutting the cabinets, disconnecting the gas or electric line and reconnecting and installing the unit. The same thing holds true with installation of a dishwasher where there are none or replacing one, installing a disposal, where the waste needs to be dropped and so on. This is a market that usually needs to be handled by a multi-talented tradesmen who can handle electric, plumbing and carpentry, but represents a good market niche.

Building Materials Dealers/Lumberyards/Home Centers/Hardware Stores

All of these suppliers are facing the problem of how to service their customer who wants to buy the product installed. There are two programs which will be discussed later that can be worked with a lumberyard or home center and certainly as a start, you should contact them and be put on their list of referral or talk to people on the deck who will refer you individually.

Electric Supply Dealers and Lighting Fixture Companies

The trend towards installation is just as key in this as it is in the overall building material market and these companies are many times unable to sell recessed fixtures, chandeliers, or anything in the electrical field unless they are able to recommend someone for installation. This is a market niche to tap.

Warranty Companies

In the real estate field, there are non-inspection warranty companies and something close to 5-10% of all houses presently have warranties paid for at the time of sale. Contacting these non-inspection warranty companies and being their local representative for all of the service work is a market niche to explore.

All in all, you can look almost anywhere and find a market for a handyman service. The list extends to churches, nursing homes, hospitals, and on and on.

Total Marketing Concept

Developing a total marketing concept is true in most every business including remodeling and even more importantly in the handyman field. The handyman business in my judgement, will become a brand name business in the 1990s and it is important for each company to develop an image and become a brand name in their individual market niche, but not in a wider marketing area. This means that you must have the following elements:

Name

This name should be preferably a generic name that denotes what you do. A name such as The Handyman and Home-Fix, are examples. The important point is to have something your customers can easily remember and something that is not so long they abbreviate it and make it the HF business which according to studies is nowhere as effective as one that is easy to remember and to say. If you are planning to be a one man show and want to just be an individual handyman, then you can use your individual name. If you are not, and want to have more than one person working for you, then you should not use your personal name, but should develop a generic name.

Logo

A logo should be developed that reinforces the name.

Color

If possible you should select a color for your company or a combination of two colors at most and these should be used in all of your advertising including your site and truck signs. The use of color is probably most important in your truck signs so that every time one of your trucks is seen, it reinforces your image.

Slogan

While it is not as important as the first three, having a slogan such as "one call does all" or, "we fix anything in your house", or "quality and service is our intention" or whatever, it helps to have a slogan as a part of your total marketing concept. In the book Marketing Warfare, the author said that it was great to be the best in your market niche, but it is better to be first. Since the handyman business is just getting off the ground as a marketing business in almost every part of the country, there is a tremendous opportunity for a company to latch on to this concept and become the best known brand name in their marketing niche or niches. Learning to have your name become the household word for handyman will be a tremendous edge on your competition in the future.

For those companies entering the handyman business who are already remodeling contractors, new home builders, or lumberyards or home centers, you may want to associate your name with the parent company but according to studies, it is better to have the name that is easy to use and then say division of for a while until you get the new name developed. At that time, you can make the new name larger and the original name smaller for best effect.

Presentation Book/Product Presentation Book

Just as in remodeling, a handyman company must have a complete presentation book that sells the company and develops the trust of the company by the customer. The outline of a company presentation book should be as follows:

1. Company history

2. Background and experience of individual handymen and also background, if there are more than one handyman, pictures as well of other members.

3. Trade references

4. Certificate of insurance

5. If appropriate, certificate of insurance showing the individual employees are bonded.

6. Notice of cancellation

7. Copy of contract filled out

8. Change order

9. Mini pre-construction conference form

10. Mini pre-quality control pre-completion form

11. License

12. List of customers by product and by location

13. Pictures of jobs

14. Letters of testimonial

15. Sample of the public price list

16. List of all products and services the company offers

Because of the size of the job, the handyman presentation book is not used in the same manner as in remodeling. In remodeling, the salesman arrives at the job and after doing 2-3 minutes of amenities, then has a 15-20 minute planned presentation going through the presentation book from start to finish.

