The Better Business Bureau publishes its annual inquiry and complaint statistics (see While these statistics do serve as a barometer of customerGUESTHS satisfaction in the overall quality of our work, they also help us develop an improved understanding of how consumers view our industry as a whole.

Here are some highlights from the most recent statistics:

- In 2010, roofing contractors ranked No. 1 in terms of inquiries and No. 15 in terms of complaints. Roofing contractors have held the No. 1 inquiry position for the past five years.

- Last year, consumers made 43 percent more inquires about roofers than they did about the No. 2-ranked occupation, mortgage brokers.

- The contractor category make up five of the top 10 most inquired about business types consumers did business with.

- Consumer complaints about roofing contractors increased 14 percent in 2010 — which moved them from No. 21 to No. 15.

By the nature of these statistics, it’s not unreasonable for me to suggest that consumers have a low level of trust for contractors and they especially don’t trust roofers. This is why it’s mission critical that you take a long, hard look at you at how you promote and sell your business to them.

How does your advertising differentiate and position you as the safest choice?

It’s not uncommon for me to browse web pages, Yellow Pages and display ads to find that contractors are all basically saying the same thing. Using platitudes that promote “highest quality,” “most reliable” and “most dependable” is something that confuses customers and leads them to think all contractors are the same. The lack of differentiation feeds their concerns and motivates them to pay much closer attention to your price. Customers are also unlikely to believe these claims, as these are things they would expect you to say about yourself.

Over the course of my travels, I have the opportunity to meet many roofing contractors of all shapes and sizes. It’s not uncommon for me to find that the successful businesses are those that offer and promote a unique promise that reduces customers’ perception of risk and sets a standard that makes them difficult to compete with. Here a few of examples:

- No payment promise — the contractor will accept no payment until the project is complete.

- Cleanup guarantee  — the contractor will pay the homeowner $1 for every nail they find on their property.

- Lien Release — the contractor furnishes the lien release upon receipt of the final payment.

- Lifetime workmanship warranty — the contractor stands behind the work for as long as buyer owns the home.

- Hand nailing — the contractor promotes their attention to detail and meticulous installation standards that ensure the nails are put through the common bond area on laminate shingles.

Everything you do must feed the expectation that you will deliver a significantly better experience than anyone else they might choose for the project. Offering a unique service or promise will distinguish your message and be perceived as a breath of fresh air for buyers who are desperate to find any justification for trusting one contractor over another.

Advertising should have less to do with what you are selling and more to do with what they are buying when they buy from you — and I’m not talking about their new roof.

What do you think are the top concerns that cause consumers to consistently make roofing contractors the No. 1 most inquired business type? What are their perceptions of roofing contractors and what are the factors that influence those perceptions? The answers to these questions should serve to help you reshape your message and identify opportunities to better position yourself as the safest choice for the project.

 The next step is deciding what you will do once the telephone rings.