Contractor Marketing: The Value of Brutal Honesty

Maintain Communication to Keep Your Brand Strong

by Heidi J. Ellsworth, owner, HJE Consulting









(Editor’s Note: Heidi J. Ellsworth, a graduate of the University of Portland, has been working in the roofing industry since 1993. Having held positions with EagleView® Technology Corporation, Carlisle® Construction Materials, Eco-Star™, and Malarkey Roofing Products®, Ellsworth is now the founder of the roofing-focused marketing firm, HJE Consulting Group. She is also the author of Sales and Marketing for Roofing Contractors, a guide for small businesses in the roofing industry.)


We are living in uncertain times where roofing contractors are battling material shortages, price increases, and labor shortages, not to mention a pandemic. From a marketing perspective, it can be a minefield for roofing companies to keep customers happy while protecting the brand of the company overall. As roofing contractors look at marketing plans for the New Year, it is critical to include strategy around customer retention and brand equity.

Roofing contractors need to be looking at the current situation and be aware of the potential of these challenges lasting for another year or two. How do you protect your business? It is all about being honest with your employees and being brutally honest with your customers. You most likely cannot deliver projects like you used to, so it is critical to set expectations up front with home and building owners so they can plan accordingly. By not setting false expectations, customers can adjust and will appreciate the honesty. As you put together your plan for 2022, think about the following communications to keep your brand strong.


Sales Team Communications

What is your sales team saying? For sales, it is all about growing business. How can you provide communication tools that help the sales team cultivate fewer customers with better pricing to match material and labor availability? Does your commission plan reflect this changing environment? Brand ambassadors are a huge part of a marketing plan, and your sales team are your front line. If they are frustrated or not able to meet quotas due to material and labor shortages, moral plummets. A plan on how they can succeed in a way that keeps customer loyalty is crucial.


Develop Customer Communication

As you look at customer communications, think about developing monthly or weekly updates for your current and repeat customers. They need to know what is going on individually with their project, but also overall in the marketplace. A monthly e-newsletter or email from your company’s leadership is a great way to stay in front of your customers and help them understand what is happening. Weekly and daily individual communications should keep them updated on the project and any prospective delays so they are not caught off guard. Again, brutal honesty is better than not knowing.


Market Available Product

In your marketing, push the products that are more available. For example, the home with the beautiful red roof may look impressive, but red shingles are simply not available. Go with the black or brown roof photos so you are showing what is available. Subconsciously, the customer moves in that direction, and you are not creating expectations that you cannot meet. Also, be sure to look at your current marketing, such as your website and social media. Make sure you have your imagery and copy updated to promote products that are more readily available.



Now more than ever, focus on your referrals. Again, they should be brutally honest. For example, if the project took longer but the communications were stellar, encourage the customer to share that. Most customers know there are supply chain issues, so they are looking more for companies that can set reasonable expectations while communicating statuses throughout the project. Update your referrals on your website and monitor your online reviews. Answer any negative reviews with honesty and explain what happened with that project and how it relates to the worldwide crisis.


Stay Close

Now is the time to continue your work in the community, organizations, and associations. With the world opening up, it is critical to be seen and share what is going on in the overall construction industry. Also, by showing your support of the community, customers are more inclined to have patience. It shows the importance of working together to get through this craziness.