Randy Grimes and Gary Aaron of Custom Vinyl Contractors wanted an alternative to traditional advertising to market their vinyl-deck system. Grimes, armed with a marketing degree, wanted something that they could take directly to customers.
"We don’t like selling off of pictures and brochures," Grimes says. "I asked Gary, ‘Can we not build a smaller sample of a vinyl deck with rails and steps?’"
Demo Deck, a mobile sales office, was born. Grimes and Aaron built a small deck and loaded it into the back of a pick-up truck to take to jobsites. There, contractors would be encouraged to climb in the truck and test the deck.
An unexpected side benefit of the Demo Deck: It has generated tremendous interest as the two partners drive their trucks around town. They have received "literally hundreds" of drive-by leads, Grimes says. And trips to local builder’s stores often yield more than just supplies. "I go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, and every time I get back to the truck, there’s a crowd," Grimes says. With that kind of consumer interest, Custom Vinyl decided the next logical step was to leave Demo Decks at various retail stores.
"I think this is the way [marketing] always should be, but with some products it’s hard to pack them into a truck," Grimes says. For contractors who would have a difficult time squeezing a kitchen remodel or room addition onto the bed of a pick-up, Grimes offers this advice: Give a physical sample of the product to potential customers.
"They’ve got to feel the product," he says. "That’s the key, taking it to them." Despite the success of their inventive marketing plan, Grimes and Aaron won’t rule out using more traditional methods, such as newspaper ads, in the future.
But for right now, the word of mouth approach is the most cost-effective for the company.
"If it was a real expensive concept, we wouldn’t recommend it to people," Grimes says, and adds Custom Vinyl recouped the Demo Deck investment with their first sale. Building a Demo Deck costs the company between $400 and $1,000 depending on how elaborate it is. To run an ad in the yellow pages, Grimes estimates it would cost between $300 and $500 per month.
"It’s much, much less, and we get much more traffic [with the deck]," he says, but adds it’s possible their marketing technique is too successful.
"We can’t even keep up on what we’re getting word of mouth," Grimes says. "Being a marketing guy, I never thought I’d say that."