Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a disgruntled homeowner who had received — and responded — to Rob Norton’s offer, expressed (at our house) in this photocopied, handwritten note. (See relevant blog posting here.)
When my wife received the note originally in 2007, we thought, “who would be so unprofessional to market his business this way.” I called Rob Norton and, in a fascinating conversation, he explained how the note, plus some canvassing, could generate upwards of $10,000 in sales within a matter of days.
Of course, this defied initial expectations. How could something so unprofessional be so successful? The answer, it seems, is that people looking for a bargain would expect nothing more. So they purchase the services.
Norton never returned my follow up calls seeking to verify the observations, so I took them with a grain of salt. However, other than readers expressing some surprise about the effectiveness of the amateurish note, I didn’t receive any complaints — until yesterday, when a homeowner sent me the following email.
As best as I can tell, you are the source of the Construction Marketing Ideas Blog? I hope I have the right people.
About a week ago, I was approached by a man claiming to be Rob Norton of R.J. Norton Residential Contracting. He was citing this webpage: http://constructionmarketingideas.com/archives/at-our-doorstep-the-10000-note/ as proof of his legitimacy. He turned out to be quite the scam artist. He worked the neighbourhood and talked a good game. Despite my better judgement, I hired him, frankly, because this webpage said nice things. I’ll never make that mistake again. His work was sloppy. He borrowed my tools without my permission (asked my teenage son when I wasn’t around) used them to work on a neighbour’s house and then never returned them. The only reason I got them back is because I noticed them in the neighbour’s yard. He hasn’t finished the work and has since disappeared. The address and phone number he left me are bogus, so I can’t find him. His hand-written note shtick might be charming, but in retrospect is extremely unprofessional. I will never again hire someone knocking on my door – too bad for the legitimate guys trying to make a living.
It would be really nice if you could change what you’ve posted on-line and reduce the chance of him scamming others based on your webpage.
I modified the posting to put up a warning note, reminding the homeowner (who identified himself, but who I won’t identify here), that I certainly did not endorse Norton’s services, nor did I intend consumers to use his services — my intent is to report on marketing practices for the trades.
The homeowner has sent two further emails:
In the first, he writes;
I recognize that you did not actually endorse his work and I don’t hold you responsible for any of this. Unfortunately, I had momentary lapse in judgement and ignored all the red flags that were popping up in my head. Like I said, he’s charming and none of the things he mentioned that needed to be done on my house were a surprise. I knew the work needed to be done and his prices seemed good (based on the assumption that his work was more professional than his marketing strategy). Hopefully, my hard lesson learned will help others. By all means quote from my email in your blog.
This morning, as I prepared to write the blog, I learned that Rob Norton had indeed returned, and appears to be moving forward to finish the job.
interestingly enough, Rob Norton showed up at my house this morning. First he stopped at the neighbours to pick up the tools he borrowed and then he came to my house acting as if nothing had happened. He did a little work and has promised to return later this afternoon to finish the job after the parging he did this morning has had a chance to dry. We’ll have to wait and see. I’m starting to think that he is not so much malevolent and conning, but simply unprofessional. We’ll have to see how this goes. I’ll let you know. Thanks again.
My guess is the job will be done, and the homeowner will have something of a “bargain”. However, I don’t think I would ever respond to something like Norton’s marketing message — unless I could talk directly with homeowners who I know and trust, who could vouch for his performance. A little common sense can go a long way in making decisions.