From A One-Man Show to A Million Dollar Remodeler In a Rural Area In Less Than A Year

Case Study: Remodeling Journey, remodeling company in Wausau, WI

Table of Contents

The Background

Justin Pagel, the owner of Rust & Sawdust, started his journey as a one-man show in the contracting business.

Despite being a skilled general contractor, Justin realized that to achieve his ambitious growth goals, he needed to take his business to the next level

Justin knew he had the potential for success so he sought the advice of Nate Burket, owner of Riverview Decks, who had experienced remarkable success after partnering with us. See Nate’s case study here.

Justin Pagel from Remodeling Journey talks about working with Contracting Empire

Justin reached his milestones and transformed his business from a small business to being booked months in advance.

At the time, Rust & Sawdust was heavily reliant on Facebook for lead generation, with most of their leads coming from social media. By investing in targeted Facebook ads, they managed to generate an impressive $400k in revenue.

Their strategy also included running engaging giveaways, which significantly boosted brand awareness and engagement within their target audience. We told Justin to continue what he was doing because it was working, and we looked into other opportunities he could tap into.

Justin set his sights on reaching $900k in revenue for 2023. He knew that achieving this goal would require strategic planning and execution, particularly in terms of marketing and branding.

We sat with Justin on a call, showed him the data, and came up with an action plan.

And it’s possible for you, too, when you have the right team fighting in your corner.

The Challenges

When thinking about business, I’m pretty sure you can think of at least 100 things that you can work and improve on. Marketing is a huge piece of running a successful business and it has its own to-do list.

Here are a few of the challenges that we tackled with Justin.

Misalignment with Brand Image

“Rust & Sawdust Home Renovations” has quite a negative connotation. Nobody really wants rust or sawdust in their home, so although it sounded cool when Justin came up with the brand name, it didn’t age well.

Also, people in the US refer to renovation more using the term remodeling—10 times more. The reverse is true in Canada.

We needed to find a brand name that resonates with the core of the Pagel family and what Justin stands for. 

One of the things they’re passionate about is helping people with fertility issues. They themselves had issues with it, and it took a lot of hardship and money to be blessed with a daughter. It was quite a journey!

We did quite a lot of brainstorming and back-and-forth. Eventually, Justin came up with “Remodeling Journey,” which encompasses both the service and the idea that remodeling is a journey in itself. Now, he had something he could stand behind 100% and align people with.

Scattered Cities

Think of Google as a very big map.

When someone searches for a remodeler, Google wants to show them options that are nearby. Who wants a contractor traveling halfway across the state?

Google uses several algorithms to decide who should appear in the top spots. One of the biggest ranking factors is proximity—how close you are to the person doing the search.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

Google’s not just looking at your address; it’s also peeking at your online footprint to see if you’re legit. That means your website, your Google Business Profile (GBP), and mentions of your business everywhere online – it’s all fair game.

When we’re crafting a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy for a client like Justin, we want to be strategic about which cities we target. Sure, he’s based in the county of Marathon, WI, but we’re not just going to throw darts at a map and hope for the best.

We have to find the best and most profitable locations nearby.

That’s how we start looking at data.

We’re talking population numbers, average household income, house prices, you name it—anything that paints the picture of the Total Addressable Market (TAM), Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM), and Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM). 

We want to find the lowest-hanging fruit so we can become cash-flow positive as soon as possible.

The best cities for Justin to target close to Marathon were pretty spread out, so we had to fine-tune the strategy to counteract the effects of proximity.

No-Conversion Website

During our initial call, we took a look at how Justin’s website and SEO standing. The results were disappointing for Justin, but something we foreway the minute we looked at his one-page website.

That’s because it was missing many things, with local SEO being the most important one. Local SEO is like honing in on your immediate surroundings, targeting folks in your neighborhood, city, and even your zip code.

It’s all about making sure that when someone in Marathon, WI, Googles “remodeling contractor near me,” Justin’s website pops up.

On the flip side, national SEO is like casting a wider net, aiming to reel customers from all corners of the country. While national SEO certainly has its perks, for a contracting business like Justin’s, local SEO is where the real magic happens.

After all, when homeowners are looking to spruce up their homes, they want someone who’s nearby.

Someone who’s in their community. 

Someone who can visit their home fast. 

Someone like Justin.

And then there’s a matter of keywords. Keywords are like little online breadcrumbs that lead customers straight to Justin’s doorstep.

But they’ve got to be the right keywords. None of this generic “general contractor” nonsense — we’re talking hyper-targeted phrases like “kitchen remodeling in Marathon, WI.”

