Building Success by Building a Brand

credit: AUTHOR Chuck Ross of Qualified Remodeler Magazine – Feb 2016

for the full article go here

 Mark Franzoso started his remodeling business 35 years ago, with an old station wagon to haul around his collection of borrowed tools and, as his calling card, an ad in the local Penny Saver weekly flyer. Now, with a service territory that stretches across four New York counties in a 35-mile radius around his Croton-on-Hudson headquarters and showroom, it’s safe to say he’s gotten his own tools and upgraded his ride. More importantly, though, he’s proven himself and his business to be not just survivors, but thrivers, having bounced back from the lows of the last recession to activity levels last seen in 2008 thanks to brand recognition built on customer appreciation.

Franzoso’s contracting lessons began when he was a teen, working with an uncle who was in the business. Then in 1977 he started working for a friend’s father who owned a Connecticut-based siding business. He doesn’t spend much time with a hammer, himself, these days. But he credits his current success to lessons learned in those early days, when he had to both do the work and manage the business. He sees the professionalism and techniques he learned in his early days in the remodeling trenches as the basis for the success he’s come to enjoy today.

“I was taught a really good work ethic at a young age,” he says, with a nod to that uncle who got him started. Then, working on a crew with a master mechanic, he learned the craft of vinyl siding, “and little by little, I ventured into roofing and windows.”

Service offerings based on customer demand

Today, exterior work represents approximately 85 percent of Franzoso Contracting’s business, evenly split between roofing, siding and window and door replacement projects. Over the years, satisfied customers have reached out to the company for help with interior remodeling, so Franzoso has two crews that concentrate on that work, as well. And, more recently, the company has developed an expertise in energy-related work, including energy audits, efficiency-boosting insulation upgrades and solar panel installation. Ancillary home-maintenance services also are a part of the mix, including gutter and roof cleaning, along with snow- and ice-dam removal during winter months.

This may seem like an overly broad portfolio of offerings, but each service beyond the bread-and-butter exterior work has been added only as customer demand has been there to support it. Franzoso emphasizes his eye is always on possible returns as he considers new offerings. “Most people fail in our industry, because they’re good mechanics, but lousy business people,” or vice versa, he says, and he’s always aimed to do both jobs well.

Putting a face to the name to spread the word

One indication of Franzoso’s success in the field, and behind a desk is the importance word-of-mouth marketing plays in keeping company crews busy. Word-of-mouth referrals and repeat customers represent more than 70 percent of the company’s work, he notes, “I’ve had customers for 25 and 30 years – constantly they’re doing something different.” But this entrepreneur long ago realized the need to keep new customers coming in the door as well, so he maintains an ongoing marketing program that’s become more than a bit more sophisticated than it was in his early Penny Saver days.

“I’ve found that print has gone by the wayside – even the local newspapers,” he says. Of course, the company’s website is a big draw (a redesigned version is in the works). However, radio and television commercials, in which he’s the featured performer, have become the company’s biggest marketing resource – “they probably are our number one and number two marketing strategies,” he says.

“I do the radio and television myself,” he adds, describing the 30-second spots that often are developed around seasonal themes, such as renovation plans that might be inspired by spring’s return or the company’s wintertime ice-dam-clearing services. As a sign of the ads’ effectiveness (and, perhaps, the distinctiveness of his voice), he’s been recognized by his voice, alone, while in Upstate New York, by another vacationer who happened to overhear him in conversation.

Personal contact as a key to success

Franzoso has developed a similarly hands-on approach for managing a customer’s experience with the company throughout a project. As he explains, this process begins with the first point of contact.

“When the phone call first comes in, our staff takes all the information needed to communicate throughout the process, and if the salesman is awarded the job, the customer has the salesman’s cell phone number and email address,” he says. Contact information is provided for the assigned production and project managers, once work begins. “As a customer, you’ve got 10 people you can contact throughout the whole process.”

Franzoso, himself, is one of those 10 people available for contact, he adds. “I make it a point to call each customer and thank them for the opportunity. Tomorrow, I’m making three calls – two repeat customers and one new customer,” he says. “Everyone loves that we communicate with them and thank them.”

Counting on suppliers he – and his customers – can trust

With personal branding such an important part of his strategy, Franzoso depends on suppliers whose products live up to the high standards his customers have come to expect. You’ll see top-shelf labels throughout Franzoso Contracting’s website, including James Hardie Building Products – the company is a member of the James Hardie Contractor Alliance Program, giving it priority access to James Hardie products and unique training opportunities on lead generation, marketing and installation. The company is a featured siding supplier, and Franzoso says he’s seeing growing interest in the manufacturer’s offerings.

“We had a high-water mark this year – I think we did close to 26 Hardie projects,” he says. In a region that features large numbers of what Franzoso calls “old-old” homes, James Hardie’s fiber-cement siding, shingles and trim helps him fill an important niche. “It’s a great product.  Some customers want that original look, and James Hardie gives it to you with lasting protection and lower maintenance over time.” QR

 

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