It's not always so easy to come up with a good story.

Month in and month out I act as both a participant in and observer of the roofing industry. The main product of my "observer" role in the industry is this column. This column is commentary, but I do seek to share some of the better observations made along the way to help you roofing contractors prosper in your business lives.

The trouble is that it is not always so easy to come up with a good story.

So it is with your roofing business. Coming up with a good story, one that separates you from all the other roofing companies out there, is one of the most difficult exercises you can go through. If you expect to sell yourself and the products and services your firm offers, however, you simply must have a good story. No, make that a great story.

What is so difficult about coming up with the story of how your company is different from all the rest? The difficulty comes in when you begin the process of differentiating yourself from the pack without using any of the trite, common claims such as "We offer great customer service" or "We only install top-quality materials." Everyone is going to make those claims. Your story has to be built upon how your firm answers its customers' needs in ways that others simply cannot match.

I recommend a series of meetings with your key associates to build your story -not a novel, but four to six key "bullet point" items that truly separate you from the pack. The purpose should be to come up with your story to put out to employees, vendors, clients, potential clients, and all the world to see. Write down all the key points that the group thinks make your firm different, and then begin to work the list down by disqualifying the things that anyone could claim. Every claim must be the absolute truth. Certainly knock out anything that would not be significant to your client. Focus on the things that matter to the client, not the things you will do to deliver them. You should begin with an agenda and stay on task until you come up with a short list of key points that will ultimately form your story.

A great way to prepare for this exercise is to tap into the resources you have available to you. This magazine is one good "for instance." Every month we publish articles from industry leaders that tell the stories of how other roofing contractors conduct their businesses and how they differentiate themselves. Every month we publish unique editorial features such as Dave Harrison's analysis of a study we recently performed in partnership with the Roof Consultants Institute (see page XX). Roofing Contractor comes loaded with excellent business, safety, product and technical advice from the top cast of contributors in the industry.

Other resources available to roofing contractors include the manufacturers of roofing materials. On the commercial side, manufacturers offer training and certification programs that allow contractors to distinguish themselves. These programs frequently include marketing materials that will help you get your story out to your client list. Nearly all residential roofing manufacturers have programs that offer training opportunities for you and your people, and certifications that qualify you for extended "system" warranty offerings. Trade associations offer training opportunities and some even offer certifications that are unique in the industry.

Once your group has come up with the key points of differentiation, it becomes your job to continuously promote and reinforce them. Your story should make its way into the minds of everyone in the firm, and then to all of your marketing and promotional materials, and then on to the rest of the world. Keep it simple and keep it fresh. Last year's message may no longer be so meaningful to your clientele.

I have observed over the years that many roof-contracting firms really do have a great story. Some, however, are better at telling their story than others. The ones who know what their story is, and how to tell it, are generally the ones who secure the most valuable, best-paying business.

Give us a call or drop us a line. Roofing Contractor is always looking for the next great story!