Residential Contractor Programs
Are you feeling unappreciated and unloved? Could you use some extra help and support? If so, this is the article for you!
We talked to some of the asphalt shingle manufacturers to find out what sort of programs they offer their contractors and how these programs can help you and your business. There is a lot out there for contractors who meet the requirements, such as sales and marketing support, extended warranties, education, leads, and of course, free stuff!
CertainTeedCertainTeed Corp., Valley Forge, Pa., calls its programs the Contractor's EDGE™. Credentials that the individual contractor can earn are the Master Shingle Applicator, designed for the shingle installer; and the Quality Master, a credential that provides product and sales knowledge.
Companies can achieve ShingleMaster Company or SELECT Shingle Roofer. "Both of these credentials are education-based and give the company a way to differentiate itself and gain a sales advantage, including extended warranties," says Jay Butch, director of contractor programs. "In addition to the training aspect and sales support, credentialed companies can earn Roofer's Rewards from CertainTeed to help offset business expenses." These reward dollars can be used for various advertising, insurance, dues and training expenses.
CertainTeed also offers a Business Resources catalog that is full of brochures, videos, books, audio tapes and other tools designed to help the roofing contractor's business, whether it is from a sales, installation or profit perspective.
There are also various seminars and workshops to address different business topics. "CertainTeed was the first manufacturing company to have open-forum meetings with roofing contractors and continues to hold Professional Roofer Advisory Council meetings with numerous contractors across the country each year," says Butch.
How do CertainTeed's programs differ from the others? Butch says it is because they are education-based and there are no fees that the contractor must pay to participate. Moreover, "Our offering is multifaceted and has something to offer to different styles of companies and their own particular business model," he says.
CertainTeed has thousands of contractors involved in the Contractor's EDGE programs. "We get great feedback about the programs and virtually all of the contractors are very complimentary and appreciative," says Butch. "Conversely, participants occasionally let us know where we can improve or if they have any dislikes-we like to hear constructive criticism as well."
For more information, visit www.certainteed.com or call Butch at 610-341-7732.
Elk Premium Building Products"The Elk Peak Performance Contractor program is designed to provide members real advantage, while increasing homeowner confidence in those enrolled in the program," says Matt Ellis, reroof market manager for Elk Premium Building Products, Dallas. Program applicants must pass an industry and Elk-product-specific application test, be in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, have all state-required licenses and carry liability insurance.
According to Ellis, Elk has the only program demanding liability insurance in every state. In addition, "Contractors must invest $495 and maintain an exemplary customer service record, as per a third-party survey," says Ellis. And watch out, because less than a 90 percent customer service rating will result in suspension and/or expulsion from the program and a loss of investment.
Benefits to the Elk program include the advantage of offering a 10- and/or 15-year extended warranty (extending the non-prorated period from five to10 and 15 years). "The warranty allows Peak Performance contractors an advantage over their competition and enables them to afford homeowners a valuable way to protect their investment beyond the best standard limited warranty in the industry," explains Ellis.
In addition, Elk provides contractors with a Web page, marketing materials, direct mailers, yard signs, logo-wear, a Web-based lead generation system and reward points to be redeemed for gifts. "The most important thing Elk provides is a share of stock and the option for contractors to purchase more with their points as they earn them," says Ellis.
"Elk has always been a proponent of the small-business entrepreneur-providing ways to reduce expenses, enhance profit and truly market themselves gives Elk a chance to help the roofing professional," continues Ellis. "Most important, we hold the contractor accountable-we don't give away our program, we ensure adherence to entry rules, and we hold customer opinion of member contractors with high regard and act accordingly."
Elk backs up the claim that it doesn't just "give away" the program. "We have been selective with our membership and continue to do so based on the per market laminated volume that exists," explains Ellis. "Too many and you don't differentiate the top tier from the bottom tier for homeowners; too few and it is difficult to create a brand that homeowners can recognize-that is our goal. While many contractors are members of multiple programs, we seem to have a high loyalty rate-mostly related to the quality of our products. We will continue to develop the program to ensure we offer a "best-in-class" program, one roofing professionals will be proud to be a member of."
In 2005, Elk will be presenting an entirely new program that will give the Peak Performance contractors huge marketing and lead generation benefits. Stay tuned to www.elkcorp.com for more details.
GAF Materials Corp."GAF's Certified Contractor initiative is based on two principles," explains Bob Fischer, director, Certified Programs and Business Development, for GAF Materials Corp., Wayne, N.J. "Help assure property owners their best and safest choice-by working with the best contractors, and as part of that process, helping certified contractors build their business and avoid hassles."
GAF has invested in over 100 tools, programs and services that focus on helping certified contractors in five key areas: 1) generate quality leads, 2) reinforce trust and help educate clients, 3) close more sales through differentiation, 4) reduce costs and 5) increase capabilities in installation, management, sales and marketing.
"For example, GAF Certified Contractors have access to enhanced steep-slope system warranties, which help them further differentiate and provide additional value to their customers," explains Fischer. "The Golden Pledge limited warranty, which is exclusively for Master Elite contractors, provides material, labor and workmanship coverage; and all Golden Pledge jobs are inspected by a dedicated professional inspector-not a sales person. As a result, certified contractors can offer superior protection that provides a real benefit to their clients."
Fischer believes that GAF's programs stand out because they focus on the contractor's needs. "This has been the cornerstone that makes this initiative unique-and right-for the best contractors, but not for everybody. That's why GAF only certifies contractors based on a face-to-face relationship, and we limit how many contractors can earn the rights of certification. Compare this to competitive programs."
For more information, visit www.gaf.com.
