A safe harbor
February 1, 2009
BALTIMORE - Metalcon International organizers left Baltimore happy with the way their 16th annual convention went.
Close to 7,000 attended the Oct. 1-3 event at the city’s convention center, making organizers pleased with the location - a new one for the metal-building show. They browsed exhibits from 350 companies.
“From our first show in 1991 in Washington D.C., Metalcon has consistently proven its value to the construction industry,” said Claire Kilcoyne, the show’s director. “We’ve been successful through some difficult times, including hurricanes, the 2001 terrorist attacks and this year’s financial crisis. It shows the strength of our industry, which also reflects the strength of the metal products produced by Metalcon exhibitors.
“We’re a strong, steadily growing industry because of the innovative products and applications of the companies who support this major event,” Kilcoyne added. “With over 82 percent of booth space rebooked for next year, Metalcon has maintained one of the highest levels in the trade show industry of companies returning each year. Plus we have an average 15 percent increase in new companies joining us each year. It also shows how important trade shows continue to be in building business relationships.”
New relationshipsAnd judging from the comments of several exhibitors, many new relationships were forged at this event.
Patric Wright, sales and marketing director with New Tech Machinery Corp. of Denver, said they were very pleased at the response from attendees to the SSQ MultiPro, a quick-change machine for making commercial roofing panels.
“This was a great show with more qualified leads than ever before,” he said. “The people who came were here to purchase equipment. From the companies they saw here they made comparisons and then made their decisions. We sold all that we brought and generated sales beyond that.”
Officials from forklift maker Combilift USA agreed.
“This was a fantastic show with a lot of well-qualified attendees,” said Gearoid Hogan, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing in the Northeast U.S. “It’s our fourth year in Metalcon and we put this event in the top three of the 20 shows we exhibit in each year.”
The chance to meet potential customers in person was the biggest draw for Janet Nelson of Odessa, Fla.-based Roof Hugger, which makes a framing system for retrofit projects.
“Metalcon was an excellent show for us. We met a lot of new, qualified prospects but also got to meet some of our customers,” Nelson said. “That’s one of the best things about a show like this. It’s a chance to meet the people who use our products because we don’t always get to do that. It could only occur at an event like Metalcon,” she said.
Popular seminarsBesides the busy trade show, Metalcon’s seminars proved popular as well. Rob Haddock’s two-part Oct. 1 series on “Understanding Metal Roofing,” a mainstay of Metalcon and other roofing trade shows, was among the best attended of the show’s metal roofing sessions.
“Rob and his program have been with us since Metalcon began,” Kilcoyne said. “It continues to be an entry point into this industry and its popularity reflects the growing recognition for metal roofing. This year alone his session had 60 percent new attendees.”
Among the other sessions singled out for high attendance were “Metal Roofing: The Devil is in the Details,” hosted by Vaughn Bacon, manager of technical services for MBCI NCI Building Systems.
“When it comes to metal roofs, details are where your money is made or lost,” Bacon said at the Oct. 2 session.
He showed some photos from jobsites of details gone horribly wrong to prove his point, followed by photos documenting the proper way to do the job.
“The harder you make something, the less chance it will be done right,” he said.
He urged contractors to think long-term when it comes to metal roofing. Metal roofs should last 20 years or more, Bacon said, so make sure all elements of the system will perform well over its life span.
“Don’t count on exposed sealant to be a long-term solution,” he said. “Use trim, fasteners and accessories that will last as long as the roof.”
EssentialsProper planning is essential.
“Think about your details early,” he said. “Details should be planned in advance and down in writing on the drawing board before you go out into the field.”
Bacon also explored common leak points with metal roofs, including penetrations, side laps and end laps. “You can ruin a great day’s work if the guy running the seamer doesn’t know what he’s doing,” he said.
“Roofs have problems at details. Probably the No. 1 cause of leaks is penetrations, and the most common problems involve roof curbs.”
Bacon recommends using curbs made from aluminum or stainless steel - something you can weld. “Monolithic curbs are best,” he said. “Run them from rib to rib, under the top sheet and over the bottom, shingle fashion. A curb is nothing but a water diverter. That’s all it is. Take your time and put it in right and it will last forever.”
He offered some tips for dealing with penetrations:
• Do not penetrate a panel seam.
• Do not use residential pipe jacks or those made for membrane roofs.
• Do not block the flow of water.
• Never use a starter “J” in a valley, as it can hold water and debris.
• When lightning protection equipment is considered, make sure copper or copper runoff does not come into contact with Galvalume.
• Do not cut Galvalume with a saw. “Do not cut these sheets with anything except nibblers, snips, shears - something with a shearing action.”
• Do not cut anything on the roof, as metal shavings can damage the roof surface. Make all cuts on the ground.
• Do not write on metal panels with a “carpenter’s pencil,” as the lead or graphite can corrode the metal. Use a wax pencil or permanent marker on the backside.
When it comes to a metal roof, other tradesmen can cause damage that will come back to haunt you, noted Bacon. He listed HVAC units with copper drain lines, masonry cement and treated wood used as pipe supports as potential sources of roof damage.
