Looking back over the last decade, 2008 was an overall average demand year, according to Sheree Bargabos, President of the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association and President of Roofing and Asphalt for Owens Corning.
“However, the year was anything but average in terms of market dynamics,” Bargabos said. “Low new construction demand was offset by the high number of storms and the rising costs of raw materials.”
“It was a challenging year, especially for contractors as they worked to balance various, and at times conflicting, economic forces,” she said. “Despite those challenges, 2008 was a year that manufacturers continued to help broaden opportunities in the roofing industry with enhanced shingle and accessory options helping create more opportunity at the top of the house for everyone in our industry.”
Bargabos said the current state of the economy is tumultuous, but she noted the roofing industry generally fluctuates less than the economy.
“We know historically that people invest in their homes when things are good, but it is also true that when times are tough and money tight, roof replacement is still necessary,” Bargabos said. “And while it is unwise to predict how weather will impact our industry, we do know that it can greatly affect outcomes.”
“Overall, our industry is strong, nimble and foundational to a home’s longevity,” she continued. “Understanding that volatile times demand shifting approaches to more variable cost and less fixed cost always helps weather the storms.”
Bargabos said the objective in 2009 is to be successful while being mindful of what you can control. “You can’t control the weather or the economy, but you can control a share of the market by selling smarter,” she said. “You need to not only provide the right products and services but also prove your value in how you work with the customer to explain how you will help meet their needs; moving the conversation beyond just the price point.”
“Also, think holistically about roofing as an integrated system and consider offering related services such as a properly insulated attic, which support the roofing system and extend your business.”
Bargabos urged contractors to take the time to educate potential customers about the full complement of products that comprise an integrated roofing system. “Homeowners have minimal awareness of the components involved in making the top of their house durable and energy efficient,” she said. “Taking the time to provide them with information about the complete system gives you a powerful opportunity to up-sell and to manage price point justification.”
“Most importantly, market your value rather than focusing simply on delivered price,” Bargabos said. “Quality products and services build reputation and word of mouth particularly in a volatile market. They will set you apart and drive business. Don’t underestimate the power of referrals. Now more than ever, customer service will be a key.”