We’ve all seen the headlines and cringed: Elderly Couple Falls Victim of Paving Scam. The story goes on to read how a fly-by-night company came through their town offering quick work at low prices. These companies often use low-quality material as well as untrained labor. They spray black water on driveways and then quickly get out of town. They know how to take advantage of uneducated owners of single-family homes.
Many reputable asphalt contractors must compete with these “Fly-by-Night Sealcoaters" and as a reputable contractor, you wonder to yourself how consumers could ever fall victim to these type of scams. The problem is they lack the education needed to make informed decisions. This is where you come in.
You can educate your customers on how to protect themselves from these types of contractors. It can only help you gain more business as word of mouth is still the best marketing there is. Here are some tips to help you educate customers and market your business to stand out against the fly-by-nighters. These tips come from property managers, manufacturers and sealcoating contractors themselves.
- Be sure a current certificate of insurance evidencing both liability and workers compensation insurance is readily available.
“These negative type of contractors likely do not have insurance or a contractor’s license,” says Jeff Cayton, regional vice president of Neyra Industries. “Let your customers know they should do their due diligence when hiring a contractor. Anyone who is spending money on something should have some responsibility as well to make sure they are doing business with a reputable company.”
- Have references readily available. This includes names, phone numbers and addresses of past clients and number of years in business. This way potential customers can physically inspect your work.
- Customers want to know you’re using a quality product on their pavement. Be sure to have printed information on the types of professional-grade sealer you use on jobs. Preferably, this information should come directly from the manufacturer.
- Many consumers are looking for the easy way to get things done. Tell them that the easy way is not the best way.
“When they get that knock on their door, the homeowner immediately thinks: well this is easy,” Cayton says. “They can get this over with for $200 and don’t have to do any work on their part checking references and getting multiple proposals.”
These businesses are cash in hand before the job is even started and that should immediately raise a red flag to a customer.
- Many property managers will contact the local better business bureau for a record of complaints filed against your company. Know what those are and be ready to explain any complaint history.
- Make your business known in the community. Send out direct mail pieces letting customers know what you have to offer and always put up signs on properties with completed work.
“If the people in the community have received direct mail from you and they see your jobsite signs out there, that would be additional confirmation that you are a reputable local business,” Cayton says. “Those job signs are an additional reference for potential customers to see your work.”
- Marketing is your friend. “Let your customers know that you’re local, insured and offer free estimates,” Cayton says. “Make it known that no money needs to be paid until the job is completed to their satisfaction. That type of marketing I guarantee would make a customer feel more secure when making a decision.”
- Boast your company's industry education. Market yourself as an expert in the market based on any asphalt/sealcoating industry conferences or trade shows your company has attended.
A customer who has been marketed to correctly will be able to make informed decisions when these type of companies come knocking at their door. While the buyer should be responsible for what they’re getting, you can educate them on the basics so they know what to look for. Let them know that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Not only will they end up paying once for a service that ends up being unusable, they will also have to pay again to get it fixed.