Seize unexpected marketing opportunities

This article originally appeared in NARI’s Tuffin’ It Out series.

What started out as a small, but exciting project for Bill Welte, president of Welte Construction, turned into a way to increase exposure in a desirable new community.

The Piedmont, Calif., home belonged to the owner of a large commercial construction company who was having a large renovation done with the help of several other companies and an architect.

Welte came across the opportunity to build the pool house and surrounding fence, after bumping into a colleague who was too busy with other work to handle.

“It kind of fell into our lap, and what started out with a fence and pool house, turned into an almost $500,000 project spanning across two years,” Welte recalls.

If that wasn’t enough, the home was chosen to be one of five featured in a prestigious home tour—something that could expand Welte’s market share in the exclusive Piedmont market.

“Piedmont is predominantly older homes from the $1 million to $20 million range—it’s really a contractor’s dream to work there,” Welte says. To increase his company’s exposure in that market, when Welte learned of the home tour opportunity he seized every marketing avenue the organizers of the event would allow.

The tour is organized as a fund-raiser for the Children’s Support League of East Bay, a volunteer organization that raises money to contribute to non-profit agencies serving at-risk children in the East Bay area.

The Heart of the Home Tour is their main fund-raising event, raising $188,000 in 2009. Event organizers chose five spectacular homes to feature during the two-day tour. Tickets cost $50 to $75, depending on the day or type of ticket, and it’s estimated that a couple thousand people attend the tours annually. The event also has a 100-page book, highlighting the homes and filled with advertisements of the town’s service providers.

Welte was thrilled to receive the phone call that the home was going to be on the tour, so much so, he signed up as an All-Star Sponsor, an expense that wasn’t in the company’s original marketing plan, but now seemed necessary in order to network with the desirable group of clients and architects he knew would be in attendance.

The sponsorship included a $2,500 advertisement in the book, recyclable bags with his logo passed out to everyone on the tour to hold materials, an onsite employee at the home to speak to visitors, a brochure handout at the home, a special mention as a sponsor at the event’s dinner and four free tickets to the event.

“I had never been in the tour before and didn’t know when I would be next,” Welte says. “I also have been trying to get more work in Piedmont since it is so hard to tap into.”

A select few contractors always work in that area, as they built up good reputations among residents over the years. Welte has worked on eight Piedmont homes previously, but he says, the tour can greatly increase that number as residents get to see an example of his work highlighted on the tour.

Though all of the other contractors all buy ads in the book, Welte was the only sponsor to provide the recycled bags ($1 each), which can also be used as a grocery bag.

“One of the requirements of the tour was that everyone takes off their shoes at the door, and they stick the shoes in the bags while they walk around the home,” Welte says. “So they are very useful during the event, and hopefully, they will have use for the bags after.”

He also gave his four free tickets to two past clients, one a Piedmont resident who brought along a friend, and one interior decorator who also brought along a potential client. For Welte, it was yet another way to penetrate the market through the tour.

Welte bid on one very large Piedmont project through networking with an architect that attended the tour. Overall, the tour cost him roughly $5,000.

Though businesses prefer to plan out marketing budgets and strategies at the start of the year, sometimes unexpected marketing opportunities come about that hard to turn down. That’s why seizing these types of opportunities may turn out to be one of the most important decisions made during the year.

“This is has helped open the channel to making a lot of connections and network over and over with the same people,” Welte says. “The hope is that eventually after spending more time doing these types of things, I will be known as the go-to contractor in that area.” —Morgan Zenner

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