If you are a contractor who dreads the marketing aspects of your business, you’re not alone. Fortunately a lot of your suppliers have already developed the tools you need. They are hoping that you will use them because they know that your success is their success.
Central States Manufacturing
Every marketing professional will tell you that you should not sell on price, you should sell on quality: the quality of your work and the quality of the products you use. If your building is going to cost more than your competitor’s, why should anyone buy from you? What about the products you use—what makes them worth paying more?
Adam Haynes, marketing manager for Central States Manufacturing, and his assistant advertising specialist, Jim Dotson, would love it if you asked them to help you provide the answers. In fact, two years ago they decided to create an entire marketing package, the Marketing Playbook, that lays out all the typical questions and answers needed. They even went a step further and designed it in a flexible, easy-to-follow format that prevents your eyes from glazing over from information-overload.
“Whenever you sit down in front of a homeowner and they’ve already looked at another contractor who may have a lower price but a lower quality product, we really want contractors to have a conversation with them and talk them through the value,” said Dotson.
Unfortunately, too many times not much is shared beyond a color chart, and Central States is trying to change that.
“We know that a lot of our customers (distributors) and a lot of their customers (contractors) are very good at what they do, but they aren’t necessarily experts at marketing, so we decided we would use our expertise to kind of fill in the gaps where they could get more customers and please those customers better. That was the idea behind the Marketing Playbook,” said Haynes.
The Playbook, introduced in 2016, helps to connect the dots between distributor, contractor and end user. Both Haynes and Dotson believe that most marketing attempts fail because one piece of literature is expected to communicate everything, but most times the purpose is not clearly defined. The Playbook has everything, but is labeled D (Distributors), C (Contractors) and E (End Users) in a step-by-step fashion so distributors and contractors can access the right information at the right step in the selling process.
During its creation Haynes said, “We were hoping that contractors would use [the materials] intentionally at different parts of the sales cycle, instead of walking into a guy’s place with a stack of materials, setting it on a desk and saying: here’s some literature, let me know if you have any questions.”
Is it working? Haynes and Dotson admit they’re not quite sure because they are one step removed from the process: they deal with their distributors and do as much as they can to make sure the distributor gets the information in the hands of the contractor.
Curious, Haynes and Dotson held a focus session with a group of small contractors in the Southeast to see how Central States marketing materials were being used. “In the Southeast there’s a ton of small roll formers and installer-sold-direct businesses, so we wanted to go downstream to get to our customers’ customer. One of the things that surprised us is that the installers used our marketing materials to add legitimacy to their businesses,” Haynes said. “They felt that going [into a sales call] with nice-looking materials told the homeowner: this is a legitimate contractor and he will do a good job.”
Having the materials, however, and knowing when and how to use them is part of the battle Central States is hoping contractors will help them win. Concluded Dotson: “Everyone wants to go from 8 percent close to 15 percent close. It’s not only done by working harder, it’s also done by saying the right words at the right time.”
Chris Davis at DripStop (Filc USA), believes that getting to the builder with more selling tools is helpful for all concerned. “To stay on top of things is tough for builders because their main job is to be out and away on a job site. Keeping up with what’s new can be difficult,” he said.
It doesn’t help that DripStop solves a complicated issue that many people don’t understand.
“People don’t really understand moisture, even with DripStop people don’t understand why it works. I would say natural ventilation is one of the least understood yet crucial parts of the building process. We all assume it’s going to work, but there’s a myriad of factors that affect it. [Moisture control is] often neglected or handled incorrectly.”
DripStop is a different way of handling condensation in metal buildings, and Davis has discovered that contractors will advocate for the product to their building customers if they understand it. His challenge is to help as many contractors understand it as possible. “For me, the best way is to get in front of builders and explain it to them, then they get it. And builders who try it once, generally go back to it again and again.”
It’s a niche market, best suited for unheated buildings in areas of the country prone to humidity fluctuations throughout the year. “If the builders understand what’s in for them and the advantages to their customers, they’ll generally buy it,” Davis said, but “our product requires a little bit of information to know where the benefits are. The biggest use is ag buildings, livestock confinement, equipment storage buildings and self storage, places where you don’t want it to rain on the inside.”
DripStop provides product literature through all its distributors. One piece is focused on the builder and a second one on the end user. While DripStop doesn’t have a large marketing budget they are focused on getting their message across to builders who in turn will help recruit the end user.
If you build in an area where moisture is a problem, Davis believes a condensation control product can be made into a selling advantage. “There’s a lot of builders who are fighting against low costs from other builders and as such they have to find a way to stand out. If they are just competing on price, even if they win they may lose. Builders who are up-to-date on what is new and different can differentiate themselves.”
At CannonBall:HNP, they are in the final stages of developing a new sliding door estimator that will help builders market CannonBall products to clients.
“As it stands, there are a great many details gathered by builders when defining the kind of sliding door they want to create for their project buildings,” said Keith J. Thompson, director of product development. “The choices go beyond just height, width and weight; our customers have design preferences for their track, bracket and latching varieties.”
The end user also will often request add-ons like specific hardware finishes, guide systems, stops and weather seals. “Making all those choices can be complicated,” Thompson said. “Not having a level of product knowledge and expertise can lead to incorrect purchases that add cost and time to the project. Beyond this, simply going through the effort of finding all those part numbers in a price book, pulling together all the associated costs and creating an organized quote can become a lot of non-valued added work.
“CannonBall’s sliding door estimator provides all those necessary project and product questions up front—and updates available options based on previous choices made,” Thompson said. “It guides the user through what components are available, allows him to make or omit choices depending on his project and provides a full quote list of part numbers, descriptions, lengths, recommended quantities, piece prices and list prices. Whether you’re an experience estimator or a first time user, you walk away with a full manifest list of components, amounts and list prices for the project at hand.”
CannonBall expects the sliding door estimator to be available online this spring at cnbhnp.com. RB