So Bad It Works

 
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Old 09-20-2007, 01:56 AM   #1
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So Bad It Works


A few weeks ago, I found a flier stuck in our door. On one side was a basic printed reference to a contracting service; on the other a photocopied handwirtten note so 'bad' it made me laugh. There were spelling mistakes, and the writing was, well, lets say, not exactly professional.
The note said "Protect your House and Drive/walkway" (caps and spelling as on original) and went on:

"Control your roof water with undergound conduite ending with a pop up emitter".

I wish I could show you the note here but this board doesn't have graphics.

My wife saw it and crumpled it up, to throw it out. "Wait," I told her, "There may be more to the story."

So I called the guy. Yes, it is amateurish, he said, but he picks up an average $10,000 worth of business for three hours of door knocking. He goes into neighbourhoods where the roof conduit services may be relevant and knocks on doors where he senses the service can be useful. Most of his business comes right from the door-knocking, but about three in 10 call just from the note, which he says is deliberately handwritten to NOT look too professional. He runs a crew of three or four guys.

(He as far as I can tell runs a reputable business -- and also has a network of others whom he refers business to for a cut, such as asphalt and masonry contractors). Not surprisingly, he said when one house on a block used his services, he often sold serveral others from the initial contact.

I've got to say that this experience turned some of my perceptions about how to go about sales and marketing in this industry on their head. Maybe professionalism isn't the way to go. Maybe deliberate 'amateurism' is the most effective approach -- you'll get far more business by looking dumb and illiterate than slick and well-organized. Certainly, from a cost per hour/time on marketing this guy has it right.
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Old 09-20-2007, 03:48 AM   #2
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Re: So Bad It Works


Maybe for something simple that people aren't worried about this would work.

I know a guy who does that to get work hanging Christmas lights, cleaning windows and gutters etc, but I doubt it would work with a client looking to put an addition on their home or any large remodel.

Would you feel comfortable writing a check for $100k to someone who left you a hand scribbled note as their advertising?

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Old 09-20-2007, 04:58 AM   #3
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Re: So Bad It Works


Agreed, but I'm still surprised that 'amateurism' works so well here -- the average order here is $1K to $2K. For what other service would anyone spend that kind of money for a sloppy, handwritten then photocopied note!
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Old 09-20-2007, 07:47 AM   #4
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Re: So Bad It Works


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Originally Posted by Publisher1 View Post
Agreed, but I'm still surprised that 'amateurism' works so well here -- the average order here is $1K to $2K. For what other service would anyone spend that kind of money for a sloppy, handwritten then photocopied note!
We had another thread somewhere in this forum regarding appearance.
I've had frequent occasion to have to stop by a large ticket estimate when my schedule is tight, still dressed in work clothes.
I've found that appearance is of almost no consequence once they realize you know what you're talking about, in fact the idea that the guy who does the work is the guy you're talking to is a selling feature.
I keep the khaki's and polo shirts at home.
On one of the largest ticket jobs I got this year, the customer specifically told me he liked my down to earth, personable approach.
He told me that at least one of the other bids made him feel like he was buying a used car.
The funny part is I was far from the lowest bid, in fact one was so low it made him nervous.
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Old 09-20-2007, 07:53 AM   #5
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Re: So Bad It Works


I've said it before and I'lls ay it again, if you want to stand out don't do what everyone else is doing. Be ahead of the game... or in this case seemingly beihing. But he got your attention and that's the goal of all advertising!
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Old 09-20-2007, 05:09 PM   #6
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Re: So Bad It Works


Quote:
Originally Posted by Publisher1 View Post
Agreed, but I'm still surprised that 'amateurism' works so well here -- the average order here is $1K to $2K. For what other service would anyone spend that kind of money for a sloppy, handwritten then photocopied note!
No doubt. I think the allure for that aspect of advertising is a perceived lower price.

The thing about showing up in work clothes or in khakis, is all going to be that customers personal preference.

