BUILDER MARKETING CASE STUDY: Orren Pickell Designers & Builders


When Ed Sucherman was hired as Marketing Director of Orren Pickell Designers & Builders, the company employed approx. 40 people and was struggling to not lose business. Six years later, the company’s sales volume was three times larger and employed 120 people. (Ed was not privy to profit numbers.) It had become the only known brand among custom builders on Chicago’s North Shore. Top management changes caused Ed to leave the company three years ago, and today, it employs between 30 and 40 people. Sales revenues are not known.

Highlights of Ed’s six years include:

Leadership/Strategies: Ed…

  • Marketed the South Shore Club in Lake Geneva, a $120 million development. After 2 years, 22 lots were sold and 18 were left – well ahead of aggressive projections.
  • Helped manage and motivate the sales force in every division.
  • Created and managed the company-wide marketing plans, strategies, and budgets all six years. No fewer than 60 projects going on at one time, many hundreds per year.
  • 2003 Marketing Plan created the Custom and Estate Series line extensions that led directly to record sales and profits that year. (Deposits up 52% for the year.)
  • In six years, Pickell became known as the area’s premier custom builder and marketing became its power tool.
  • For six years, the sales force was provided ample leads to set new sales records in custom home, remodeling, kitchen cabinet, architectural design, and home maintenance divisions – every area in which the company operated.
  • Helped create Chicago’s only brand in custom home building.

Promotions: Ed…

  • Wrote and created self-liquidating 8-page insert in Chicago Mag. (June, 2003)
  • Invented promotion that became a 35-page insert in Chicago Home & Garden (late summer, 2003) and another 37-page article in Chicago Home & Garden (late Fall, 2003).
  • Held meetings with key WGN celebrities that turned into remodeling project for Judy Markey (Cathy and Judy) – company received enormous, free on-air endorsements.
  • Ran 7 Concept Houses, incl. multiple Grand Opening events of over 850 people each.
  • Invented, set up, and wrote four key 2004 promotions with Chicago Magazine.
  • Created corporate literature that won a national printing industry award.
  • Created and wrote quarterly, full-color newsletters that defined the company’s marketing strategies and sales tactics.
  • Developed and ran cross promotions with Neiman Marcus, Pratesi Linens, and Plunkett Home Furnishings.
  • Created an entire new look for company letterhead, envelopes, and business cards. Created official company Graphic Standards for consistent brand building.

Public Relations:

  • Wrote and produced the company coffee table book and CD-ROM.
  • Wrote entries and ran the company’s Key Award efforts for 6 years. Pickell won more awards than all other residential architects and custom builders in Illinois combined – well over 150 in six years.
  • Multiple major articles in the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Pioneer Press, Tribune Sunday Magazine, Chicago Magazine, North Shore, Newsweek, House Beautiful, Woman’s Day, many trade publications.
  • Stories on PBS-TV, NBC-TV, WGN-TV, and ABC-TV.
  • Reinvented company web site: visitors went from 300 to 11,000; time spent on the site went from 2.5 minutes to 10.5 minutes each; hits went from 5,000 to 780,000+ /month in November, 2004.
  • Wrote award entry that made Orren Pickell America’s 2001 Custom Builder of the Year.