Renovation Pro Mark Ashton Shares His Best Practices for Success
Attract the right clients and build loyal teams with these ideas
Certified kitchen and bathroom designer Mark Ashton has been successfully running his Toronto firm, Ashton Renovations, for over 25 years. Taking on everything from small kitchen and bathroom builds to full home renovations, the firm is a three-time winner of the prestigious National Kitchen & Bathroom Association award. It has also won Best of Houzz awards for the past 9 years. So what are Ashton’s secrets to success? The seasoned designer breaks down his best practices for attracting the right clients and building successful teams.
Best Practices for Attracting Quality Clients
1. Present yourself as professionally as possible.
Presentation matters, especially in the fields of construction and design. “You have to have an exceptional website, because that’s where [prospective clients are] going to go first,” Ashton says. “You really have to showcase what you do and what you’re an expert at, and then you attract people.” Even small details count, as they reflect the quality of your services. “If you have a sloppy website, if the grammar isn’t there, if it’s not all-encompassing, they’re going to ask, ‘What’s my project going to look like if you’re misspelling words and you don’t have things articulated clearly?’” he says.
A website alone isn’t enough, though. Ashton attracts many of his clients through his Houzz profile, which allows him to display high-quality project photographs, reviews from satisfied customers, and Best of Houzz awards. “Best of Houzz has helped us market our business, because it brings credibility,” Ashton says. “The Houzz brand is very popular, and people trust the contractors and reviews that are up there.”
2. Target the right customers.
The most profitable marketing campaigns aren’t necessarily the ones that reach the largest audiences. Niche marketing, in which a business advertises to a targeted group of consumers, can be highly effective if done right. It’s for this very reason that Ashton advertises through Houzz. “Houzz is a very specific platform that works well for us, because they cater to mid-to-high-end types of projects. It cuts down on us wasting our advertising dollars on areas where we shoot and miss,” he says. “I would say that if we didn’t advertise with Houzz, it would probably result in a 50% reduction in the volume of our business. The return on investment is unbelievable.”
3. Focus on the client, not the money.
“What really sets aside a professional is somebody who really cares about the client and their best interests,” Ashton says, recalling his father’s advice. “Your main focus shouldn’t be how much money you can make off a project. It’s about caring about the client, taking those extra steps and effort.” Ashton recounts a time he sent a team to install tiles, and they arrived at the home to a snowed-in driveway. Although it was not part of their job description, the team spent an hour shoveling snow to clear the driveway. Small actions like this can result in customer loyalty, positive reviews, and referrals. If you prioritize the client experience, the clients and money will follow.
Best Practices for Building Successful Teams
1. Embrace inclusivity
Diversity and inclusivity are key to building successful teams. Different types of people have different strengths, and some may be better equipped to deal with certain situations. “It’s helpful in your business if you have different types of personalities that deal with stressful situations,” Ashton says. His brother serves as his company’s project manager. “He has a more laid-back, friendly and joking attitude with the clients. That helps put them at ease when they’re stressed,” Ashton says. “I’m the CEO. I have to act a certain way. I can’t go out there like a joker.”
Diversity also helps creativity thrive. Home renovation is “a collaborative process,” Ashton says. “It’s the contractors, it’s the homeowner, it’s the designer. Everyone comes together and we all put our ideas in one pot, so to speak. I find that is best, rather than just coming from one person, because nobody knows everything.”
2. Use positive reinforcement
As retaining quality workers is still a major challenge in the construction industry, having a respectful relationship with contractors is important. “You don’t phone up your trade and say, ‘Where are you? You’re late. I’m not going to pay you.’ That’s not going to work,” Ashton says. “I don’t complain.” Instead, he uses positive reinforcement, sharing glowing reviews with contractors, thanking them for their hard work and sharing feedback when the client is satisfied. “There is a sense of pride that they’re part of something that’s exceptional,” he says. “People don’t want to be part of an organization that doesn’t really care about what they do.”
Attracting the right clients and retaining quality workers can be challenging whether your business is new or established, but with Houzz Pro you can easily incorporate these tips in addition to getting great builder-focused marketing support. Stand out from the crowd with a Houzz premium profile and targeted local advertising, or keep both your clients and your team up to date by using the project dashboard.
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