While neighbors eat hot dogs and chat with Kearns Brothers' sales reps, the crew is at work.
While neighbors eat hot dogs and chat with Kearns Brothers' sales reps, the crew is at work.

It's Saturday afternoon, and what could be more entertaining than watching a crew put a roof on?

Well, not much, apparently, for the 20 people who came to see a crew from Detroit–area home improvement company Kearns Brothers do just that.

Gary Kearns, vice president of sales and marketing for the Dearborn, Mich., operation, put a new spin on proximity marketing when he invited area homeowners to a cookout at a client's home. While neighbors ate hot dogs and chatted with two Kearns Brothers sales reps and a regional manager from roofing supplier GAF, the company's crew was nailing down flashing and shingles. The barbecue, a three-hour affair, resulted in the sale of a roofing, a siding, and a window job. Total business generated? $36,000.

Ingredients For Success Kearns Brothers now puts on three neighborhood events a year. The key to making them successful, Gary Kearns says, is “the right clients and the right neighborhood”; that is, one “where people actually know one another.”

The Kearns Brothers clients who allow their home to be used as a showcase for the company are treated to a getaway vacation: three days and two nights at a place within driving distance (Chicago, for example). The company also raffles off another trip as part of the event.

Kearns estimates that the company spent about $600 (renting the hot dog cart and purchasing the vacations) and a total of about 14 hours of company time organizing the event and contacting neighbors via phone and fliers to invite them.

Fear Remover Kearns points out that many homeowners who might need some kind of home improvement — say, a new roof, or siding — are reluctant to act because they fear dealing with contractors. Neighborhood events remove that fear. The Kearns Brothers reps talk about and explain the finer points of a roofing job to neighbors while the crew is on the roof doing the actual installation.

“They watch us flash a valley, or lay down 6 feet of vapor barrier, and we explain what we're doing and why,” Kearns says. “[The homeowners] are getting an education without having to go through the actual job.” The hardest part of organizing a neighborhood event, he says, is just setting the process in motion. Once that's done, just “pray for great weather.”