First Weber stepping up promotion

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First Weber Group plans to spend about $1 million in advertising by next spring to build its name recognition in the Milwaukee real estate market.
Madison-based First Weber gained a foothold in the Milwaukee market when it announced in August it is establishing a business alliance with Wisconsin Preferred Homes, Inc., Brookfield.
Wisconsin Preferred Homes previously had been affiliated with Prudential Real Estate Network.
Combined, First Weber and Wisconsin Preferred Homes reported 2001 sales of $1.5 billion, and they’re projecting 2002 sales of $1.7 billion.
First Weber plans to aggressively pursue its market share throughout the state, billing itself as "Wisconsin’s largest real estate team."
James Imhoff, chief executive officer of First Weber, downplayed previous media reports that said First Weber is trying to overtake Brookfield-based Shorewest Realtors, which is operated by the Hornung family.
"That’s not what it’s about. We’re a good company, and they’re a good company," Imhoff said. "This is not about us trying to do anything to Shorewest. I have a lot of respect for the Hornungs."
However, Imhoff acknowledged that First Weber would spend about $1 million by next spring on advertising to build its name recognition in Shorewest’s back yard.
"We’ve got to build a brand name down there," Imhoff said.
First Weber has enlisted the advertising help of AXA Advisors, Milwaukee, and a Madison marketing firm to take the lead in its advertising campaign.
The first TV commercials featured a carpenter who is now switching from making white wooden signs (for Shorewest) to orange wooden signs, which are used by First Weber.
"We just think, with branding, we can grow our market share in Milwaukee. We know we can," said Imhoff, who predicted First Weber’s growth would come at the expense of smaller real estate companies in Milwaukee, rather than from Shorewest.
Eventually, First Weber and Wisconsin Preferred Homes plan to merge into one company, Imhoff said.
Wisconsin Preferred Homes will soon be named First Weber Group Milwaukee, he said.
Chuck Rushman, co-founder of Wisconsin Preferred Homes, remains chief executive officer of his company, and co-founder Kevin Donnell remains president of the firm.
"It’s going very well," Rushman said. "It was well received by our people. It gives us a lot of marketing clout."
"We have created a partnership that is running both companies and making joint decisions," Imhoff said. "Eventually, we would hope to merge everything together."
"That’s a possibility," Rushman said.
Imhoff said First Weber already is engaged in discussions about acquiring or affiliating with real estate companies in other Wisconsin markets.

Sept. 27, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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