By Todd Rose
Decorative concrete has long been competing against pavers. Stamped and stenciled concrete have been rapidly grabbing market share in the exterior hardscapes market of patios, driveways and paving. The reasons are many -- decorative concrete is more durable, requires less maintenance and typically costs less compared to properly installed pavers. Many "traditional" landscape architects have been reluctant to spec and design with decorative concrete. I have heard many a landscape architect say "stamped concrete just looks fake." But those who embrace it are seeing its advantages. So get ready --stenciled concrete may be the answer to increasing your market share and setting yourself apart from your competition.
Taking on any new product offering requires research and writing a marketing plan. I have a system for writing a five to ten minute marketing plan that I inherited from a college professor. I'll share it here with you. First, you state your idea and/or question -- Should I offer stenciled concrete in my current business? Then you answer the who, what, where, how, and why.
Who may want or need this service?
What is it?
Where will I offer and install stenciled concrete?
How will I offer and install stenciled concrete?
Why will stenciled concrete be attractive to our customers?
Any book on marketing will explain marketing not as advertising and selling like most folks think, but the 4 Ps -- Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Let's take a look at each of the 4 Ps and let them guide you in your decision on whether to add stenciled concrete to your services.
Stenciled concrete has several benefits over stamped concrete and pavers. When compared to pavers three benefits come to mind -- cost, aesthetics and reinforcement. In Lincoln, Neb., where our main office is located, properly installed pavers average around 25 percent higher in cost compared to stamped or stenciled concrete. Stenciled and stamped concrete can be reinforced to suit any structural demand. Pavers can be structurally reinforced with a concrete sub-base, but now their costs have increased even more.
In our city pavers have been used extensively in the downtown area. After only a few years the pavers have begun to come up, become a trip hazard, make snow removal difficult, added costs for maintaining a city already over budget and simply have become unsightly. Stenciled concrete crosswalks that I have been involved with installing have created a flatter plane than stamped concrete or pavers, allowing for easier snow removal. Cities have become increasingly aware of the need to make their city attractive to new commerce and families. Economic stimulus money has seen a sharp incline in these downtown revitalization projects. When cities learn stenciled concrete has a lower installation cost and less maintenance cost over pavers and stamped concrete, it is an easy decision to spec and design with stenciled concrete.
When I first entered the decorative concrete industry, stenciled concrete had a reputation for being cheap or of lesser quality than stamped concrete. When a customer comes to our showroom and sees the different colored joints with stenciled concrete it has been an easy sell -- they say it looks more realistic. I enjoy hearing traditional landscape architects, who swore to never spec decorative concrete, now say they see the benefits of concrete.
Properly installed pavers require a concrete base in our freeze-thaw environment, and simply do not hold up compared to properly installed concrete. We typically price our stenciled concrete the same as our stamped concrete. Because I know I can pour more square footage with stenciled concrete versus stamped concrete, I can lower my price if I need to when compared to my competitors' pavers or stamped concrete; or simply enjoy better margins. Installing pavers requires a ton of labor, and stamping often requires thousands of dollars invested in stamps. Our stamped concrete is typically one of three patterns -- a slate texture skin, an ashlar and some type of random stone. Several of our stamped patterns outside these three often don't see a return for their high cost. Stencils come in numerous patterns, can have bands and borders easily incorporated in the design, and are unlimited in colors and textures when you utilize acid stains, water-based stains and texture rollers.