Are You Listening to your Customers?  You may need to be Diversifying your Business.

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By Heidi J. Ellsworth, RCS Partner.

Contractors should really consider the changing markets and think about offering more or different products and services in 2019.

I had the pleasure of attending the 2018 METALCON Conference in Charlotte, NC.  A great show and a great chance for me to really visit with a number of metal roofing contractors, manufacturers and distributors.  Business is good in metal and I consistently heard how the metal market is growing.  It made me realize that roofing contractors are going to need to think about diversifying to keep up with market demands that are changing due to economics, environment, technology and overall consumer demand.

The Metal Roofing Alliance, a nonprofit association dedicated to educating consumers and roofing contractors to the many benefits of residential metal roofing, commissioned a study in 2017 with interesting results.  According to their 2017 release, “As consumer demand for sustainable building products continues to grow, the Metal Roofing Alliance reports another market share gain for metal in the residential retrofit market. New independent research conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics on behalf of the MRA shows the total market share of metal roofing gained another 3 points in 2016, growing from 11% market share in 2015 to 14% in 2016.  Between 2015 and 2016, the total demand for metal roofing increased from 17.7 million squares to 19.4 million squares.  Metal roofing is second only to asphalt shingle roofing in the remodeling market.”

This hit home as I began thinking about how many contractors in the west focus on shingles.  In fact, the MRA has set a goal of having metal comprise 20% of the residential roofing market by 2020.  According to the Western Roofing magazine Sept/Oct 2018 Steep-Slope residential market share report, in the west metal architectural has a 10.5% share with metal structural holding 2.3% for a total of 12.8%.  In comparison to fiberglass shingles at 60.5% there is a lot of room for growth but there are many reasons that contractors should be looking at their product offerings.

Asphalt shingles are an excellent residential product offering but when looking at your overall marketing plan, contractors should also be looking at how diversified they are or can be.  Homeowners are growing in sophistication and being able to address their questions while offering several options is key to the success of roofing sales teams.  The demand for different types of roofing is growing and you do not want to be left behind.

I believe it is even more than just the types of roofing but also the additional rooftop or building envelope products that roofing contractors could offer.  Gutters are just one product line that many overlook often leaving it to other contractors to provide.  The same can be said for the metal on the roof, commercial and residential, that could be produced in metal shops onsite or in contractors’ facilities.  It is about looking at your total product line and production to understand how you can bring important products or services under your roof to improve margins, marketing and customer satisfaction.

On the commercial side, I consistently hear about the growth of coatings and the ability to offer roof restoration instead of replacement.  For some, that may be unthinkable, but looking at the current backlogs many have met the increased demand by developing systems and services that are maintaining roofs until they can be repaired or replaced.  A strong maintenance programs is a sustainable business that both commercial and residential roofing contractors can add to their offerings.

It is a changing world and good marketing means truly understanding your customers and their needs.  Following are some additional areas to Think About when looking at expansion.  From a marketing point of view, these are the type of programs that create buzz, lift brand and open the door for contractors to sell consistent good roofing services along with ongoing maintenance.

Think Environmentally

I know, “Solar is going nowhere,” wrong.  The ups and downs of solar is about figuring out the best products and the economics.  That is happening.  If you are in a solar friendly state, you need to be looking at it either as an offering or as a subcontractor.  According to The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®) www.seia.org, “The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70% since 2010, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide. Prices as of Q2 2018 are at or near their lowest historical level across all market segments. An average-sized residential system has dropped from more than $40,000 in 2010 to nearly $17,000 today.”  This means opportunity or at the very least something to be aware of.  If you are not involved someone else is on your roof.

Think Generationally

And if that is not enough, the next generation is thinking about it.  They are looking at long-term, environmentally friendly products as they make decisions; they are the next homeowners and within the next decade, the next building owners.  According to recent studies, about 37% of homes are owned by millennials.  Although buying homes later than earlier generations, they are bringing their distinctive buying habits to ownership including being more tech savvy, more racially and ethnically diverse and more educated.  They are researching what they want for their homes and how it fits into the larger cultural issues including social cause and environment.  Having the type of products that appeal to sustainability can make a huge difference in your marketing efforts.

Think Yearly

Now is the time to push service and maintenance.  Everything we do today involves a warranty, check-ups and maintenance.  Roofing should be no different.  Understanding the types of products that can be used yearly to update, restore or simply maintain roofs can make the difference in the customer experience.  It is much easier to build a relationship with a roofing contractor who is “Watching out” for a customer’s property twice a year then looking for roofing contractors when there is a leak.  This is not just commercial.  I can give a great example; every year we have our chimney sweep come out and check the chimney and stove.  Peace of mind is obtained, and our chimney sweep has yearly service and a life-long customer.  Shouldn’t that be the same for roofing?

Think Exclusive

I know that franchise can be a scary word but there are many programs available that are exclusive.  These products are usually centered around a product that is actually marketed directly to the home or building owner.  A great example is gutter protection.  No matter how you feel about it, these companies do a great job marketing to homeowners and you could possibly be part of their network.  Exclusive territories offer you a chance to not only service and install the product but also inspect the roof to see if there is potentially additional work.  Again, if you are not a part of this someone is, don’t you want to own your roofs?

Think Seasonally

A product for every season should be the theme of your marketing department.  What are you offering now that can make a difference in your customers business or life?  It can be as simple as hanging Christmas lights to fall and spring inspections.  Look at what your customers need throughout the year and make yourself indispensable so that you are the only one with crews on the roof.  Own the roof.

As you look at diversifying your business, think outside the box.  Think about new products like metal and solar along with new services including seasonal needs, service and maintenance.  Times are changing, and a good company and great marketing plan stays in tune with changing tides.

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