Don Sincennes can teach us all a few lessons about construction marketing. My wife met him at a local home show where he had a display offering parging services under the name Mr. Parging. “Parging,” you may wonder, “would that service seem to be a little specialized to sell to consumers?”
Well, it turns out, Sincennes has discovered an unmet need. After some years of success as a residential painting contractor (and paint brush inventor), Sincennes decided that he needed to move to a marketing space away from the painting business’s intense competition. He settled on parging because, he says, he discovered many homeowners need the service but few know where and how to find qualified contractors ready to provide it.
Sincennes also believes parging is the ideal business to market primarily through door-to-door canvassing. Readers here know what I think about canvassing — you can see my classic posting about my visit to Columbus, OH to observe canvassing training in progress — but I cannot argue against Sincennes that parging, indeed, can be sold effectively through canvassing. It is an exterior service where the need is readily apparent from external inspection. And, unlike other services, the canvasser can quickly engage the homeowner (safely) by getting him or her outside the house for a walk-around inspection to observe and understand the problem.
However, I was somewhat taken aback when, after asking what percentage of clients Sincennes obtains through canvassing, he quickly retorted: “95 per cent”. This number seemed far too high to me, especially since my wife met him at a home show and earlier in the conversation, he said he had been overwhelmed with leads from that event. Surely, as well, if his business had any real value there should be some referral and repeat business.
Sincennes has clearly not kept detailed marketing and lead tracking statistics, but on reflection, he indicated that canvassing would generate about 50 per cent of business volume, home shows another 20 per cent, fliers another 20 per cent (fliers might be co-ordinated in part with canvassing), and signage and referrals the remainder. These numbers are fluid and aren’t scientifically based.
I pressed him a little further about his marketing costs. Excluding the time involved, he suggested that he spends about $3,000 a year on marketing for a business generating an annual sales volume of approximately $250,000. He pays canvassers a 10 per cent commission for completed sales. Sales range from $800 to a few thousand dollars. “A canvasser can easily make a few hundred dollars in just a couple of hours work,” he says.
Sincennes is franchising his concept. He he has already sold one franchise to a businessperson in Kingston in central Ontario. Franchises sell for about $35,000 and include the training, manuals, and business systems. Sincennes has recently received some positive publicity in The Ottawa Citizen. He says the news coverage has resulted in several calls, though I had trouble quantifying its value for his business.
The interesting thing about Sincennes’ Mr. Parging initiative is that, despite the somewhat unscientific information he provided me about lead development methodologies, he has followed some of the basic rules of the marketing game. Notably, he is doing something different — capturing an unmet need — and doesn’t need to face off with heavy ‘me to’ competition.
While I’ll pass on the canvassing angle — I told him bluntly that if he or any of his franchisees showed up at my door uninvited, I would slam it on them — clearly the business model has value if you are ready to roll up your sleeves and sell, either door-to-door or by home shows, fliers or other methodologies. In this situation, Sincennes has designed his service with marketing as a priority from the start; a good sign that it will be far more successful than most start-up contracting enterprises. The franchise offer may, indeed, be worth every cent if you are interested in building a different type of residential contracting business.