Working Smarter with Digital Tools

We are all looking to work smarter. In my role, I frequently survey our customers to gain ideas for products, processes or solutions that would make their life easier in the field.

Last year, I surveyed architects and designers to identify the changes they are undergoing and what methods of information delivery best suited their current process of specifying products for their projects. One of the items that piqued my interest was that 80 percent of architects start their search for product information on the web. 

The need for printed resources such as the “3-ring architect binder” has changed significantly from what it once was; hard-copy binders used to be the primary source for architects seeking product information, installation instructions, technical data, code approvals, and occasionally a bit of inspiration.  More recently, changes in technology combined with the more rapid pace with which products are developed and brought to market have made the internet a natural place to house these types of information.

With the shrinking market in the build community, there is also the reality that many architects have abandoned larger offices for small spaces or home offices.  Some may also have limited access to junior architects or interns to research products and need tools that save them time and resources.  Design professionals in these situations do not have room for large, binder driven libraries.

As a response to these changes, the siding section of the CertainTeed website now has a digital architect binder with product information and specification documents for siding, house wrap, fence, rail, deck and trim products laid out just as they would be found in the traditional 3-ring binder.  The information is easy to find, always current, available 24/7, and does not take up valuable office workspace.

Now that is what I call working smarter.

Get “Social” with Potential Customers

Matt Gibson

Social media provides the contractor of today with highly effective ways to increase name recognition and reach potential customers. Increasingly, consumers look to the internet not to the Yellow Pages to find solutions for their building and remodeling needs. For example, someone looking for a roofer is likely to do a Google or Bing search to find contractors in their area.  Contractors will want to make sure they are easily found by these search engines.  Company websites are still important to establish visibility on the web, but more and more consumers are using social media to share opinions and experiences – including pros and cons about vendors who are working on their homes.

When CertainTeed decided to engage in social media we were not sure if we could be successful but it has enabled us to engage in conversations and respond to the marketplace using vehicles that our customers and potential customers are using.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow contractors to:

  • Establish an identity, talk about their services, gain fans, and increase name recognition. 
  • Status updates and tweets provide an opportunity to spread messages about recent projects, services, and offers. 
  • Profile pages give contractors a means of explaining what sets their business apart and allows people to endorse the company by becoming “Fans” or indicating that they “Like” the business. 

When someone indicates that they “Like” a certain business on Facebook, for example, it appears on their profile page.  Anyone who has access to that page sees the name of the business.  “Friends” or “Fans” of a business are making a public declaration of support and respect for that business and the services they provide.

Posting videos to You Tube can give the recognition of a television commercial.  Contractors can easily upload their own videos, which can be e-mailed or shared on social media sites.    Video cameras such as Flip give great resolution and high quality sound for an extremely reasonable price.  Videos provide an opportunity to show services, successes, and distinctions in a variety of ways.  A contractor can post satisfied client interviews, before and after shots of jobs, product cleaning and care instructions, minor repair advice, step-by-step guides of what to expect in the remodeling process, how to assess damage caused by hailstorms, and more.

It is easier than ever for a contractor to engage with potential customers in a medium that they prefer. Utilizing social media tools sets a contractor apart from his peers and gives the exposure necessary to compete in today’s business world.

Matt Gibson is Manager, Contractor Programs for CertainTeed Siding Products Group

Show Us Your CertainTeed Successes

As a member of the Siding Products group and a huge fan of CertainTeed building products, there is no better feeling for me than having our contractors share pictures of their finished projects using our products.  Like a song or a play that is not complete until it is performed, the same can be said for our products – the process is not complete until they are showcased on a home or building.

Because we love to see these end results, we recently launched the “Your Take” Video Contest asking industry professionals to grab their video cameras, shoot their best projects and post the videos on YouTube™.  The “CertainTeed: Your Take” contest recognizes outstanding exterior home design and qualifies building professionals for a change to win an Apple® iPad™.

If you are a contractor, builder, architect or designer and have a project that incorporates one or more of CertainTeed’s fiber cement, vinyl or polymer shake siding, exterior trim, fence, railing or decking products, create a video that demonstrates how CertainTeed products help you achieve the best results, upload the project video to YouTube, and send us the link.  The contest rules and eligibility requirements are available at “CertainTeed: Your Take.”

The contest is currently underway and ends December 31, 2010.  The videos will be judged on originality, creativity and message delivery.

Take pride in your work and share your successful projects with us.  We want to put you in the spotlight!