And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Justin had someone:

His one-page website was also dead:

Now, you might be thinking, “If he’s making bank from Facebook, who cares about the website?”. In reality, running ads doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do SEO. The thing with ads is that once you stop putting money into it, the leads also stop coming.

With SEO, once you have more consistent marketing systems and strategies in place, you can still rank organically without spending a lot of money.

SEO’s like planting seeds in a garden. You gotta put in the work upfront, but once those flowers start blooming, boy, do they keep coming back. 

Unlike Facebook ads that flash and fade, SEO keeps your site popping up when folks are Googling for your services. Also, if somebody sees your ads and decides to look you up on Google, it’s a good idea for them actually to find you.

Sure, SEO takes time to kick in, but once it does, it’s like having a 24/7 lead machine that doesn’t cost you a dime every time someone clicks. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Reliance On A Single Marketing Channel

When people ask me what kind of marketing they should do, I tell them to do it all.

All marketing channels work. 

So, it’s not a matter of attacking a channel but of finding the best path for you and your business. This is dependent on your current marketing state, your cash flow, and your risk tolerance.

You should prioritize marketing by the ones that create revenue first and then the ones that are more of a creative outlet and nurture your prospects. 

I see contractors prioritize a cold traffic channel like Facebook ads and then say that the leads suck. While the leads are definitely less qualified because of the nature of the platform, you can still make Facebook Ads work for your business.

In Justin’s case, his only functional marketing channel was Facebook ads, so his business was at risk. You have to remember that you do not own the content on any of these platforms. 

You don’t own your Facebook page, or ads account. When Zuckerberg’s AI slaps your account, you have to follow a tedious process and you’re waiting on the sidelines until your account gets reinstated – if ever.

The Strategy

Our first order of business? 

Dive headfirst into an ocean of data.

We conducted a comprehensive audit of Remodeling Journey’s online presence, scouring every nook and cranny for insights that would set the stage for success. 

From demographic data to population statistics, we left no stone unturned in our quest to identify the most lucrative target cities for Justin’s business.

We honed in on cities with high population numbers and robust household incomes, ensuring that Justin’s services would resonate with people who wanted and could afford to invest in their homes.

Once we had data on the Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM) and data on the search ecosystems, we created a Three-Phase Strategy.

Phase #1

Phase #2

Phase #3

All of these systems had to respect Justin’s cash flow. He preferred taking a lower risk by investing the monthly minimum but going with a longer time horizon so things had enough time to pick up and gain momentum.

The Results

On-Point Design And Rebranding

Choosing a good name for a business is a tedious process. It needs to show what you stand for, your values, and it needs to be a name unique enough so you don’t get into any legal trouble. 

All brand names we help create go through the United States Patent and Trademark Office to make sure we’re not creating trouble for our clients down the road. 

We then perform hundreds of searches both nationally and locally to see what those search results trigger. If there’s another business with huge brand equity, especially locally, we prefer to find another name.

Once all that is clear, the client checks in with their local or county clerk’s office, a state agency, or both in order to register the name as a Doing Business As (DBA).

Our talented in-house designer created a sleek and beautiful logo that Justin and his wife Adria loved. It represents a pathway to home, all with a vibe of warmth, tenderness, and care.

We also gave their business cards a makeover, turning them into sleek, professional representations of their brand. These cards became their offline first impressions, leaving a lasting impression on everyone they handed them to.

We guide our clients to use the services of Moo instead of VistaPrint that they normally use. It’s a little bit pricier but the paper and finish quality are top notch. We have no affiliation with Moo, but if you want to check them out, do so here.

The mockup doesn’t do the design justice. It’s printed on premium paper with a satin finish and the lines on the front are actually raised spot gloss coating, making the business card a tangible experience.

And let’s not forget about the door hangers and yard signs.

These may seem like small details, but they can have a big impact on your local marketing.

By strategically placing door hangers in targeted neighborhoods and yard signs at job sites, Remodeling Journey increased its visibility and attracted more leads in its local area.

But we didn’t stop there. We also took it to the streets. 


We created a subtle truck wrap for Justin’s vehicles that became a moving advertisement for their services and reinforced their brand identity in the minds of potential customers.

Together, these offline marketing materials worked hand in hand with our online efforts to create a cohesive image. All of these branding elements need to speak to you as a business owner.

You may already know what you want.

Or you may need help envisioning the materials.

Either way, we have the knowledge and talent to make it happen.