Because of the size of the job and time elements this would be overkill. What the presentation book will be primarily used for is when the handyman first arrives at the job and he has a list of things to do, his first step is to ask the customer is he could take 5-10 minutes to double check the work and to make sure there are no circumstances that would change the price that had been quoted over the phone or would require additional material.

While that process is happening, the handyman will then hand the company's presentation book to the customer and say "Why don't you look through this in the meantime to get an idea to the type of company we are and our approach to the business", and hand that to them so they can look through it while the handyman is going about his business. Then when he sits down to finalize the contract and write it up, he can ask them if they have any questions regarding the presentation book.

If there is a need to use the presentation book or its concept to sell an individual customer or perhaps even a commercial buyer who is trying to find a handyman to handle all of their work, then the presentation book should be used in full measure. If that is the case, then at every segment of the presentation book there should be a feature and a befit and what it means to the customer or to the prospective client.

This starts out with company history and tells about the company, their approach to the market and in particular at this point, it must be emphasized that the handyman business differs from contracting in that it is a retailing of services concept and that it depends on the basis of using a published price list, no visits to the job without a minimum payment, payment by check/cash/credit card on the spot, complete one year warranty and back up of all material, use of highly qualified tradesmen who are bonded and so on.

What you are trying to do is impress upon the prospective customer that when they are buying the handyman service, they are not buying the individual but they are buying the capabilities of the entire company. Then going through and talking about licensing and how other small handymen in the neighborhood are not licensed and what that means to the customer. If someone falls off a ladder then their insurance pays. If the company's employees are bonded, what that means to them from a safety factor. The three day cancellation. If this is an issue you bring it up and they say are you going to give me three day cancellation and you answer "Yes, if you want it. There will be an extra charge". To go into how the contract is filled out and priced using published price lists. Discussion of how to use the published price list and how the company has researched products, developed costs and works with an established price list.

Talk about how everything is in writing and if there are any changes or alterations the handyman will stop and put that in writing before he proceeds. Licensing, list of customers and so on.

The presentation book is very important and is to be used when necessary, but it should not be a matter of overkill, particularly if the clock is running and it is costing the customer money.

Because of this limited opportunity to use the presentation book, the company brochure that is sent out to a prospective customer usually between the first call and setting up the appointment unless it is an emergency operation should be a mini-presentation book. Tell about the company and its approach to the business and have a fill in sheet that they can take out and use as a check list to make sure if they want any of the products installed or any of the services performed while the handyman is there it can be listed.

PRODUCT PRESENTATION BOOK

Because handymen will not be accomplished sales persons, it is going to be necessary to give them the tools to use in order to sell specific products. Therefore, once the company trust has been developed, and the customer is given the list of their to do items, or even at a later time in the process, the handyman should bring up and look around the house and find projects that fall into the company's capabilities.

Once this is determined, then the handyman should bring out the product presentation book in order to show the customer the product features, benefits to them and the pricing. Every handyman company should develop a product presentation catalog with brand name products specified in that catalog. Each product will usually have two pages. The first page will show a picture of the product, give all its features and benefits, and if possible show a picture of it on an installed basis. Where appropriate, it will also give different sizes and types of the product.

For example, if the product is a closet interior system, then there will be pictures and diagrams of 6-8 different size closets with different configurations for the shelving and drawers and so on. This will give the customer some idea of what the finished product will look like. Then on the opposite page, there will be a list of specifications that will be written up in the contract or a copy of this product presentation catalog attached to the contract. There will be a price list showing the installed price of each different size of closet. This price will not be broken down by labor and materials but will just give the total price for each complete package. Where there are options within each package, these will be listed as customized options. Every handyman company must build up a product presentation catalog that will include at least the following products if offered by the company:

1. Closet interiors

2. Locks

3. Fans

4. Windows

5. Doors

6. Gutters and downspouts

7. Vanities

8. Faucets

9. Shower doors

This is to give you an idea of what the product presentation book should be. Whenever any interest is displayed in the product, the handyman should immediately pull out the presentation book and it should be simple enough to read so they can actually give it to the customer and let them go through that to see if they find anything they really want done in the house while the handyman is there or at an early date when a handyman could come back if the contract had been signed with all the materials for that job.