Matt Gibson

Matt Gibson

Matt Gibson is Manager, Contractor Programs for CertainTeed Siding Products Group

Knock, Knock – It’s Google – Contractors Need to Answer

Matt Gibson

As I work with contractors across the country, I am continually surprised at how many of them are not actively engaged with online marketing tools. 

As social media gains a foothold with audiences of all ages, building professionals who are not marketing through a website,  or social networking page (such as Facebook), or posting videos of completed projects on YouTube, or posting articles and comments on a blog could be missing out on potential leads. The internet can be a significant, cost-effective lead generator that cannot be ignored by building professionals.

While direct mail and advertisements in local publications still have value, it is now becoming mandatory to have a website.  When a trusted referral is not available, consumers are now embracing the internet for research, and as consumers continue to expand their internet use the need to be accessible to them through multiple online avenues will become increasingly important.

Wayne Hollier from Hollier’s Home Improvement, one of our CertainTeed 5-Star Contractors, recently decided that he needed to have a website but wasn’t sure how to begin.  I connected him to a program called WebCheck™ that we offer to our credentialed contractor. WebCheck provides assistance in setting up a new website and, once completed, is easy for the contractor to take over, maintain and update. Wayne needed to provide specific information to set-up the basic framework but by utilizing this program his website was crafted to include keywords for search engine optimization of his website.  This added visibility has been a positive factor in expanding his lead generation efforts.

There are many tools available that are very user friendly to help you create a simple but effective website.  Don’t miss out on the opportunity to reach a new audience for your services; make an online presence for your business a priority in your marketing plan.

Matt Gibson is Manager, Contractor Programs for CertainTeed Siding Products Group

EPA Lead-Safe Program Takes Effect – Contractors Beware

Matt Gibson

While attending a proDialog contractor focus group in Denver earlier this year, the contractors were in heavy discussions about the new EPA Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (RRP) and the certification program which takes effect April 22.  I had first heard of the issue 6 months earlier and had dismissed it, thinking that it did not apply to the type of work that our contractors perform.  The excitement of the attendees at the Denver proDialog meeting prompted me to revisit the policy and enroll in a local training class for contractors to learn lead-safe work practices.  The class experience and the implications for the renovation industry were eye-opening, to say the least.

Beginning April 22, when a contractor is quoting work to be performed on homes, child care facilities and schools built prior to 1978, they are required to test the work surfaces for lead paint.  If testing shows the presence of lead paint, an informational brochure entitled Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools outlining the practices and procedures required during the work needs to be provided to the property owners to review and sign before the work can begin.  Currently the homeowner can potentially opt out of the required work practices if they meet certain conditions. There are very stringent requirements in the policy that outline practices to be taken before, during and after work is to be performed. These requirements apply to both interior and exterior projects, and can significantly increase the labor and material costs of a project.

Over the last three months, I have seen an increase in the awareness level regarding this issue, but there are still many contractors and installers who may be at risk because of lack of awareness. This is a mandatory policy affecting contractors performing renovation work on homes built prior to 1978. Contractors and remodelers need to be aware of this policy because it may pose adverse health risks to the contractor and building occupants and the penalties for non-compliance can be costly to both the company and the individual performing the contracting work, and can include jail time.

For some contractors they see this as a way to get out ahead of their competition by signing-up early but for others, they prefer to take a “wait and see” attitude.  One contractor in Colorado who is very well versed in this policy said he planned to avoid contracting jobs on homes built prior to 1978 for at least six months after the policy goes into effect to see what types of legal actions arise.

This policy has really hit home with our siding contractors because it directly affects work with replacement windows. While both interior and exterior work have square footage minimums that need to be met prior to implementing the procedures, all window replacement work undertaken requires compliance with this policy. While our industry as a whole has suffered in the last few years, the Energy Tax Credit has been critical in driving the sale of replacement of windows to improve energy efficiency.  The contractors I have spoken with recently agreed the impact of this policy will increase the prices charged for replacement window installation, potentially by as much as 30 percent.

While we applaud the efforts that the EPA has made in writing this policy, we encourage them to continue to evaluate and refine it further. Many industry experts that I have spoken with agree that there are elements of the policy that are inconsistent or unclear and could use further clarification.

As a building materials manufacturer, we urge building professionals to understand and comply with this new ruling.  We will be following this issue so watch for future posts.

Matt Gibson is Manager, Contractor Programs for CertainTeed Siding Products Group