Remodeling contractors are facing tough times and manufacturers have taken note. To help remodelers weather the economic storm, manufacturers have devised new services, offerings and incentives designed to strengthen their customers’ businesses.
A coalition of manufacturers support a program through Minneapolis-based BI Coalition Marketing Group called Contractor Rewards, which incentivizes remodelers for their purchases. Launched in February 2010, contractors gain points by buying products from participating manufacturers. Points can be applied toward 140,000 reward items, such as contractor-grade tools, office equipment for the business, or tickets to concerts and ballgames. The process is simple: Remodelers take a 12-digit code from a yellow label on an eligible purchased product and enter it online at ContractorRewards.com to start earning points. Because remodelers can combine points from many manufacturers, points add up quickly.
“Many contractor participants are small businesses and sole proprietors who use the rewards as employee appreciation gifts, door prizes at Christmas parties, part of lead-generation programs or thank-you gifts to customers,” says Tony Thomas, director of contractor rewards at BI Coalition Marketing Group. “With family budgets so tight and business owners working so hard, accrued points can also offer a guilt-free personal reward just for doing business with our sponsors.”
The program also addresses a communication void; Thomas says smaller remodeling companies had been feeling ignored by large manufacturers. The program gives manufacturers a way to reconnect with remodelers and give them the incentives to retain their loyalty.
Foot in the Door
Exterior remodelers can operate successfully until bad weather hits. Liners Direct, Roselle, Ill., is helping exterior remodelers combat the elements with an entrée into interior work. Dave Wilson, Liners Direct’s director of marketing, says many exterior remodelers don’t know how to approach homeowners about working in the home, but beautiful bath exhibits with attention-getting colors and walk-in showers can help them open up the conversation.
“The bathroom renovation market captures homeowners’ imaginations in a way that new gutters don’t,” Wilson explains. “Accessibility is critical in today’s market and our dealers can usually redo a bathroom with one truck and one installer in one day. The ability to showcase these services as part of your repertoire opens the door with homeowners for added work.”
A free application made for the iPad allows customers to build their own bathroom on the spot. Remodelers can help customers pick bath or shower color and pattern combinations that look good with their existing flooring and wall paint. The technology gives smaller remodeling companies a way to actively engage customers and provides them with access to an expensive design tool that only larger contractors typically can afford.
Maumee, Ohio’s Therma-Tru Doors also developed a suite of software tools to help remodelers get their customers’ attention. As part of its cloud-technology-based Sales Accelerator program, Picture Perfect allows remodelers to take a photo of a customer’s door and import it into the software while in the home. The system maps out which entry door system will fit the space and lets the homeowner select a door, showing them what it will look like once installed.
“Consumers have trouble visualizing what will look good on their house without assistance, and this software program can really spur excitement,” says Bill Wagner, manager of Go-to-Market Technology for Therma-Tru Doors. “Once they have the specific size requirements and select an overall product, the remodeler guides the customer to all of the options available in their market.”
The Sales Accelerator software also helps with accurate on-the-spot quotes using Therma-Tru Quote. Therma-Tru manufactures all aspects of the door (the slab, glass, hardware, etc.) so the software can generate electronic price pages and quotes based upon the customer’s specific selections. The software also lists what door components are available in each market.
Santa Ana, Calif.-based Behr has combined its product offerings with added services under a Direct to Pro program in conjunction with Home Depot. The program features guaranteed order fulfillment to professional contractors’ preferred location, factory-based tinting for color matching, color-creation services, free order delivery to the jobsite, and volume discounted pricing through the Home Depot. Joe Richardson, senior vice president of professional products and services for Behr Process Corp., says professional pricing allows contractors to offer competitive bids to homeowners and Behr’s jobsite delivery eliminates travel time to collect product.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the program is job-site deliveries are handled by certified coating specialists who are available to walk the jobsite and answer questions. “Especially in times of economic uncertainty, pros need to combine strategy with expertise to increase profitability and find unique ways to stretch their budgets,” Richardson says. “By delivering added value to pros, we are enabling them to pass that value on to their customers.”
Wellborn Cabinet, Ashland, Ala., has partnered with remodeling organizations under its Educational Grant Program to provide business education for remodelers. The company works with the Case Institute of Remodeling, Bethesda, Md.; PRIME (Professional Remodelers in Management Excellence), Newport News, Va.; and Remodelers Advantage Inc., Laurel, Md. (For more information about PRIME, see the June issue, page 62.) Wellborn Cabinet has invested $25,000 in tuition grants for its customers who must have at least $1 million in annual retail sales to attend the workshops and courses the organizations offer. The courses feature nationally renowned industry experts and business topics, such as improving production efficiency, enhancing customer-service skills and expanding financial-management expertise.
“We’re investing in our clients to help them succeed,” says Angela O’Neill, Wellborn Cabinet’s director of marketing. “At the same time, they have to be serious about improving their business education. There are still time and travel costs involved, so they need to be willing and able to go.”
The owners at BCI Acrylic, Palatine, Ill., also wanted to help businesses grow despite the changing economy. In July they launched Bath Planet, offering contractors the opportunity to become authorized dealers of its products in exclusive territories without becoming a franchise. Dealers are selected based on a range of criteria, including a commitment to Bath Planet’s company values and the financial wherewithal to protect the integrity of the brand.
“We replicated the best things about the franchise model—the consistency of branding, level of service and product—but there are no monthly royalties or franchise fees,” says Rick Hirschhaut, senior vice president of Bath Planet. “We also help our dealers generate good quality leads with national-level marketing materials customized for the local authorized dealer that might be too expensive for single dealers to purchase on their own.”
Bath Planet provides marketing collateral, such as print ads, direct-mail pieces, websites and search-engine optimization in the local markets, as well as national television spots for brand recognition. Measuring customer satisfaction is critical to Bath Planet, so every customer receives surveys at the end of the job. Because dealers aren’t in competition with each other, they also share their findings for best practices and what’s working with the national group so everyone can benefit.