CUSTOMER DATA BASE

The book "The Great Marketing Turnaround" by Rapp and Collins, says that in the 1990s, it is going to be, just as in real estate today, location, location, location. In the 1990s, it will be data base, data base, data base. There is nothing that is going to be more important to the success of a handyman business then the customer and prospective customer data base.

Every time a potential customer calls in, a data base must be developed about that customer. All of the appropriate questions about the customer should be asked at the original call or if this is not possible, any gaps in the information should be filled in at the first job by the handyman or with a questionnaire that follows up immediately after the completion of the job. This data base should include at least the following:

1. Name, address, home and work numbers of both husband and wife.

2. How long have they owned the house

3. Occupation of each

4. If possible salary levels

5. If possible price of the house

6. Type of house; townhouse, single family, etc.

7. Number of bedrooms

8. Type of heat

9. Type of kitchen equipment

10. Amount of service amperage

11. Source of lead. What they are planning to do now or in the future.

This data base must be developed for what jobs have been done and then there should be a complete inventory done which will be covered later, on what types of projects are likely to be needed in the future and time factors put on each one of these projects.

This customer data base should then include a list of all calls and contacts made, all letters sent, all jobs performed, price, credit card information. First names if they wish to be called by that and so on. Every time a call comes in to the handyman service that information should be pulled up on the data base so that you can talk with knowledge to the customer. If they have a dog or cat or any other directions to the house, the data base should be complete in this regard.

Marketing Approaches

Site signs

As in remodeling, the site sign is probably the most effective marketing and advertising tool for the handyman business. At first thought, it was questionable in my mind whether a site sign would work when you are only on the job for less than a day. What companies have been successful doing with site signs for the handyman business is to have relatively cheap but well done site signs for under $10 each and put them in the yard and leave them and if the job is only one day, leave them in the yard for several days and then come back and pick it up when you are in the area. If the customer wants to take down the sign after a few days and do not take good care of it, you have still only lost $10 or so and you have probably gained many times that in effective advertising.

Truck signs

As you increase the number of your handymen with trucks or vans, obviously these are traveling billboards and they are on the road a far greater percentage of the day than are trucks for a remodeling company. If your men are being paid by the hour, you should give them a truck allowance in return for painting the truck your color and doing the necessary lettering or having signs that can be put on and removed. If your handymen are 1099 sub-contractors, then you should take the same approach, but you will want to leave space for them for the painting of a proper color and using your sign. Obviously, with truck signs, it means that the drivers must be courteous drivers, must keep the trucks clean and you must have an umbrella policy so that if they have any accidents that you are covered if their insurance does not cover it. This is particularly true since if they are working for you, even going to and from the jobs, collecting or picking up materials, you will be held liable if their insurance company does not cover the loss. Having an umbrella policy is very, very key. Several companies have had people who have had their sub-contractors trucks involved in fatal accidents, and if they had not had enough umbrella policy of one million dollars, it would have been a financial disaster.

Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages advertising is a must since the customer may see your sings or know about your company, and forget the name and this happens very often. One of the problems throughout the country is that at present, there is not a handyman category in the phone book and so you are forced to put your name and small ad in many areas such as carpentry, plastering, painting, roofing, windows and so on. This can become expensive and you should test it on a regular basis to be sure that it pays. Unless you are a large company, it is not necessary to have large displays in every category, but Yellow Pages advertising can be effective and should be carefully monitored.

Newspaper

Newspaper advertising can be effective, but display ads are not always the best approach. If your budget is limited, you should go into the service directories of large and small newspapers. One of the secrets of going into the service directory is to put in several ads under all the different aspects of your business, such as roofing or roofing repairs, painting, plastering, walks installed and so on, with your company's name. This has been effective for a number of handyman contractors. One contractor did practice this, but made sure that the newspaper separated ads so that they were not in consecutive order. He made the statement to the newspaper that if he ever had two ads together he would pull the ads from the paper. This was an incentive for them to follow his directions. If you are working in a localized area, then it is apparent the regional or local paper will be more cost effective than a city wide paper if you are not doing work throughout the area.

