When Mike Musto was in college he knew he wanted to own his own business. He didn't know what type of business, but he did know one thing about it: It would be driven by marketing.
"We've always been a marketing-driven company," Musto, president of U.S. Seal-Coat/U.S. Paving, says. "I know the value of marketing and not only do I believe in marketing but I can justify our marketing efforts by pointing to our growth. The marketing we do sets us apart from the competition, and that's helped us get to where we are today."
Musto started U.S. Seal-Coat in 1985, when he bought himself a trailer-mounted sealcoating unit from Neal Mfg. and started doing driveways. The company subcontracted paving and striping work but eventually brought those services under their corporate umbrella when they became a full-service paving and pavement maintenance contractor in 1994. Today the company (U.S. Paving is a subsidiary of U.S. Seal-Coat) employs 120 people and offers paving, patching, sealcoating, crackfilling, and striping from three locations: Woburn, MA; Plymouth, MA; and Hartford, CT. Musto says 90% of the work is for commercial or industrial clients with 10% done for residential customers.
Throughout its existence U.S. Seal-Coat/U.S. Paving has relied on a vast array of marketing efforts, and today the $16 million operation continues to drive its growth by marketing its services -- using cold calling, direct-mail, billboards, radio and television advertising, and a slick web site, and a vanity phone number -- throughout New England.
He says that when U.S. Seal-Coat first opened its doors most contractors in the market didn't have a professional brochure, so U.S. Seal-Coat put one together.
"Its impact was almost immediate," he says. "It set us apart right off the bat and a lot of companies have followed on our coattails since then and produced brochures on their own."
Musto says direct-mail success begins with compiling a sound mailing list of customers and prospects, which is something his company has maintained since the beginning. The list is updated regularly and added to annually.
He says the company mails one direct-mail piece - either a newsletter, brochure, or postcard - once a month during the season and intermittently during the off season. Until last year all direct-mail pieces carried the same message and were targeted generically at the property manager buyer. But last year U.S. Seal-Coat/U.S. Paving began to target direct-mail pieces to specific types of businesses. One piece is written specifically for car dealerships, for example. Another, written for colleges and schools, is mailed in late winter or early spring, so it hits when campuses empty and schools let out - when decision makers start thinking about getting pavement work done.
"It's a little bit more work but we think it's much more effective to send out a customized piece than a generic piece," Musto says.
Another aspect of its marketing for its commercial customers is what the company terms "progressive maintenance," or timely and proper pavement maintenance, which the company touts on its web site.
"In one 15-year study the total maintenance savings for maintained versus unmaintained asphalt was $1.30 per square foot, or more than $50,000 for a 50,000 square foot parking lot," Musto says. "Obtaining the best return for your pavement maintenance dollar is not a simple decision process. We can evaluate the condition of a customer's parking areas, design a cost-effective maintenance program, and estimate reliable dollar information for their budget process."
Using this approach U.S. Seal-Coat/U.S. Paving has developed a Corporate Maintenance Program, which "allows your company to have a partner in parking lot maintenance." The program includes an evaluation of the pavement at each parking lot, followed by a plan for long-term maintenance. U.S. Seal-Coat/U.S. Paving then develops a multi-year maintenance budget, and a repairs time line.