The more I think that you can identify with them and make them comfortable with you the more points you're going to score with them, people hire who they like.

If I go to an appointment and the guy is real professional and wants lots of info, I give him real professional and lots of answers. If it's a biker who's swearing, I'll swear and tell dirty jokes or tell him about my pet alligator.

Whatever seems to be working.
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Old 09-20-2007, 05:39 PM   #7
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Re: So Bad It Works


I'll agree with the above statements.
I think my forte is the fact that maybe I'm not what they expect on first visual.
Once I talk it's a surprise, I'm not the "ogre" I might appear to be.
An old, old friend years ago who worked in sales called it "painting the picture", you can actually attain a good deal of passive control over the texture of a conversation as long as you know what kind of medium you're working with.
The medium is you.
In other words, realistically know yourself, not what you'd like to appear as or what you'd like to be, then work from there.

I think of that movie "The pursuit of happyness" with Will Smith.
Chris Gardner landed the job that changed his life - for a fortune 500 company, wearing ripped jeans, a tee-shirt, and paint all over himself after admitting he'd spent the night in jail.
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Old 09-20-2007, 06:27 PM   #8
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Re: So Bad It Works


Interesting way to generate work, I have noticed that people like you to look your trade, such as in my work clothes, people are more responsive. Being nicely dressed and to the t with everything does not always work.
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Old 09-21-2007, 04:51 AM   #9
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Re: So Bad It Works


Nathan has cleared this link back to my blog to see the original version of the letter. Once you view the actual image, you'll see why I find this marketing success so surprising.

http://constructionmarketingideas.bl...-it-looks.html

Maybe, as other posters have noted, the market expectations of construction-renovation presentation quality are so low that this type of thing is really the best approach, at least for smaller jobs. I am trying to arrange to meet the letter's author in person this week because I want to see what he actually looks like and says when he knocks on the doors.
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Old 09-21-2007, 08:01 AM   #10
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Re: So Bad It Works


That is great, I think I will just print it off and cross out a few words and change the number. Sometimes the best results come from the laid back approach.
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Old 09-21-2007, 08:29 AM   #11
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Re: So Bad It Works


This is going to bother me all day long. I'll collect my thoughts and respond tonight.


I talked to a plumber last year who had great luck with a small ad in a free newspaper, sort of a money saver the type that you find in the ghetto. He was running a very small ad, charging top end prices and people were buying. His theory is that people thought the bargain newspaper had bargains. He decided to take out a really large ad so more bargain shoppers would see his ad----it failed, hardly any calls! Needless to say he went back to a small ad and his business picked up. Maybe some people just shop for young, dumb, poor and cheap contractors?
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Old 09-21-2007, 08:31 AM   #12
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Re: So Bad It Works


I really wanna say "no fudgin way, this guy is full of it" (meaning the guy Rob that allegedly penned the ad) but what do I have to go on? I have to take this at face value. The problem I have swallowing the notion is this.. if it worked as successfully as this guy made it out to be, why doesn't anyone do it?

Based upon what you wrote here and on your blog: Your wife immediately crumbled it up and your friends say it was unprofessional. Perhaps you entertained it for more than 2 seconds because you are in the industry. Google the name "R.J. Norton Residential Contracting in Ottawa" and many different variations in both Google.com and Google.ca and gues what the only hit is? Your blog.

If this is for real and not some form of viral marketing for your blog (sorry to be cynical) I would probably do a bit more research on this guy than a phone call before you spread the word about this new, out-of-the-box form of marketing. People new to business may end up wasting valuable time trying something like this to find out it doesn't work (or that it does and that Ken missed out)
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Old 09-21-2007, 09:56 AM   #13
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Re: So Bad It Works


I agree this is surprising - but that is why I checked it out. I caught the contractor off guard in my initial phone conversation, so I am confident he spoke with candor (and I verified he is 'for real'). However, I would like to meet with him and explore this further to verify the substance here. He was somewhat reluctant to talk with me; expressing concern that he would lose competitive advantage if his model became too widely known. The contractor does not have a website -- his market is local. He doesn't even have an email account. I had to forward a draft of my original posting care of his mother, who works at a sizeable local general contractor (and who verified his identity for me).

