A Home Improvement Loan Gets the Job Done

One of the best aspects about a home improvement loan is that regardless of what you are trying to accomplish with your home it gets the job done. A loan of this nature is designed to help you get those projects large or small, out of the way and increase the value of your home. It is for this reason why so many lenders are actually willing to help people with these loans, as they know that the return is high in the event of a default. If you repay the loan on time, they still have the interest on the loan to look forward too.

Credit Seldom An Issue

One thing that you will notice when you are applying for a home improvement loan is that credit is seldom an issue. Many people would question this, yet fail to remember that they have a great form of collateral that any lender would be glad to use in exchange for the money that you are borrowing. A home carries a great deal of value, and a lender could easily reclaim the money lost in a deal gone sour by placing a home up on the open auction. This makes it very easy for a lender to ensure that they get the money back one way or another, so they are hardly concerned about a few blemishes on your credit score. While it is well known that the better your credit rating the better your rate will be, your credit will not be the final and determining factor in your rejection or approval of the loan you are applying for.

The Best Bet In Your Search For The Right Loan

When you are looking for the right home improvement loan, the best bet would be to look for it over the Internet. The web will yield the best and quickest results in regards to what you are looking for. You will not have to travel from lender to lender, while applying for the loan that you desire. You can apply with these lenders from the comforts of your own home, with the convenient online applications that the lenders offer today. Many lenders may in fact contact you about a loan, as many of the lenders belong to share network sites. This will allow you to apply with one lender, and get perhaps as many as ten lenders viewing your application at once. This will increase your odds of approval greatly, and you will have the convenience of shopping comparatively.

A Loan Great for A Home Owner

While it is understandable that a home improvement loan is geared towards a homeowner, many people do not fully understand the true benefits of a loan like this. You will not only be able to either finish up projects that you started, or you will be able to start new ones such as major repairs or costly additions. From this point you will be improving your home, and you will also be improving the value of your property. Along with the improvement of the property value, you can look forward to an improved credit rating as well. This is because the loan that you took out will be closely monitored by the three major credit agencies.

Home Improvement Marketing – What Works, What Doesn’t, What Might and Why

Home improvement companies large and small know that getting their message heard by homeowners in need isn’t easy. Home improvement contractors are everywhere, and each is vying for attention. Open any given value pack mailer or local coupon publication and you will see page after page of home improvement ads. From lawn services, landscapers, deck, pool & patio contractors to roofing, siding and windows, carpet, bathroom, sun room and basement remodelers, the list goes on and on.

So as a contractor, how do you get your message heard? What marketing works, what doesn’t, and what aren’t we sure about? The answers depend somewhat on your local market and your budget, but here I provide some sure things that can be done no matter what your market or budget, and some tips on making the most of all of your efforts.

What Works

When I say ‘What Works’, I am talking about items that I have personally used to market my clients that I wouldn’t hesitate to employ for any home improvement company. These are methods that have proven time and time again to be worth the investment. There are very few ‘sure things’ in home improvement marketing, but I’ll bet on these methods every time.

Website – Now more than ever, the standout method of marketing that continues to show solid return on investment (ROI) is your website. Day after day, night after night, your website – if done right – can generate lead after lead. I’ve seen home improvement companies that do ZERO cold-calling and canvassing, and still generate millions of dollars in revenue due in part to their investment in a well-done, highly-optimized website. The key, however, is the ‘well-done’ part. Frankly, any jackleg contractor can get a website – maybe even an attractive one. But without the proper construction and search engine optimization techniques, it will serve as little more than an online brochure. Do yourself a favor and find a search engine pro that can analyze your site and help make changes that will get it working to generate quality leads.

Pay-per-click (Google) Advertising – Your website, as well-optimized as it may be – can’t possibly achieve top ranking for all of the key words and phrases that you need to reach your audience. Today’s searchers in many cases are using broad terms like ‘lawn service’ to find what they need. And at last check, on Google the term ‘lawn service’ yielded 9,400,000 results. If you’re part of one of the large franchises, you have a chance of being found. But if you’re Joe’s local lawn service, fagettaboutit. Your only hope in that broad search is to have your site pop up in the Sponsored Listings, or pay-per-clicks. Setting up Google pay-per-click advertising takes a little know-how, but is certainly available to anyone.

Signage – Contractors are on the road and in neighborhoods far more than they are in any office. They are out and about, all over their covered area day after day. Outfit those trucks – whether they are pick-up trucks, step vans or large vehicles – with nicely done signs, and you have yourself a rolling billboard. Forget the subtle vinyl lettering or magnetic sign – spend a little more on a colorful wrap (no need to wrap the whole thing – doors, the back window, and/or tailgate will do) and you will surely get noticed. In addition to vehicle signs, be sure to put a yard sign at every single installment. A yard sign is as good as a personal referral. And in today’s busy society when time spent talking to your neighbors can be few a far between, it allows the opportunity to broadcast to an entire neighborhood that one of their own has put their trust in you for their latest project. I’ve even seen home improvement companies provide incentives to homeowners for keeping the signs in their yard for extended periods of time. Well worth it.