Canvassing and door hangers

There is no question that canvassing door to door around jobs you are doing or putting flyers out or door hangers around those jobs is probably the most effective form of advertising and marketing that you can possibly do. The problem with this is since you have a number of jobs going at one time, it is difficult to implement this. Even so, whether you use high school students on a piecework basis or hourly, or whether you have someone in your company do this around every job, or you pay your handyman a ??? if it turns into work. One company who did this gave their handymen flyers with a coupon that could be sent in with their initials on the back. They asked them if they had time to put 10-20 flyers around each job they did, or more if there was a break in their schedule and for every lead that came in off those flyers they would give them additional $5. However you do it, it is probably the most effective method of advertising in the handyman business.

This also means that it is the quickest return on your advertising investment and is a way to develop business in slow periods. It is our belief the handyman business is somewhat seasonal and that there may be times during the year you will not have enough work for all your handymen. This is the time you may want to encourage door hangers or canvassing. It is also the time of year when you may want to develop specific flyers for seasonal projects which will have the possibility of the greatest response.

Direct mail

The handyman business is a database, database, database, business. There is no question that it is a business where the more specific information you have about potential customers and the more you know about the characteristics or profile of your best customers, the more effective your advertising will be. Companies that are successful in the handyman business must become proficient and develop expertise in how to develop lists and how to design attractive advertising pieces which develop business and must learn how to understand that in the direct mail business it is a test, test, test, type of endeavor.

You never roll out a massive direct mail campaign without doing numerous tests to see which type of clientele is most effective. The good news is that because of the computer, that this has become an art form around the country and there are a number of companies that sell lists of homeowners and they can identify any number of categories. One study indicated that there were 76 different categories you could select from throughout the country if you wish to. This means that if you want to target families with incomes between $40,00-70,000 who are married where husband and wife both work, with one or more children, who have lived in their house over 2 years and you can find those customers.

Another very hot focus for the handyman business will be all those people who move into a house, either new or used. Studies show that people who move into a new or existing house, usually do more work within the next two years, then they will do in the next 10 years and much of this work is of a handyman variety. The ability to develop direct mail expertise is an absolute necessity for a handyman business.

Direct mail is also very effective for those types of individuals and companies who are in a position to recommend or use a handyman service. This means that real estate agents, real estate property managers, condo associations, commercial leasing agents, insurance agents, insurance adjustors, welcome wagon and so on, are all likely candidates for direct mail campaigns.

Telemarketing

While telemarketing can be expensive, it has been used effectively by several handyman organizations around the country. The point here is that telemarketing if done, particularly when the company has some sort of brand name, will work well when you contact people who have a specific need for a handyman project and you catch them just at the right time. One company paid a telemarketing service $30 an hour and the telemarketing service was able to generate one appointment per hour, so while this was slightly more expensive than average leads, it was effective, particularly when the company was just getting started and needed business.

Telemarketing, as well as direct mail is also very effective in calling back past customers to thank them for the opportunity to do work and ask them to keep you in mind for the future. At a time when you are slow it also can be a very effective tool for calling with specials on such things as gutter cleaning or fireplace cleaning that might be seasonal in a time when the rest of the handyman business is slow. Telemarketing has also been proven to be very effective when combined with direct mail programs. This is done by sending the direct mail piece first and then having the telemarketing approach be to ask whether or not they received their brochure and then ask them if they have any questions or they wanted to schedule any work.

Home shows

Home shows in remodeling are the third most effective advertising tool after site and truck signs. This is also true in the handyman business with one caveat. That is that if you are working in only a small percentage of the total area covered by the home show, you may find that there is too much waste in advertising costs to be effective. If you are covering an entire metropolitan area, then home shows are very effective. If you are covering only a portion of an area, unless there is a regional home show, you should probably not participate.

It should also be emphasized that the home show gives you two other opportunities to advertise your business which will help make the investment in the booth pay. One is that during the course of the home show, you should be sure to go around to all the other exhibitors who might be in a position to recommend your company's handyman services and talk to them; give them brochures and make sure they are aware of what you do and your approach to the business. At HomeTech when we do home inspection booths, we get enough business from the real estate agents, banks, and other exhibitors to pay for the booth.