“You not only have to monitor what you do, you have to monitor what other people do on your roof,” he said.
An ‘American' success storyFrank Farmer, president of American Metal Roofs, did a lot of things before forming American Metal Roofs in Flint, Mich., in 2000. He attended medical school, sold windows and built a franchise tax business.
But American Metal Roofs may be his most successful venture. With $6.5 million in revenue despite Michigan’s struggling economy, the company has been recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States.
He shared some of his secrets during “Building a Profitable Metal Roof Company While Others Struggle” Oct. 2.
Marketing efforts should be carefully tracked, Farmer said. Business owners should know the cost for each lead, broken down by source; the percentage of raw leads converted to appointments; the percentage of appointments resulting in a demo; and the percentage of sales installed.
“Figure your numbers and work to improve,” Farmer said, urging contractors to look for breakdowns in the process and correct them promptly. “It does not make sense to spend more money advertising if you have a weak link,” he said.
When it comes to metal roofs, many homeowners research for a long time before they make a decision to buy, so it pays to market to people who visit the company’s Web site.
Old business“Twenty percent of our business is from old leads,” he said, adding that 10 percent of revenue goes back into advertising.
Detroit-area residents may recognize his name from his commercials on some of the region’s largest radio stations.
He also had a word of warning for contractors who are unsure of their pricing.
“Effective marketing will only accelerate the inevitable,” Farmer said. “You need to be profitable, and you can only be profitable if you have the proper margin.”
When it comes to leads, the Internet has changed everything, according to Farmer.
“Customers now do their own research and at the end they are just picking a vendor,” he said. “The sale is made when value exceeds price.”
Use “hot buttons” to grab the audience’s attention.
“Hot buttons are things that bring pleasure or irritation,” he said. “Irritation gets more attention. When people are upset, they take action.”
With roofing, hot buttons could be a shorter-than-expected lifespan from their existing roof system, excess heat or poor installation, he said.
“If negative hot buttons get their attention, tell them how you’ll solve the problem and give a strong call to action based on greed,” Farmer said. “What’s the No. 1 thing people hate about roofs in your area? That’s the hot button, and you can craft your ad to get a response.”
When a raw lead comes in, the goal is to make a good first impression on the telephone, gather information, instill confidence, and let customers know you can help by sending a consultant to look at their home and make a recommendation.
“When do people buy?” Farmer asked the audience. “When they like you, when they trust you, and when the value exceeds cost. Once these three criteria are met, you get a sale.”
People like you when you care about them, Farmer said.
“It’s not about you; it’s about them,” he said.
Farmer advised contractors to operate from a preprinted pricing sheet.
“Discounts must be real and believable,” he said. “They should also be preprinted and funnel down - that is, they should get smaller as you go.”
At the meeting, assume the sale will take place, Farmer advised. Don’t be afraid to ask for the down payment and fill out the contract.
“You will sell more orders if you write the contract on each order,” he said.
It pays to marketThe economy might be slowing, but metal-roofing contractors who market their businesses properly will still find consumers willing to pay for a beautiful, long-lasting roof.
That was the message of Tim O’Mara, director of research and development at a Seattle advertising agency which counts the Metal Roofing Alliance among its clients.
Those who attended his Oct. 2 seminar, “Metal Roofing Marketing for Contractors: New Tools From the MRA to Build Your Business,” were told knowing the right audience - and how to reach them - is key to success.
“We can and do know a tremendous amount about consumers,” including what they eat for breakfast and which Web sites they like to visit, O’Mara said.
O’Mara’s agency, Copacino & Fujikado, has studied issues such as which homeowners are likely to buy vertical seams versus modular panels, and done studies of more than 35,000 buyers on similar issues.
“If we look at the people who put metal roofing on their houses, there’s a profile of metal roofing customers,” O’Mara said.
He showed a map of metro areas across the country where metal roofing was most likely to be popular with homeowners.
“We can identify the places we are most likely to find consumers,” he said.
For its members, the MRA offers lots of information on potential metal-roof buyers, O’Mara added, including ZIP codes, population density charts and others.
“The MRA has invested tens of thousands of dollars” in the program, he said. Few contractors could afford to do this on their own.
Green is moneyOne place metal-roofing companies should direct their marketing dollars is at consumers and commercial owners interested in green building, said roofing expert Chuck Howard, P.E., of Metal Roof Consultants, during his Oct. 2 session, “Metal Retrofit Roofing: As Green as Green Gets!”
He said the longevity of metal should make it appealing to anyone looking to save energy and the environment.
“Metal roofing is recyclable - but who cares?” Howard said, jokingly. “If you put it down right … it’s going to last 40 to 45 years.” When would you need to recycle it?
Howard talked about a cash-strapped school district in Ohio that was constantly spending money to repair its leaking flat roof. Howard convinced them to replace it with a retrofitted standing-seam metal roof with added insulation that would save energy and money. He told them the roof would essentially be free after 10-12 years and last another 40 beyond that.
The project was so successful, he eventually did another eight schools in the state.
“All you need to do is solve the customer’s problems,” he said. “There’s a lot of work out there and it’s all available. You’re giving away ‘free’ roofs.”
For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail email@example.com.