Ratings-based Organizations – Organizations like the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List allow their members and/or the general public to rate their experiences with contractors. And while many contractors shy away from these organizations for fear of bad ratings, my experience has been positive with these services. That is, of course, if you are reputable contractor. If you’re a successful contractor who has built a business based on referrals and quality workmanship, these services will speak for themselves. And when you do get you’re A+ rating, use it. Post it on your website and in ads, and it too can serve as a virtual referral.

Social Media Marketing – While the jury is still out on exactly how to track the direct return on your social media marketing investment, I wouldn’t hesitate to set aside a small amount of time and marketing budget for social media marketing. Why? Well for one, it’s about as low-cost as you can get. It has the potential to be viral, and strong testimonial/referral benefits are there as well. It also tells the world that you are on top of things – you’re progressive and stand out as a leader in your field. I don’t recommend spending 2 hours a day tweeting, but spending 10 minutes a day to post an item or two to your Facebook business page and Twitter account can have great benefits.

PR – Getting into a regular routine of doing press releases about anything you can think of that might catch the attention of the local press is worthwhile. After a while, regular releases containing good information will catch the attention of the local media. You may even become their go-to people for home improvement information. Invest a little time in putting together a press-kit with your leaders’ biographies, a one-sheet about your company, and any articles, guides, or content you have is worth doing once a year. Then, be on the lookout for news worthy things to write about – significant new hires, a government regulation that affects your industry or homeowners, new products and services can all be spun into information that reporters will look out for.

Sales Support – One often overlooked area of home improvement marketing is sales support, however when done right, it can have an amazing return. Companies hire a guy, hand him some business card, send him on his way and expect great returns. Your sales team is the face of your business to customers, and you no doubt spend time agonizing over who to hire. So when you have a good team in place, do the right thing and arm them with the proper tools to make the sale quicker. Online presentations, e-mailable resource links, business cards, and leave-behinds should all be high on the list of items that your team has in their sales toolbox.

What Doesn’t Work

‘What Doesn’t Work’ is based on experience, and consists of items that you’d have to hold me down and force me to spend money on. That’s not to say that in some cases, some markets they don’t work, but at best, I consider these items to be hit or miss.

Large Phone Book Advertising – When I say ‘large phone book’ I am talking about the big yellow pages books. It’s no secret that these directories – in print – are dying. With internet availability everywhere and a strong push toward environmental responsibility, directory companies are scrambling to stay alive by offering online options. Unless you’re tracking your phone book response diligently and seeing a return, my advice would be to get out. Or at least reduce to in-column listings.

Pay-per-lead Services – For the contractor who has no other method of getting leads, this might be a source to get started, but in my experience, pay-per-lead services don’t work. Typically they are pricey, and they sell the leads they get to multiple contractors. Even the ones that promise exclusivity have turned out to be duds. Whether they are the major players or the smaller ones, all have had the same results. Very low quality leads and at a cost far too high.

Value Pack Mailers – Coupon-based value pack mailers are the definition of hit or miss. If you catch a home who opens the pack, and if he or she has an immediate need for what you’re selling and if he or she is attracted by the ad or offer, you might get some action. That’s a lot of if’s. In my experience, these packs are not cheap, and they are loaded with home improvement companies. In fact, during the writing of this article I received one in the mail. Out of the 45 ads in the pack, 22 of them – nearly 50% – were from home improvement companies. Can I possibly stand out in a crowd like this, and hit the homeowner at the exact right moment? Hmmmm…not really liking those odds.

Pricey Print Advertising – While some may argue that a flashy ad in a magazine has branding appeal, I have seen very little direct return on this type of investment. To get into the magazines, your money would be better spent doing PR that will get you a text mention or even an article.

What Might Work

The items that fall under the category of ‘What Might Work’ are items that are hit or miss, but have the added intangible value of branding. So while we can’t necessarily measure all of the effectiveness of these efforts, we have a sense that they do have some value. The recommendation on these would be to keep the dollars spent in check, but give the activities that fit your budget a shot.

Broadcast Advertising – Broadcast advertising is great for getting your name out there, but can be really expensive. A savvy marketer can find some diamonds in the rough – broadcast efforts that have a decent reach and a decent price tag – but they are hard to find. If broadcast is a part of your mix, try your best to track your efforts. Put landing page URL’s on your ads, whether they are radio or television ads, and a tracking phone number. Create an offer that is unique to the spot for additional tracking. And by all means, with this and every other marketing effort, talk to your customers about how they heard about you initially. If you hear ‘I heard/saw your commercial’ over and over, you will have a sense that it is working.

Event Marketing – Events range in size and price from affordable local events like street festivals and school-sponsored events to large home and garden shows, wine festivals, etc. The large shows can be tough to see a big return on – they are expensive to secure space, and expensive to haul your stuff and staff – and you can get lost in the noise of dozens of other companies just like yours. Smaller, more localized events, though, can have a nice return. While you won’t be getting a huge quantity of leads, you will likely have more time to spend with the people you do meet, and you won’t be competing with too many other companies like yours.

