Best Practices: Test Your “Metal” in the Roofing Industry
Many roofing contractors hoping to hinge their businesses on a beautiful, long-lasting metal product have switched their businesses from commodity roofing to concentrate solely on metal. In order to achieve success (read as: profits) in this sector of the roofing industry, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Success as a metal roofing contractor requires a change in business philosophy as well as the ability to adapt to and put into practice techniques specific to metal roofing, primarily in three main areas: marketing, selling and installation.
Collecting Leads: Marketing and AdvertisingWithout question, a product like metal roofing with so many advantages screams to be advertised, and the most successful metal roofing contractors don’t skimp on their advertising budgets. A simple listing in the town yellow pages just isn’t adequate anymore, and especially not for a contractor that bases his or her business on a high-end product like metal roofing. The best practice in reference to advertising metal roofing is identifying a combination of several different types that will work in conjunction with each other so as to successfully provide the consumer with repeated exposure to both the contractor’s name and the product being offered. Many contractors use radio and TV advertising, but those mediums must be supplemented with other forms as well.
Generally, radio and TV work as a name recognition tool, and grant any other type of advertising, such as mailers or print ads, a greater degree of credibility. According to metal roofing contractor Mark Breashears of Metal Roofs Inc., Fort Smith, Ark., “Radio gives us a lot of credibility. When the homeowner receives this direct mail piece, they’ve already heard of us. In the back of their minds, it’s OK to call us because they’re not calling some two-bit company that’s going to come out and take advantage of them.”
In addition to radio or TV ads, a contractor can establish a tremendous degree of credibility through the maintenance of a quality Web site. Usually, a Web site address — if heard on the radio or seen on TV — is much easier to remember than the typical phone number. Many contractors will attest to the fact that their Web site is, in terms of cost per lead, their most cost-effective source of leads. After drawing consumers to the Web site, there are literally hundreds of different ways to turn that casual Web surfer into a solid lead. But the key to a good Web site is providing the consumer with just enough information so that they are excited enough to take the extra step of contacting the contractor directly to find out more. Most contractors’ Web sites, at the very least, include a FAQ page, a photo gallery of completed projects, and some sort of “Contact Us” form, which really is the key to parlaying that curious surfer into a potential customer. A couple of effective metal roofing contractor sites are: www.americanroofs.com, www.neverroofagain.com, and www.fdineworleans.com.
As mentioned earlier, the key to an effective marketing campaign is figuring out which forms of advertising work the best conjunctively with others. However, radio, TV, print, Web sites, etc. are still, to a large degree, sort of cold and impersonal. By nature, human beings are very sense-oriented creatures: we want to touch, feel, smell, see, hear and taste (well, probably not taste, in the case of metal roofing) the product in which we are interested, especially in the case of a product that we may not know too much about.
Home shows are the perfect opportunity to allow a curious consumer to get more hands-on experience with the product. In addition, it allows the contractor the rare chance to talk with and get to know potential customers. If allowable by the show, many successful metal roofing contractors will give their home show booths some sort of unique flavor or contest in order to draw a greater crowd. For example, set up a putt-putt golf hole and give away tickets to a sporting event, concert or movie for holes-in-one. Even though some people will just come by for the golf, a larger crowd still means a better chance for more leads.
One of the keys to home shows, though, is consistency. Many metal roofing contractors will get discouraged after trying a home show for the first time, and give up thinking it was a waste of time. In all reality, it will probably take three or four years of displaying at the same show before real results are seen, but with a little persistence and patience, the leads will begin to roll in. Remember: the key to every successful form of marketing is education. In the metal roofing business, these two words are very closely related.
Closing the Deal: Selling a Specialty ProductThere’s little question that selling a unique product like metal roofing is vastly different than selling a commodity product. The days of writing a bid on the back of a business card and dropping it into a homeowner’s mailbox are over. As a high-end product, metal roofing requires a little bit more effort to successfully sell. The biggest difference in selling techniques is that metal roofing will, almost without exception, require a professional, in-home sales presentation that usually takes between an hour and a half and two hours.
This presentation can be done effectively in many different formats, but the most professional dealers and the more successful presentations will utilize Power Point or a pitch book. Sure, there are some contractors that can go into a home and get the sale by just winging it, but since a big part of selling metal roofing is educating the homeowner about the benefits, some sort of structured presentation complete with third party sources, statistics, quotes, color photos, etc. always seems to work the best. Not only does this form of structured presentation appear more professional in the eyes of the homeowner, but it will also help the contractor stay on track and cover every point intended in the amount of detail intended.
