This small business grows its customer base simply by driving around town
For most small businesses, word-of-mouth, commercials, and print ads play a large role in promoting their service offerings. But these days, more and more companies are utilizing wrapped vans to keep their company and services top of mind with customers in the community.
"Vehicle wraps are probably our most effective form of advertising because we're driving around the community so much," says Dave Knight, partner and marketing and sales manager of Thornton & Grooms in Detroit. "It's a moving billboard that's out there 25 or 35 times a day for our customers to see."
We recently spoke with Knight and Matt Bergstrom, president and owner of Thornton & Grooms, about what it was like to leave corporate America to start their own business, why they chose Ford Transits as part of their fleet, and what businesses should consider before wrapping their own company vehicles.
How did you come together to run Thornton & Grooms?
MB: Dave and I met each other through the industry. Both of our companies were bought by a national plumbing/heating/AC company that was buying up businesses in the '90s, and we just hit it off. At the time, we were working for a national company and decided that we liked the idea of becoming entrepreneurs a little more than working for corporate America. So we looked for a company, found Thornton & Grooms, and bought it.
What was your mission?
DK: It's really true to who we are as people: taking care of people and wanting to serve. Our core values were established from that.
Why did you choose to have so many Ford Transits as part of your company fleet? BI Studios
MB: When we bought the company 11 years ago, we had about five or six vehicles in our fleet. Most of them were Fords ... It's what we always had back at my dad's company. We wanted to keep consistency in the vehicles that we had and carry on the Ford tradition.
When I saw the Ford Transit, I was super excited about the bigger size because it was important that we didn't have 40- and 50-year-old guys crawling around in vans. Our plumbers are at a couple calls a day and they're in and out of their vehicles, day in and day out. So when we saw that Ford Transit, we thought, "We gotta have that."
We've had great luck with them. It's funny, when we first got our first full-sized Transit, we asked the guy we ended up putting into it, how do you like it? And he says, "I love this, don't take this back from me!" That's a testament right there.
How does being able to customize your Transit help Thornton & Grooms function on a day-to-day basis?
MB: Being able to custom up-fit the Transit is like having a well-fitted glove for our technicians. When they're out on a call, they know that their equipment is in the same spot in every truck that we have.
DK: It's somewhat of a recruiting tool as well. It's appealing to have applicants come through and see our fleet and know that they're going to have a well-stocked, organized truck.
Watch our interview with Thornton & Grooms below.
What was your reason for wrapping your vehicles?
DK: We wanted customers to see our name and our logo. We wrap the Transits in a consistent fashion so our brand looks the same anytime someone sees it. I also think it's important from an identification standpoint. As soon as we pull up to a customer's home, they know we're a legitimate company. Our employees are uniformed and we have a process we go through, and the vehicle is actually part of our process. It helps our customers feel safe.
What was the design process when you wrapped your Transits?
DK: Graphik Concepts has been really great to work with. The team there helped us develop the design we have now. They've been really quick, which is important because you want to get that truck out on the road as quickly as you can.
Have you experienced a tangible boost in recognition from having your Transits wrapped?
MB: I constantly get the feedback from friends and people that I meet. They tell me, "I see your vehicles all the time, they're everywhere." That's testament to the billboard-ness that we get from the Ford Transit.
What role does the fleet play in your overall marketing strategy?
MB: The cost of branding the vehicles is very small, but the reach is huge. We probably touch up our graphics once over the life of the entire vehicle - that's how long they last - so it's very inexpensive.
What advice would you give to another small business that is considering wrapping its company vehicle?
MB: Wrapping a vehicle is a lot more complex than it actually looks and you really get what you pay for. You should look for somebody that shows attention to detail and is willing to answer questions like, "How long do you want this to last? What do you want it to look like in 4-5 years?" Someone who takes the time to lay out the graphics with you and give you a preview of what it's going to look like - that's one of the most important things to consider.
What's next for Thornton & Grooms?
MB: Being out there in the community, creating relationships with our customers, and just trying to continue to grow. We talk to our team almost every single day about creating lifelong customers and raving fans. So every time we're in a home, we have that running through our heads. We're not a one and done or lowest price provider, but we're a provider that's going to be out there for you anytime you need us and we're going to do our best to do it right.
This post is sponsored by Ford Transit.
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