A Website That Converts Users To Leads

Your website should have a clear and specific goal. Convert the attention and traffic it receives to leads. It’s not a glorified digital brochure, it’s not a fancy thing with animations flying across the screen.

It very much has scope and reason.

Our websites have a very clear user journey that provides a specific user experience with the goal of converting visitors to leads

Once your website is launched, we constantly monitor what it’s doing. We keep it updated with fresh content and analyze screen recordings to see how users interact with the website. This way, we constantly increase the rate at which the website converts the visitors to leads.

We track everything. We want to know if the visitors got what they came for, if they hit a snag in the process, if something was off for them, or if they rage quit.

Once you get used to how we operate, everything else will feel subpar.

Top 3 Remodeling Company In Wausau

Having your business listed in the local map pack is like snagging one of the only three available prime parking spots in front of the hardware store on a busy Monday morning.

For Remodeling Journey, we made this possible through a combination of SEO and local SEO, GBP optimization, data and keyword research, citation building, backlinking, city page publishing, and more.

When homeowners in Wausau pull out their phones to look for a bathroom or a kitchen remodeler, Justin’s company is one of the top 3 digital billboards they see.

Think of this as having a commercial for your company run during the Super Bowl.

The difference is that a Super Bowl commercial costs $7MM to air. We can get you prime real estate in Google’s results for a fraction of the cost.

Getting your business listed in the map pack takes a lot of SEO hustle. From targeting the right cities to optimizing for the most profitable keywords. We put all these different gears together to create a machine that works in your favor.

We know what Google wants.

And we do what it takes to feed the algorithm.

You might be thinking, “But what about the competition? Aren’t there a gazillion other contractors fighting for that top spot?”

Sure, there might be, but here’s the thing – when you’ve got a team like ours in your corner, you’re not just another player in the game.

You’re the MVP.

A Step Above The Competition

A lot of marketing agencies out there are playing a different game. They’ll tell you they can’t track this or that or try to impress you with the wrong metrics where there’s some irrelevant Key Performance Indicator (KPI) increasing month by month.

For a local business like yours, those metrics don’t mean squat.

National SEO is good because it gives the website more authority in Google’s eyes. Still, you want to get the attention of local homeowners looking for a contractor in the area.

We don’t waste time chasing vanity metrics – we’re laser-focused on the metrics that matter most to your bottom line.

We’re talking about things like local search rankings, website traffic from your target area, and, most importantly, leads generated and conversions made. These are the metrics that paint a true picture of your marketing ROI.

And guess what?

We track every single one of them down to the last click.

One of the things we first do when you partner with us is set up a local map of your area in a tool we pay a lot of money for because we want accurate data.

For the Remodeling Journey, here are the ranking maps for their main services.

Kitchen Rankings

Bathroom Rankings

Basement Rankings

What you see above is a 13×13 grid map with 10 miles between dots. That’s because the cities in Justin’s area are more scattered than usual so we need to see where he’s making a difference and what we need to target next.

That’s 16,900 square miles of ranking on the first page of Google for the most relevant search intent. All those green dots show that Justin’s company ranks in the top 3 results.

Every client is unique, so even if we have the right frameworks, we adapt them to what your business needs.

A fully green map is always our goal, and we’re relentless about making it happen.

This isn’t about wishful thinking or lofty aspirations – it’s about cold, hard data showing the tangible results of our strategic approach to SEO.

Make no mistake—this isn’t a one-time victory. SEO is a long-term game, and those dots remind us of the ongoing effort required to maintain and build upon our success.

When you look at that map, it’s not just green dots. 

It’s evidence.

Evidence of our ability to outmaneuver the competition, to capture the attention of homeowners in key areas, and to drive real, measurable results for our clients.

Kitchen Rankings

Bathroom Rankings

Basement Rankings

Here is Remodeling Journey taking the trophy for the top-ranking remodeler in the area.

That didn’t happen by accident.

It’s the product of relentless SEO efforts, meticulous keyword optimization, and a whole lot of behind-the-scenes magic that most folks never see.

Results like these don’t happen overnight. They take time, dedication, and a whole lot of work. That’s why you need someone in your corner who truly understands the ins and outs of digital marketing and SEO.

Key Takeaways

Like many of our other clients, Justin came to us recommended by contractors impressed by our work. This is the level of high-quality service we put out there, bringing client wins and putting more money in their pockets.

Today, Justin:

When you’re ready to commit to growing your business and aren’t afraid to let go of things that aren’t working in your favor, let’s talk.

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