The second way to maximize your investment in the booth is to tie the rental of the booth with the show managers with the stipulation that you be given a chance to give a seminar during the course of the home show. Almost every home show has a group of seminars and they are always looking for good speakers. You can give a seminar on how to maintain your house, how to build your own deck or another do-it-yourself project, or how to select a handyman contractor, or how to make your house energy efficient and so on. The key is you become established as the expert in the handyman field.

Don't worry about giving any seminars to people on how to be a do-it-yourself homeowner and think that you will lose business as a result. In the course of giving your seminar on how to complete a do-it-yourself project, you always tell the benefits but also the problems and the amount of work that is required. What usually happens is that today's baby boomers come with the expectation that they are going to be able to complete the work themselves, but they find out how difficult and time consuming the project is, and they immediately look for somebody professional to do the job for them. If you let them know you are in the business you will always get business as a result. Another outcome is that they will undertake the job and get started, and then become overwhelmed by the difficulty and then call you to come in and finish. In either case, it means business for your company.

One of the absolutes of a handyman booth in the home show is to get a list of customers that you can put on your mailing list for direct mail campaigns at a later time. In order to figure out a way to entice them into filling out a card in sufficient detail to be effective for your direct mail program, you have to give them an incentive. One of the incentives used around the country for handyman is the win a handyman for the day drawing that you can do either once during the show or every single day if you wish. The only people who will qualify for the drawing are those who have filled out the questionnaire in full and this is the incentive that you need to get their name, address and pertinent information. Another way to get them to stop by your booth is to have a bowl or candy or something else that they can pick up which forces them to stop and give you a minute or two to talk to them about your company.

It is important in all advertising in the handyman field to show them what you do and give them a brochure listing all of your services. Do not make it a brochure that is an institution of nature and doesn't zero in on the specific services which you offer. This is true in all types of handyman advertising.

Mall shows

Mall shows are not as effective as home shows because in the home shows the homeowner is out there to do their homework on how to accomplish a specific project. Still though, a mall show can be very effective in getting your name advertised and they are often less expensive to enter and they are less time consuming. With the mall show, as with the home show but even more importantly, you must give the potential customer a reason to stop at your booth. A drawing or even the candy or other attraction is a must in the mall show. At malls, people are there to do their day's shopping and they will not stop unless there is a reason.

Radio

Radio advertising has not been proven as effective as other forms for the handyman business unless there is some sort of outside influence that requires people to act immediately. One company ran a radio campaign after a hail storm where people needed to have work done immediately and it proved to be very effective. When they tried the radio program in off times, it was not nearly as successful. The good news about radio is that you can zero in on specific types of clientele and you may want to run this on a regular basis. It must be run more than one time or a short number of spots will probably not be effective.

Cable TV

Cable TV is becoming more and more popular for all types of home remodeling and handyman services. This is something that has not been thoroughly tested to this date, but it is something that will undoubtedly be a major advertising medium in the 1990s. When buying both radio and TV time, you must understand that if the time is not sold, it is irretrievable by the radio or TV station. For this reason, you will probably want to buy a package where you pay a fair price for premium time spots, but you get a chance to have many other spots used at a much lesser cost in less than prime time. Even though the spots in less than prime time are not as effective as those in prime time, the overall response usually is greater when this is done.

Personal contact

The handyman business in its present form is a new entity in most cities and towns throughout the country and the concept of dealing with an established company rather than an individual neighborhood handyman must be sold to your potential clientele. This means that in order to be successful, a handyman business must have a spokesperson who is entrepreneurial and who is willing to go out and spread the word about this new concept in home maintenance and handyman service. This means that somebody in the handyman organization, preferably somebody who is articulate and can talk to people and speak to groups of people, should be involved in the business.

Newspaper and radio stations

There are many newspapers in the country that are very interested in running columns on home maintenance and the handyman types of jobs. A handyman service may want to approach the newspapers either citywide or regional and offer to write a column on handyman services on a weekly or monthly basis. Once you have done this, your company and you are then established as experts in the handyman business and this will help your business.

Every talk show radio station in America wants to have somebody on to talk about home maintenance and home repair on a regular basis. If you contact them and offer to do this, and are given a chance and respond in an articulate and informational manner, you will find you will then be asked back on a regular basis. Several individuals have made this into a weekly radio program under their name on a regular basis throughout the year.