Pavement contractors are straight up folks, working way too hard to earn a living by providing an authentic, valuable service. And then there’s that “used oil/black paint” faction that impersonates legitimate contractors. In addition to the fleece job they perpetrate on homeowners, they make it more difficult for the legitimate contractor to do business.
Take a proactive approach to this problem, and peer inside a homeowner’s brain to see what fears are there and figure out ways to address those fears. In fact, let’s just take a peek and pull out a couple of examples:
Inside the brain
What do we have here? Ah! Fear of being ripped off. Of course, that would be number one. What’s at the root of that fear?
• Horror stories about the bad experiences of others.
• Lack of expertise to even know if he or she is getting ripped off. “Looks blacker to me!”
• No confidence that he or she will be able to get back in touch with you if a problem develops.
What can you do to abate these fears?
You can’t control the circulation of the horror stories. They are out there, widespread and probably have some basis in truth.
Lack of expertise on the part of the client … we can do something with that. You might be able to help educate people about how to spot contractor fraud, and, at the same time, educate them about the proper care and feeding of pavement!
This is not a suggestion from outer space. People generally spend time educating themselves about any major purchase. They want to know what they are getting, what to expect, how it will perform and life expectancy – whether they’re buying a car, a portable music device or a beer can ball cap. You may assume they are not interested in the details about their pavement health, but if you were to prepare a small diagram, and explain the base layer, the asphalt layer, the nature of aggregate, and mention binder properties and such, you just might be surprised that they are interested to know how to care for their pavement property.
Show them the binders you use – include a copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) if possible. Explain the advantages of the application method you choose.
Tip them off to a few clues for spotting a fly-by-night operation. Working through this process may take some time, but it is a great trust-builder. And trust leads to success.
Proving your stability
People like to hold a piece of paper in their hand – it gives them a sense of security. So, prepare some paperwork to hand out. Take a beauty shot of your shop so they can see you have a local presence. Provide the address, of course. Give them various phone numbers to call – office line and cell phone, if possible – to call if they have a question. To really drive it home, provide your home phone number if you do really good work. Assure them they can always find you.
Include things they should watch for on their completed job in the 24 to 48 hours following the work, whether it’s a change in color of the coating or a finger test they can do. List the top three things that might go wrong, and urge them to call you immediately if they spot signs of something not right.
Show a ruler on the page that illustrates exactly what pavement thickness they should expect to end up with. Photocopy your proof of insurance and hand a copy to every customer, with a phone number they can call for verification. Do the same with any other credentials you may have – whether a municipal license or proof of association membership. Everybody gets a copy of everything. Another nice, and inexpensive touch that alludes to your stability is custom printed invoices and stationery.
You might want to consider adding an environmental impact statement, particularly if you are in an area that restricts use of certain products. Explain the situation in your area and what you do to assure environmental responsibility.
Think like a customer
Pretend you are shopping for a driveway treatment. Search on the Internet for articles like, “How to Find/Choose a Reliable Driveway Contractor,” so you’ll know what your customers are being told to look for. You know they are being told to ask you for references and satisfied customers they can talk to. So have an updated list ready to hand them.
It also helps to have a logo and phone number on your truck, even if your truck is a beater. Make it look as nice as possible. If you can, wear a logo shirt and/or hat. All these things add up to “anti-fly-by-night” clues for your potential customers. Never use the fly-by-nighters’ approach of, “I just did a driveway nearby, and I have extra material to do your driveway at a low price,” as that is a primary tip-off homeowners are warned against.
A website and e-mail can be a big help for people to be able to check you out. Yes, people are still more likely to believe what they see in print on a piece of paper, but people are rapidly beginning to trust the Internet and what they see in print on the screen. More than 40 million Americans now bank online, and during the recent holiday shopping season, people were spending about $600 million per day shopping online. Trust in the Internet has a firm foundation and continues to grow.
You need not have a fancy website, just a simple site that explains who you are, where you are, what you do and how to get in touch does the trick. Make sure to proof the copy carefully to make sure there are no mistakes. This tells people something about your attention to detail. Be sure to add your www address to your business cards, invoices and such as you reprint them.
It is growing ever more difficult to defend your absence from the web. Most businesses profit by a web presence. What if you are “only” losing 10 or 5 percent of business to your competitors who are found on the web? Any business that could increase sales 5 to 10 percent with website is a little loopy to just shrug off that opportunity.
Do you guarantee your work? To what extent? Put it in writing and hand a copy to each customer. Call your local Better Business Bureau and ask about becoming a member. Visit their national website at http://www.bbb.org to find your local bureau and inquire about pricing.
Of course, nothing says stability like a long-range promise to come back and offer to maintain the finished work after three years at a guaranteed price – which is a common recommendation for sealing frequency. That says you plan to be around for a while.
A customer packet can go a long way toward establishing your credibility as a pavement contractor. Include whatever you can to help customers understand you are stable, local and deliver satisfactory results. A nice touch would be purchase a box of file folders, and hand the folder to the customer. If you want to go over the top, have stickers made of your logo and place a sticker on the folder.
Here are some things you might include in the packet.
• General information sheet about your company
• Proof of insurance copy
• License copy
• Education sheet showing cross section of driveway, thickness of final product, etc.
• Environmental impact explanation
• Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) copy about binder product
• Custom printed invoice in logo envelope
• Guarantee / promise to offer to re-seal after three years