Walt Stoeppelwerth was considered a leading guru of the home improvement industry. He spent years encouraging contractors to improve their business practices and charge a proper mark-up. He understood home improvement was a service industry, not a product industry. My favorite saying of Walt’s was, “Nobody ever bought a siding job. They were sold one.” I think of that often and it seems appropriate to so many parts of the metal construction industry. Nobody ever bought a metal building, they were sold one. Nobody ever bought a metal roof, they were sold one.
It seems especially important to recognize the singular importance of a contractor selling a project to a homeowner in light of our special feature on “New Dangers in the Metal Roofing Industry.” In this article (page 16) we outline the difficulties the entire industry faces when a homeowner buys a metal roof that underperforms. We look at the problems the industry faces because of the lack of traceability of a metal roof. How can the homeowner trust that the quality he or she is expecting is what they will get?
Many in the industry feel that education of the homeowner is the key to leveling the playing field among all the players-major and regional-providing metal roofing materials. I think there is a simpler answer. Educate and support the contractor in his or her effort to educate the homeowner during the sales process.
In truth, this has been the most successful education process in the home improvement industry over the last 20 years. Quality contractors know they can’t compete on price. There will always be someone cheaper. So, they’ve developed sales and management techniques that ensure the service and product they provide is of the highest quality. It’s a complete system that begins at hiring the right people, includes written processes about installation and only ends with superior warranty support.
The Metal Construction Association has a certification program for the metal roofing industry that seeks to give assurances to homeowners and contractors about the quality of the metal roofing products they certify. According to MCA executive director Jeff Henry, “Certification was created for the very purpose of helping contractors and consumers understand and differentiate the quality of high-performing metal products.”
At this point, 48 different roofing products have been certified through the program. Greater adoption by the industry as a whole will go a long way to evening the playing field and helping contractors differentiate against the low-cost, low-quality alternatives that still capture the homeowner’s attention.
There are no easy solutions to this issue. Selling quality has always been difficult because it’s so tough to articulate. Homeowners are wary of quality messages because they are nearly impossible to demonstrate. A low-cost message is simple and effective. Nonetheless, good contractors have developed ways to build the trust during the sales process that allows them to show what quality is. That trust by the homeowner is what the contractor leverages for success and protects assiduously.
My argument is put the role of educating the homeowner about quality in the hands of the people building trust and selling the product: the contractor.