I saw this contractor’s truck the other day, and it got me wondering why he isn’t identified with any particular brand of roofing. More and more specialty contractors are no longer identifying themselves with a brand.
Fewer and fewer contractor trucks, site signs and websites feature a manufacturer’s logo.
This is a mistake and a missed opportunity for building materials manufacturers.
It used to be that as soon as a contractor had graduated from handwritten quotes on a scrap of paper that he wanted a manufacturer’s logo on his new truck. Association with the manufacturer gave him credibility and helped differentiate him from the low-cost contractor he used to be.
It also gave him pride and loyalty to the manufacturer. Over time, this has changed and the manufacturer is the one who has lost out.
Manufacturers Frequently Ask Me:
- How can I find contractors to sell to?
- Why aren’t contractors loyal?
- Why do contractors only care about price?
I ask them, “What have you done for a contractor lately?”
Building materials manufacturers used to have closer relationships with contractors. In those days, they had more sales people. They called on contractors and had relationships with them.
I frequently hear experienced contractors tell me, “I remember when I started in business, if it wasn’t for (Name of manufacturer), I wouldn’t be in business today (Name of manufacturer) believed in me and helped me out. That never would happen today.”
- Fewer sales people meant less time to call on anyone but the largest contractors.
- This disconnect meant that there were fewer requests for branding materials as simple as a truck decal.
- With fewer requests, the marketing department decided they didn’t need to provide these materials anymore.
- Legal departments are more nervous when independent contractors act like they have some association with their company. They might get sued.
- Contractors, like everyone else, have gravitated online and manufacturers frequently haven’t kept up with this change. There is no outbound support from the manufacturer, “Let’s look at your website, Mr Contractor and see how we can help you make it better.”
Roofing manufacturers tend to do a better job than other types of products, like insulation, but even they have lost the clout they used to have with the contractor.
What Did Contractors Do?
Contractors got smarter and realized, on a local level, that they are the brand.
- They got more sophisticated in marketing thanks to marketing firms who specialize in their business and educational programs offered by their professional associations.
- Even if they prefer a brand on sales calls, they see little benefit to publicly promoting their allegiance to a brand.
- Rather than the manufacturer having the power in the relationship, the contractors now realize that they have the leverage.
- Some contractors went the other way and list many brands which doesn’t help the manufacturer either.
Here’s an image from the homepage of a deck contractor. I wouldn’t want to be one of these manufacturers.
What Can Building Materials Manufacturers Do?
- Get to know the contractors again. Senior management should spend time with contractors to learn more about their businesses in today’s economy. Of course they will spend time with their “Rolex Wearing” best contractors which is usually more of a schmoozefest than a learning opportunity.
They should also spend time with the up and coming medium sized contractors and learn from them. You are looking for their pain points to find ways that you can be their preferred supplier.
- Find ways to be the brand that the contractor prefers and promotes. Assuming that your products and prices are comparable, you’ll find that it gets down to customer service and support. For most brands, it is no longer feasible to offer exclusivity to a contractor so it comes down to personal attention and marketing support that can help the contractor outperform the other guys.
Online expertise is the biggest opportunity for manufacturers to provide marketing support contractors that will grow loyalty and sales. Contractors frequently tell me that their website sucks, but they don’t know where to go to make it better. When I ask them about marketing automation and content marketing they ask me, “What the hell is that?”
This is a real opportunity for manufacturers to grow their business through contractors. More on how to do this in an upcoming post.