Getting the right products to the right place at the right time and at the right price - any contractor will tell you that’s the key role of the distributor. But it’s certainly not the only service today’s material suppliers provide their contractor customers.
The best distributors view themselves as a partner to the contractor, and they have resources to help their customers bolster their businesses and meet pressing needs. In today’s sluggish economy, increasing sales leads has never been more important, and the right mix of advertising and marketing efforts can help contractors boost sales.
Roofing Contractor spoke with representatives from Allied Building Products Corp. and ABC Supply Co. Inc. to see how they help roofing contractors increase sales - and improve their bottom lines.
A Marketing AllyDistributors often help contractors with targeted marketing efforts and customized marketing materials, including direct mail pieces, postcards, door hangers and jobsite signs.
Tim Williams, Director of Marketing for Allied Building Products, emphasized the benefits of targeted marketing efforts to find leads from the type of customers the contractor is looking to service.
“At Allied Building Products, we are able to identify potential customers for our contractors to market to,” he said. “We separate them by income, ownership, and type of structure - even details such as the date the home was built and how long the homeowners have lived there are available. We have a large selection of marketing materials for contractors to choose from, such as door hangers, postcards, jobsite signs, workmanship warranties and referral programs. Our arsenal of available marketing tools is continually growing, based solely on the requests and needs of our customer base. We design what they want, in order for them to accomplish their goals.”
Training and DiversificationThere are many ways distributors can help contractors, including providing the training necessary to help them branch out into new product lines. Mike Schwarz, Director of Marketing and Business Intelligence for ABC Supply Co. Inc., said that diversification can be a good strategy in a tough economy. Contractors who can differentiate themselves by offering a broader range of products and services will be better positioned to land add-on sales and develop long-term repeat customers.
“One thing that we would suggest is that contractors take advantage of the many training programs provided by distributors and manufacturers,” he said. “It can really help them improve their selling skills and open the door to opportunities for additional revenue.”
Tim Walker, the Branch Manager of ABC Supply’s Fort Worth, Texas, location, schedules training sessions for his branch. Walker has been busy scheduling product application training sessions as contractors look to diversify their businesses. “Training has increased,” he said. “With the sluggish economy, contractors are looking to diversify themselves. Guys who have done just steep slope in the past are looking to get into low slope, or people are looking into adding insulation, so we’ll set up a training session to teach them how to install it.”
ABC Supply branches also set up one-on-one sessions with contractors. “If we find out a contractor is looking to diversify - to add siding or windows, for example - our salesman will contact the vendor,” Walker said. “It’s all about customer service.”
Our Showroom Is Your ShowroomThe distributors we spoke with noted that the showroom itself can be a great marketing tool.
“Many contractors utilize our showroom areas as an extension of their own offices,” Williams said. “With our large selection of products displayed from a ‘curb view’ perspective, homeowners can visualize what the products and colors will appear like on their own homes. Some branches have visualization software programs available for customers to manipulate various products digitally, using an image of their own homes, not simply a generic one supplied by others. Manufacturer supplied information such as warranties, certification statements used for the Federal Tax Credit for Energy Efficiency, and other valuable industry information is available at each of our facilities, making it a one-stop shopping experience for contractors, homeowners, or building owners.”
One way ABC Supply Co. Inc. helps contractors is by providing a place where they can consult with homeowners, show them product samples, and use a conference room to seal the deal. Kevin Hendricks, Vice President of Branch Operations for ABC Supply, said ABC’s Solution Centers are designed to allow contractors to use their local branch as their own professional showroom.
“What the Solution Center was designed to do is to offer our contractor customers a more professional image with their customers than their competitors have,” said Hendricks. “Using the Solution Center allows them to upsell more easily and gives them access to a greater breadth of products than they could ever take to a customer’s home.”
The Solution Centers include a conference area where contractors can discuss projects with homeowners. Information on all of the various product offerings is displayed using a wing panel system. Each product line gets its own panel, which includes a large photo of the installed product, pictures of all of the available colors, and an actual sample of the product to allow customers to touch and feel it.
“A contractor can make several trips back to the customer’s home to finalize details, or offer one-stop shopping with the Solution Center,” said Hendricks. “You can conclude the deal then and there and use the conference room to sign the contract.”
Williams noted that the showroom should be a place the contractor can stock up on his own needs as he fulfills those of his customers. “Allied’s ‘Contractor Tool Centers’ are in every Allied facility nationwide. Our major focus is on safety equipment, power and hand tools - items that every contractor needs and uses in everyday practice,” said Williams. “We also offer regular ‘Demo Days’ where contractors can meet with manufacturers and actually test tools and devices that enable greater efficiency and safety in daily work. We exhibit endorsed manufacturers’ products and samples to physically show contractors and their customers the quality roofing, siding, windows, and doors Allied Building Products distributes.”
Referrals and ResourcesDistributors are a built-in source of referrals for contractors, and homeowners and building owners often reach out to them first when they want to find a reputable roofing contractor.
“Allied’s presence in the multiple markets we serve attracts homeowners and building owners needing a connection to quality products and dependable contractors,” Williams said. “As inquiries for professional contractors come forward, we recommend and endorse our clientele accordingly. It is our commitment and respect for our industry to match educated and trained installation contractors with inquiring homeowners so the best results are realized by the consumer.”
Distributors’ websites are great resource for contractors as well as homeowners, according to Williams. “Visiting www.alliedbuilding.com/solutionsprovides a contractor with a variety of useful tools, from marketing programs to links to critical industry sites,” he said. “Many savings programs are available for our customers to utilize, including our industry-leading Passport to Savings coupon booklets, Preferred Cash Customer Loyalty programs, and soon a completely interactive site where contractors can create their own identity and marketing materials, personalizing them to satisfy even the most discriminating taste.”
When times are tight, help with consumer financing can be crucial, and Williams noted that his company is prepared to help.
“Allied Building Products greatly appreciates the efforts of our contractor/customers to bring value and consumer satisfaction to their home and building owners,” he said. “To that end, Same as Cash (SAC) financing options from $1,000 to $45,000 are available through a credible source that gives them a paperless, telephone application decision in about 10 minutes. Being able to offer such a financial solution when securing a remodeling project, quickly and easily, is one of the many tools Allied extends for our customers’ success.”
Success for the contractor equals success for the distributor, so if distributors can help strengthen contractors’ bottom lines, it’s a win-win. ABC Supply’s Walker asserted that developing great relationships with contractors is crucial. “Their success will in turn create our success,” he said. “We want them to be successful.”