Before the day of the appointment for the presentation, the contractor should already have measured the job and prepared a formal and complete quotation on a nice sheet of company letterhead. Then, before the actual presentation begins, the contractor should perform a complete needs-analysis study. This includes finding out what the homeowners are really looking for in terms of product benefits and features. This is easily accomplished by asking them pointed questions about themselves and their home. Not only does this make the contractor seem friendlier, it performs the important function of helping the contractor decide which of his metal roof systems will best fit for the homeowners, and thus be the easiest to sell.
A key feature of the metal roofing sales presentation will be a life-cycle cost analysis of metal roofing in comparison with other roofing materials. Many contractors do this by simply including a blank form in their presentation and filling it out with real life numbers verifying how much metal roofing will save the homeowner in terms of reduction in air conditioning costs, elimination of maintenance costs, overall longevity, and avoidance of re-roofing.
At the conclusion of the presentation the homeowners will no doubt have many questions, technical and otherwise. It is during this Q & A session that a contractor’s true credibility and trustworthiness might be established by the completeness and knowledge with which he/she is able to answer. It should go without saying that the contractor should be extremely knowledgeable about the metal roof system and the technical merits therein. For this reason, most metal roof manufacturers highly recommend that any contractor representing their products visit the manufacturing facility and learn how the products are made, tested and quality controlled. When the homeowner finds out that a contractor has actually been to where the product is made and has built a solid relationship with the manufacturer, it is just an added degree of security for him/her and another factor on which he/she can build trust in the contractor.
Pulling It All Together: Installation and Follow-UpSince metal roofing is a high-end and more expensive product, it is extremely important that metal roofing contractors display a very high level of professionalism when it comes to the actual installation. The greater the amount of professionalism, skill and attention to detail a crew puts into a particular project, the greater the chances for a larger amount of referral business from that customer. Generally, in the case of metal roofing, referrals spring directly from the customers’ satisfaction with the actual looks of the completed project, and the ease in which the project was carried through to completion.
First and foremost, metal roofing contractors should be absolutely certain that all their crews are trained specifically for installing metal. Most manufacturers offer job-site and factory installation training on all offered metal roofing lines, and contractors are strongly urged to participate. Successful metal roofing contractors always follow manufacturers’ recommendations for the installation of the products, and also adhere to all OSHA standards. Some contractors offer monetary incentives when a crewmember can display that he or she has learned a new skill, such as installing a valley, fashioning a cricket, installing a ridge vent, etc. This not only makes for happier employees, but also a diverse, well-trained crew that installs problem-free roofs.
Metal roofing crews should be completely self-sufficient so that the homeowner barely even knows they are there. For instance, Frank Farmer, American Roofs Inc., Flushing, Mich., uses a fully-stocked job site trailer for each of his jobs, complete with its own latrine.
When the job is complete, successful metal roofing contractors will send their customer some sort of thank-you card, maybe with a before and after picture of the home in a nice frame, or some other type of gift, or even a small refund check based on an extensive cost analysis of the entire completed project. Homeowners are absolutely delighted when they receive a check in the mail with a note that says the contractor had a little left over from the job and enclosed is the difference. A homeowner will definitely talk and talk and TALK about actually receiving money back from an honest contractor and the potential customers will roll in!
Also effective for obtaining new customers by way of referral: offer a small bonus for former customers who refer new homeowners, obviously only payable once the new customers purchase a roof themselves. Most metal roofing contractors, even those with large advertising budgets, admit that a good percentage of their business comes directly from satisfied customers’ referrals. So, if all else fails, don’t be afraid to straight-up ask former customers for referrals. If they’re satisfied with the job that was done, they’re usually more than happy to talk about it with others.
So, now that we’ve gone through all the best practices of a successful metal roofing contractor, the question remains: Is there anything inherently different between a metal roofing contractor and the rest? What separates a successful metal roofing contractor from a successful asphalt shingle contractor? Well, for an easy answer to that, just ask metal roofing contractor Dale Burden, of D & N Maintenance, Wapakoneta, Ohio: “I’m kind of like Liz Taylor,” says Dale. “Richard Burton, John Warner, whoever; they went after her because she had something special. I think with a metal roof, I have something special.”