IKOIKO, Chicago, offers a program called ShieldPROplus+™ for its elite residential contractors. To achieve this designation, contractors must meet specific criteria. IKO requires that at least one supervisor and two installers read an application manual and take the included test (IKO does not administer the test). They must understand proper installation of shingles, ventilation, underlayments, etc. The contractor also has to provide proof of insurance and sign a contract agreement.
IKO's program is offered throughout North America. One of the main benefits is extended limited warranties. "The standard Iron-Clad protection period is five years and this can as much as double for ShieldPROplus+ contractors," explains Carol Perkins, IKO's director of marketing. She also notes that tear-off protection is included.
Another important perk is lead referrals: ShieldPROplus+ contractors are listed on IKO's Web site. "Homeowners go to the Web to find information for projects and purchases. So if a contractor doesn't have his own Web site, it helps to be on ours," Perkins says. "Consumers can fill out an inquiry form to find our contractors in their area. It's convenient for the homeowner and the roofer."
Perhaps just as important as being on the Web, the contractors get a certificate saying they are a ShieldPROplus+ contractor, which Perkins believes gives them more legitimacy and credibility when visiting homeowners. "We want elite contractors and credibility with consumers," she says.
A highlight of this program, according to Perkins, is all the freebies: job signs, business cards, door hangers, truck signs, logos, start-up kits, sales presentation kits (in a binder or on CD ROM), and more
IKO also helps its contractors by employing contractor sales specialists in target areas. "These sales specialists are100 percent responsible for working with contractors," Perkins explains. "They go through the binder program and train applicants to the PROplus+ program."
Perkins believes that IKO's contractors like the program because it sets them apart from others. "Extended limited warranties are something extra. Homeowners will pay more to get them and the contractor earns a bigger profit," says Perkins. What's the bottom line according to Perkins? "Roofers are tradespeople first. We help by giving them tools so they can concentrate on selling themselves."
For more information, visit www.iko.com.
Owens CorningBo Jackson, manager of the Preferred Contractor program for Owens Corning says that in the past decade, Owens Corning has been the industry leader, in terms of having made the most shingles, having the best known brand name, and having a strong presence in retail. "Now we need to become a leader in the contractor area as well," he says. "We need to establish that relationship."
To fulfill this goal, Owens Corning has introduced an enhanced Preferred Contractor program. Members can earn discounts on goods and services used on the job, including include Fastenal tools, GMC trucks, Sherwin-Williams paint, Safety Today safety equipment, Gateway computers, peripherals and training, Nextel wireless phones and North American Bancard credit card payment acceptance services.
"We have a large constituency, over 3,000 contractors in the program," says Jackson. "We want to form relationships with companies that make things that contractors use every day." Owens Corning will be expanding these offerings in 2005.
In addition, the Preferred Contractor program offers a promotional allowance that can be put toward business development activities. There are also ongoing product promotions that offer double and triple points, which can be redeemed for both product and travel awards, plus rebates on various featured products throughout the year.
Another benefit is that Preferred Contractors have access to new lead generation tools, including discounts on ServiceMagic lead generation subscriptions; enrollment in the Preferred Leads direct mailer service; use of the ProConnect contractor locator service that provides program members with a customized profile page on the Owens Corning Web site; and priority customer referrals from the 800 number.
Finally, there are improved ad kits, marketing materials and sales incentives; and members may offer extended warranty packages.
Jackson feels that Owens Corning has the leading program in terms of rewards. "Contractors get a percentage back based on purchase," he explains. "They can then reinvest in their business-computers, training, sales. They also get points to use as ‘lifestyle rewards'-fun things like electronics, furniture, tools, outdoor stuff, travel. It's a way to say thanks." Jackson says contractors are thrilled with the program and feel like they are getting paid for participating.
As part of the new program, Owens Corning is holding Preferred Contractor roundtables in every region to learn about issues and trends members are seeing in their markets and to determine how the program can best meet their needs. "Our program is in a continual state of revision," Jackson says. "We've been on a quest for deeper knowledge of contractors. We use roundtables to talk about industry needs, business needs, and what they would like to have to be more efficient. They are not product-driven events."
He goes on to say that contractors are small-business men who have to wear many hats: sales, marketing, advertising, etc. They are looking for solutions to problems and need help. "We are interested in the difficult things a contractor faces: training, personnel, applications, insurance, etc.," says Jackson. "This first year of doing roundtables was important to see the way a contractor looks at the world. Where does he need help? It's a really good opportunity to listen, not an Owens Corning commercial. We ask for honesty, the good and the bad. We will always try to stay engaged with contractors."
Jackson says he always starts the sessions by asking, "What is the most important word in the English language?" The answer is: relationship. "We're there to build relationships," he says. Owens Corning uses contractor feedback to get input on its contractor program as well as product development. Jackson explains that the introduction of Woodcrest/Woodmore shingles on the West Coast was one of the company's most successful product introductions because contractors were involved.
For more info, visit www.owenscorning.com/residential/preferredcontractor01.asp or call 1-800-GETPINK.
The Last WordAre these types of programs really important? Everyone we spoke to seems to think so. "These programs are important to contractors in many different ways but it all boils down to making their business operations stronger, whether it is better sales and marketing, more efficient production or better financial returns, these programs can help the contractor improve business," says Butch. "It also allows the contractor to get a competitive edge in his marketplace by differentiating his company as a true professional in the eyes of the prospective customer."
The more professional contractors there are, the more it benefits the industry as a whole. Says Fischer, "A close working relationship between quality contractors, distributors and the manufacturer is the best way to ensure that property owners receive excellent quality and value," he says. "If property owners are more satisfied, then we can continue to raise the level of professionalism in this industry."