NuLook Home Design – Searching for brand

written by BVM August 18, 2017
Nu Look

Business View Magazine interviews Patrick Fingles, Co-owner of NuLook Home Design, as part of our focus on best practices in construction and remodeling.

NuLook Home Design, a top-ranked, award-winning, exterior remodeling company based in Columbia, Maryland, specializes in roofing replacement, windows, vinyl siding, entry door systems, and gutters and downspouts. Its service area extends from northern Virginia to southern New Jersey, and includes parts of Delaware, parts of Pennsylvania, and Maryland in its entirety. The company has over 150 employees.

Co-owners Tom Bury and Patrick Fingles began Nu Look Home Design some 14 years ago, after having worked for another company, which, Fingles says, had a very simple recipe for success. “It was a canvass-based business model; you knock on a door and you generate interest from a prospect, and then you sell a product. It wasn’t hard to replicate,” he explains. “They relied heavily on staff to drive sales and revenue. Being entrepreneurial in spirit, Tom and I realized ‘why should we not be doing this ourselves?’”

“It took very little overhead to start,” Fingles continues, “just a little bit of grit. It was easy to replicate, but it wasn’t scalable. So, as we started to grow, we had to evolve to the infrastructure that we have now, which is far from the original. There are still some roots connecting to it, but we’ve changed quite a bit. We’ve introduced tertiary advertising approaches and strategies. Canvassing accounts for about 40 percent of our overall volume; the other 60 percent comes from every other line we have in the water – buying leads from a lead aggregate company all the way to advertising on the radio, or putting a billboard up on the side of the road. Marketing is our largest expense, other than cost of goods.”

Although the company has thrived on a combination of solid craftsmanship, good customer service, and its ability to get its message in front of the homeowner, Fingles reveals that, in a competitive marketplace, where there are so many companies offering similar products and services, the next step in NuLook’s evolution needed to be about branding. “There’s really no brand positioning in the marketplace,” he avers. “In the home services and home improvement sector, you can take my competitors’ ads, take their names out and insert my name, and it would the exact same ad as mine. The only thing that changes is the name; it’s all the same tactics.”

So, NuLook went on a venture in search of its brand and to “establish and find out who we are as a company,” says Fingles. “It’s funny how companies grow organically and they don’t have a real hold on who they are. They think they know who they are, but we’ve been in business for 14 years and we had to hire a firm to come in and survey hundreds of customers and employees and to try to ascertain the emotional connection people have to the company. We went through a brand initiative to really figure out who we are.”

Fingles recounts the initial eye-opening process that he and Bury encountered: “They had taken screen shots and printed them out on paper of not only us, but of our competitors, and they taped them up all over the wall – anything they could find online, whether it was a snapshot of our ad, a Facebook entry, our write-up in Qualified Remodeler Magazine. And they picked four of our top competitors in the market. And they said, ‘Try to find the ones that are you.’ And it was utterly shocking how similar they were; you couldn’t pick them out. Some of my competitors used the same stock images provided by the manufacturers on their websites; the ads were the exact same; even the colors were the same. It was like we all went to the same advertising agency and said, ‘We all want to look the exact same, and say the exact same, and do the exact same, and sell the exact same product.’ Now if you did the same thing with Coca-Cola and Pepsi – if you put the Coca-Cola ads on one side of the wall and all the Pepsi ads on the other side of the wall and you covered the logos do you think you’d be able to tell the difference between the two? And the answer is: ‘Absolutely!’ They have a brand.”

“So, we learned that we had no brand,” Fingles continues. “Well, it exists, but we don’t know what it is, and we don’t know how to speak it. So we hired the company to figure out who we are and what we stand for. You’re not you’re a window company; you’re not you’re a siding company; it’s not that you’ve got a Better Business Bureau award; not that your 27th on the Qualified Remodeler; not that you buy one, get one free on vinyl windows; it’s none of that. But, what are you at your core? And then you end up with what’s called a ‘brand constitution,’ and you go back to a new creative agency and that creative agency will now build an emotional message based off of that company. People, nowadays, in this market, purchase based on emotion not logic. It’s not just about the product; it’s an emotional experience.”

“So, when the homeowner thinks of us as a company, we don’t want them to think of the products that we sell,” Fingles declares. “We don’t want them to think about how much those products are going to cost. What we want them to think about is the emotional experience that our messaging provides for them that cuts through the noise of my competition. So, it’s that representation of brand that we can use to separate ourselves from the pack.”

Actually, Fingles admits that Nu-Look is not even about selling products, as much as it is about selling its services. “You can buy my product at Home Depot,” he says. “What we’re selling is service. It’s the same thing as going out to dinner. You can get some lobsters and steam them up and make potatoes au gratin and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. The restaurant doesn’t have an advantage over you; what they’re doing is providing service. And the service requires human capital because that’s what service is.”

So, one result of the brand initiative, according to Fingles, was recognizing the need for the company to focus on its current and future staff so that they can provide the type of service that connects emotionally with their customers. “Human capital is the hardest thing to get – to hire people and maintain a staff,” he says. “The number one reason why businesses fail is because they don’t have the right people working there. So, over the next several years, we’re going to knuckle down and work on our brand as an employer, work on our internal culture, and work on solutions to ensure that we have the best people working here, so we can provide the best service. Once we get the best people working here, to provide the best service, then we can start to elevate our revenue. And once we elevate our revenue, we can hit our targeted growth goals.”

In addition, the branding exercise gave Fingles and Bury a working encapsulation of the company’s true brand values. “Our brand DNA is ‘personalized care with amazing results,’” Fingles states. “If you buy a roof from us, we want to provide personalized care to create an amazing experience and amazing results. If you work here, we will provide personalized care to give you an amazing result. We didn’t make those words up; that’s what was derived from our employees and our customers. They said, ‘It was amazing; they take really good care of you.’ Our employees say, “It’s an amazing place to work.’ So, those are the things that rose to the surface and that’s what we use as our brand DNA – those are our core values: personalized care and amazing results.”

“We’re going to try and do something different from anybody else in our sector,” Fingles says, summing up the story of its search for brand. “How does a company, at its core, get to provide exceptional care and exceptional service to create amazing experiences for the customer? That’s what we’ve been putting all of our energy trying to figure out.”

AT A GLANCE

WHO: NuLook Home Design
WHAT: An exterior remodeling company
WHERE: Columbia, Maryland
WEBSITE: www.nulookhomedesign.com

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