Rob Martin of Onyx Castings in British Colombia is building a solid brand, but doing so takes creativity and a lot of work.
“The biggest challenge for us is getting out there,” he said. “Advertising is very expensive.”
The company has found a way to get its name known, however: frequently attending trade shows and building up a reputation via word of mouth. “If you do a good job for someone and they absolutely love it, they’ll sell your work for you,” Rob said.
Quality work and their smart outreach strategies have helped Onyx Castings to grow steadily over the past two years, under the guidance of Rob and business partner Greg Robbins.
Working with Customers
Like many businesses that create and sell concrete countertops, Onyx Castings has its fair share of prospective customers who are unaware at first of their vast customization options.
“We can make whatever you want. When you tell people that, you can kind of see their heads explode,” Rob explained. “By getting to know them, spending some time with them, we can tailor to what they’re interested in.”
Some potential clients don’t realize the level of craftsmanship involved in creating custom countertops. According to Rob, explaining that there’s not only a great deal of skilled work, but also education involved, makes a big impression.
“People like to hear that,” he said, “that you went down and took a course from someone who does this professionally, as well.”
Onyx Castings makes small samples, about the size of a hockey puck, that allow customers at tradeshows to get an idea of their options. If they have something different in mind, Onyx will make them another sample, for a price, and no one seems to mind paying it.
Showing up year after year at the tradeshows helps Onyx Castings to build public familiarity with their brand. “People remember us,” Rob said. “As soon as we do the tradeshows, we’re smashing out quotes.”
Even customers that might not respond immediately will sometimes contact Onyx Castings months after the show, remembering the company’s name.
Onyx Castings doesn’t take every job that comes along, putting client satisfaction before cranking out as many jobs as possible. “If you want granite, you should get granite,” Rob explained, relating a story about a client that seemed to be heading in that direction.
The client, however, maintained that they really loved concrete.
“We said, ‘Okay, we’ll make you some samples,’ and they loved it. We got the job anyway. We’re trying to make relationships with people and give them what they want and make them smile and be happy. That’s what concrete’s all about,” he said.
As part of helping clients to get what they want, Onyx Castings provides a great deal of information on concrete for their potential customers. Their website is particularly well-developed, with a blog, plenty of portfolio images and a breakdown of the process involved when working with the company.
The Value of Experimenting
The crew at Onyx Castings spends a lot of time experimenting and learning. They don’t expect every result to be perfect the first time and, if necessary, they’ll start a project over to get what the customer wants.
“Concrete’s a very interesting product. It can throw a curveball at you, even if you’ve done the same recipe a hundred times. Breaking a few eggs is acceptable,” Rob said.
In addition to being honest with customers, Rob recommends constantly developing one’s knowledge and technique.
“There are lots of new products coming out all the time. To develop a practice and maintain that, but not test and try out the new things that come out is foolish and you’ll fall behind.” He mentioned that there are a lot of people going to CCI taking the courses, and that it’s up to the individual to make the most of what they learn.
“Whether you take it and run with it or sit back is up to you,” he said. “If you sit back, the people who take it and run with it are going to surpass you.”