Marketing to Builders

A local cabinetmaker gets advice on getting the attention of production builders. June 16, 2005

I want to put an ad in the Yellow Pages. Which heading would contractors most likely use when looking in the book for a commercial installer?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
Contractors aren't going to look in the Yellow Pages for tradesmen, except maybe Business-To-Business Yellow Pages.

My suggestion, which will probably cost you less and zero in on your target public, is to buy a mailing list of general contractors and do a mailing to them. Or grab your Yellow Pages and start calling GCs. Get their addresses and follow up your phone call with a mailing piece.

There are several ways to do this, but personally I'd consider Yellow Pages ads a waste of money.

In the 80's I was a custom homebuilder and general contractor. Now I build cabinets and furniture. I almost never got a subcontractor from the phone book. I relied on referrals primarily, or I drove around new construction looking for subs working so I could observe them and their work to see if I might want to use them.

I also liked when a subcontractor would stop by and ask if he could leave some information and possibly bid some of my work. If he had a couple of references, his work was of sufficient quality and I had a good gut feeling about the guy, I would generally give him a try. The face-to-face meeting gives me a chance to size up the person. My judgment of character isn't infallible, but it is usually pretty accurate. In essence, the person sold himself.

I didn't mind people dropping in and giving them a few minutes if I had the time, but it is usually better to make an appointment. Be on time and stay only as long as it takes to get out your information. I didn't appreciate too much of my time being taken up, or the offer to take me to lunch. I always felt like people were buying me lunch as a bribe to get work.

Good points in those responses. I should maybe refine what I want a little more. I already know pretty much all the local GCs and distributors. Driving an hour to every job is getting old, though, and I see a lot of work right here in town. Many are run by out-of-town or state outfits, and I know they'd love to find a reputable local installer. What are they going to use while looking? I'd still like to know which category would be best to list under.

I think your only viable choice will be "Cabinetmakers." I looked in both the consumer and business-to-business books and didn't see anything else promising. The ads that stand out the most are not the display ads, but the ones in the text columns that are blocked out in white against the yellow background. You might want to create a dba that puts you early in the alphabetical listings and of course, make sure that "Installation Specialist" or something similar is the most prominent thing in the ad.

I keep a YP block ad, but not for selling - just exposure. I might get one call a year from it.

Visit with your local lumberyards and hardware stores and get in with them. Buy what you can from them, go often and they will remember you first when they are asked about tradesmen. Banks, title companies, chamber of commerce and realtors should also know you pretty well. And last but not least - local preachers. They know everybody, hear more and see more than most.

The quick visit to a GC's job or office is good too, if you want to deal with the backstabbers. I visited a few shops. Most were cold, but one was very friendly and helpful - he gave me numbers to low priced suppliers and loads of advice. He's now retired and refers lots of work to me.

When I was a contractor, we frequently used the Blue Book ( It's kind of like yellow pages for construction.

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