Direct Mail – The options for direct mail vary from mass mailers that can cost a fortune for printing and postage, to smaller, more cost-effective efforts. In my experience, stay away from mass mailings. The return is very low. However, neighborhood mailers from companies like Quantum Digital can have a decent return. When you are able to choose a select set of streets to mail to, you can keep your cost down by doing small runs, and you can piggyback on other efforts. For example, if Joe’s Roofing is doing a nice roof on Maple Street, Joe’s team knows when the install is happening. If they have their marketing efforts in sync, they can log into the mailer system, and choose Maple Street and its surrounding streets to mail to. Then, while his crew is there with their trucks (that have great signage) and there’s a nice job sign in the yard, the neighbors will receive a “We’re working in your neighborhood!” mailer. Bam! You have 3 solid hits to an entire neighborhood with very little cost.

Low-cost Print Advertising – It is tough to cut through the clutter with print advertising, but I have seen some success in choosing specialized, low-cost publications. School papers, and local papers with classified ads or event listings, can provide the benefit of showing community support, can showcase your branding, and may even get you a few leads.

OK, so now that you have an idea of what home improvement marketing can work for you, let me give you the single best piece of advice that I can give for making it all work. It’s the same advice I give to young parents who want their kids to stay in line. One little word with big consequences when not followed…consistency.

When you are inconsistent with your efforts, it’s advertising sabotage. When things look and sound different across each marketing effort, you are missing the opportunity to plant yourself in the brain of your target audience. I see contractors who use their logo five different ways. I see those who have really nicely designed ads in one location, and really lousy looking ones elsewhere. Invest the time and money into having a pro establish your brand’s look and feel. Whether you’re doing social media marketing, broadcast advertising, search engine optimization or total home improvement marketing from A-Z, stay consistent in your efforts. Everything from your logo, colors, style and your key marketing messages, to brand tone and personality should carry through all of your efforts.

Home Improvement? Add A Spy Camera To Your Project List

Home improvements, for the most part, are a series of well thought out steps to enrich your lifestyle, add value to your home or property, or simply to rebuild and strengthen the structure as a whole. So, why then, do so many homeowners totally overlook the aspect and area of security when making improvements? Someone, right now as you read this, is getting their house broken into while they’re at work or on vacation. You can bet that it is probably someone that thought, “Well that will never happen to me – it only happens to other people.” With the economy down so low you can bet that crime is on the rise; that’s the way it has always been.

Laws, statutes, and regulations on the owning, selling, and the use of hidden spy cameras vary by state. If you are currently using or considering installing a hidden spy camera or surveillance system in your home, it would certainly be wise to investigate the specific laws of your local area. This will insure that you do not run into any legal issues should someone discover and take offense to the fact you are operating a hidden spy camera or surveillance system. Even your best neighbors can become offended when you put up a standard security camera on the eves of your house. Therefore, sometimes, its better to get a hidden spy camera and totally conceal it so no one knows it is there but you and your family.

So let’s talk about some of the general areas of concern to consider when purchasing or installing a hidden spy camera or a full blown security surveillance system. Then we can take a closer look at how you can go about investigating the specific laws that govern your state. You may be surprised to find out that in most states it is perfectly legal to install and operate a hidden camera and security surveillance systems even in private places. There are only thirteen states with laws prohibiting the installation of hidden cameras and surveillance systems in the places you would normally call “private.”

The laws that govern these thirteen states prohibit the installation of spy cameras and surveillance systems in places where individuals have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, such areas as bathrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, public rest rooms, etc. Another legal fact that may surprise you is that in many states if a crime is captured on tape by a hidden camera, the tape is often admissible as evidence in court. Surprisingly, in many states, you do not even have to obtain the consent of either of the parties involved. In some other states, receiving the consent of only one party is required. This is what is known as the one or two party consent law; it applies to voice recording or the interception of oral communications as well. Despite the lack of strict laws governing the installation and use of hidden cameras, you should most definitely consult with your local law enforcement agency or lawyer to be certain of the specific regulations governing your area. This will ensure that you have a clear understanding of the law so that you are not guilty of violating any existing regulations by installing and using your new spy camera system.

Don’t be lazy in your efforts; learn the laws that apply to you ahead of time to protect yourself from unnecessary trouble and costly legal actions in the future. In addition to consulting with your lawyer or local law enforcement, you can gather a significant amount of information on the Internet. By visiting just a few local or state government websites and searching for hidden camera laws, you will be provided more specific legal details on this issue as they apply to the region in which you live. It is definitely more wise to find out ahead of time what you can or cannot legally do when installing a hidden surveillance system. The laws change frequently and this is precisely the reason for not listing the thirteen states in this article. Depending on how soon you’ve read this article after it was posted, the laws or the list of states may have already changed. Always do your own homework and legal research, because it will be you that is responsible for the consequences of using your surveillance system.