We all should be have a cautious approach to initial reports. If anyone wants to emulate the concept, I certainly would recommend a very small test -- not a 'drop everything, this is the way to go.'

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Old 09-21-2007, 02:41 PM   #14
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Re: So Bad It Works


My Dad is a contractor and when I was a kid in the 80's work would be really slow for him. He's a small one man show with no advertising and gets all his jobs from word of mouth. He works almost exclusively for me now.

Well the winters were the worst and sometimes when he was getting desperate we would go spread flyers. It was a very unprofessional, almost handwritten note really similar to that guys note, just looking for handyman type work.

It was so unsuccessful that he only did it a few times.

Times are different now and this guys only advertising this one service so it's not exactly apples to apples but from my experience this method works poorly.

Wack
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Old 09-21-2007, 02:46 PM   #15
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Re: So Bad It Works


No way around it, the topic's pretty interesting.
It might work, but I see the most successful companies in my metro region with huge yellow page ads, expensive trucks and their names posted all over the internet.
In the same respect, there always seems to be another new barrage of marketing with radio ads, and other media from one specific name company, then it stops.
Wonder if there's a roof on effective marketing, where a contractor finds repeated success from ads, then decides to go ballistic on spending to discover that he'd been getting the best return on his ad budget before spending seriously on broader exposure...to discover the returns at that level are minimal, not worthwhile.
There are countless dozens of dead ends in advertizing & marketing.
I don't imagine the sales guy in the marketing dept at any particular ad svc is going to let you in on realistic stats.
Maybe this fella is onto something.
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Old 09-22-2007, 05:22 PM   #16
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Re: So Bad It Works


I know some builders who advertise for a while, and then you don't hear much from them for a while and I've wondered before why they leave so suddenly too.

I asked one and he said he advertised till he got the amount of work coming in that he wanted then stopped. Seems they have enough work just from old advertising that they don't need to keep spending money getting more work than they can do. When all those leads die down and they want more again he'll advertise big again.
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Old 09-22-2007, 05:27 PM   #17
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Re: So Bad It Works


Bingo, thats gotta be it.
Makes a world of sense...residual business.
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Old 09-22-2007, 07:10 PM   #18
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Re: So Bad It Works


Guys I worked with in the car biz did it... the sack attack.

At some large parking area, rip up a brown paper bag & hand write, " I know someone who wants to buy your car, if interested call Casey. ph ***x

Sales were slow w no walk ups on the lot, and no rings on the phone.
At least it would generate some traffic.

The thing is, you got to have the right fast-talking pitch to generate a positive lead from a shot in the dark.

"If I can get you what you would like for that (3 yr old car) would you be interested in our new Zoomie Crusher fully equipped just the way you like 'em? ... How about your mother, father, sister, preacher, etc.

Cold call sales is the hardest think to do. If someone replies to your query, you've got a legitimate prospect.
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Old 09-23-2007, 08:52 PM   #19
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Re: So Bad It Works


So bad it works

Call me old school, but I have a problem with that type of advertising. I don't expect perfection, but I like to read things that I hope people actually tried to do it right.

I have been looking for another employee for the last couple of weeks, and I am amazed how many people send resume's with spelling mistakes. You would think if you can send a email, you could also click on spell check . I hope they were not trained by the contractor in Ottawa into thinking "So bad it works" I wonder if he was to receive a job application done in the format he uses if they would get a interview....I bet not.

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Old 09-23-2007, 08:59 PM   #20
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Re: So Bad It Works


You are right, I wouldn't hire him -- and he certainly wouldn't get any business at our household.
But he told me his approach works and he does it deliberately. I hope he will meet with me tomorrow -- I really want to get a picture of him/his crew.

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