NRCA convention speakers give tips on marketing roofs to homeowners

Metal-roofing contractors gave marketing tips at a seminar sponsored by the Metal Roofing Alliance and Metal Construction Association. Jim McCormack of McCormack Roofing Co. in Anaheim, Calif., says he is relentless about following up on customer leads.
SAN DIEGO - According to a 1970s pop song, it never rains in Southern California.

Well, almost never. It did rain - hard - during the National Roofing Contractors Association's 117th annual convention, Feb. 22-25.

But that didn't affect the 6,000 or so members who came for the event. They are roofers, after all, so they're used to working in all types of weather. And when there were so many new products inside the San Diego Convention Center, the atypically damp weather outside may not have mattered.

For metal-roofing contractors, the show offered plenty of products and educational opportunities. Among the best-attended seminars was "Metal Roofing Marketing." The Metal Roofing Alliance and Metal Construction Association-sponsored seminar gave contractors tips on how to market their services to homeowners.

For those who do know how to sell themselves and their product, the results can be lucrative, according to Todd Miller, president of Classic Products Inc., an Ohio-based metal-roofing manufacturer. He said metal roofing already commands up to 15 percent of the commercial market, and although only about 8 percent of U.S. homes currently have a metal roof, their numbers are increasing by up to 25 percent each year.

Steve Kelchlin, owner of West Coast Roofing in San Diego, markets his company aggressively, and in unusual ways. Among them: He follows television news vans to local fires, hoping to be interviewed.

A ‘wide open' market

"Metal roofing is a door that's wide open to anyone that wants to go through it," he said.

Opening the door to sales is the goal of the association's current "investment-grade roofing" advertising campaign. The MRA is running commercials on radio, cable TV and in magazines such as Southern Living to promote metal roofing as a durable, high-quality product to homeowners.

In one TV spot shown to attendees, a perky real estate agent walks through a house with a young couple. But instead of answering the couple's questions about bathrooms and bedrooms, the agent keeps talking about the structure's metal roof. The ad uses the "investment-grade roofing" slogan and shows the association's logo.

Even without the national ad campaign, some metal-roofing contractors are already enjoying considerable success, such as Jim McCormack of McCormack Roofing Co. The Anaheim, Calif.-based contractor has performed metal-roofing work for 25 years, most of it on homes.

"The thing I like about metal roofing is that it's a niche market," McCormack said. "Ninety-nine percent of contractors don't do metal - and I hope they never will."

McCormack said he spends $20,000 a month on advertising and regularly canvases neighborhoods for potential customers. In addition, the company maintains a database and uses telemarketing.

"We have a saying in our company: ‘We follow up until they buy or die,' " he said.

Todd Miller, president of Classic Products Inc. in Piqua, Ohio, said the metal-roofing market is “wide open” to contractors.

‘Dr. Roof'

Steve Kelchlin, owner of West Coast Roofing in San Diego, is equally aggressive when it comes to marketing. In an area that has seen its share of wildfires and natural disasters in recent years, Kelchlin targets homeowners with fire-prone wood-shake roofs to replace them with fireproof metal.

"Standing seam is a huge industry for the guys who are doing it," he said. "The sheet metal guys in my area don't want to get into residential (roofing)."

In addition to sending out customer newsletters and press releases to local newspapers, he has become a "fire truck chaser," listening to the police scanner and following firefighters to disaster scenes, hoping to be interviewed as an "expert" by the local television reporters.

He showed a montage of his appearances on the evening news. In every one, Kelchlin - always wearing his West Coast Roofing jacket - discusses the fire-retardant advantages of metal roofs. In every interview, the reporter mentions the name of Kelchlin's company, sometimes multiple times. One reporter even refers to him as "Dr. Roof."

Kelchlin said his company receives tons of calls after such an appearance.

"Your typical contractor won't go up to the media, but they need us," he said.

(For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail