Engage With Potential Customers on the Social Media Platform They Use Most

Social media can be an exciting territory for contractors looking to promote their businesses in a relatively inexpensive, but impactful, way. But it can be equally overwhelming with the abundance of social platforms available, as well as the nuances involved for marketing on each one.

If you’re new to marketing your business socially, Facebook is a great place to start. It’s an easy-to-use platform that provides several features for connecting with potential customers locally and nationally. Or, if your business is already active on the platform but not seeing much return, there are simple ways to begin improving your activity today.

Read on to learn simple tips and advice on how to effectively promote your roofing business on Facebook.

Why Focus on Facebook?

It’s important to note why it is relevant to establish and maintain a presence for your business on Facebook.

First and foremost, your customers are already active on the platform. Facebook continues to be the most popular social media platform, as cited by the Pew Research Center, where 79 percent of online adults have a profile. In fact, the number of Facebook users is more than double the number of people who use other social platforms, such as Instagram (32 percent), LinkedIn (29 percent), Twitter (24 percent) or Pinterest (31 percent).

Plus, establishing and maintaining a Facebook page can also be beneficial in driving visitors to your website. In fact, search engines tend to reward businesses with a strong social following through higher organic rankings. In other words, the more people who are engaged with your company on Facebook, the better odds your business will show up sooner in a potential customer’s search results for a local roofing contractor.

Further, the platform is also a great way to create a sense of connection with your internal team. For instance, Facebook can be used to showcase your company culture, share news and engage with your own employees—especially if you’re a large contractor with multiple locations.

Useful Strategies to Grow Your Page

Profile setup: Building a solid foundation of followers begins with setting up your profile correctly. Be sure to set up a Business Page instead of a personal Facebook page. This way, current and future customers can “like” your page, or become a fan, and keep up-to-date on the latest news from your company.

Also, it’s important to have a profile image and cover art (the large image at the top of the page), as well as complete details about your business on the “About” page, including a description of your business, location, contact information, services offered, hours, website and more.

Tip:

If you already have an existing account that was set up as a personal profile, you can convert it into a business page at facebook.com/business.

Content sharing: Once your page is set up, it’s time to start sharing content. Begin with one or two posts per week, and then gradually start increasing your posting schedule as you gain a more established following.
Think of Facebook as an extension of your website to tell customers more about your business in an inviting and personal, but still professional, atmosphere.

Looking for content ideas? Think about sharing your knowledge and expertise: your project work! Take before-and-after photos of projects that showcase a new roof installation or repair. Or if it’s a long-term project, document it each day with photos or videos that explain the installation process you’re undergoing, the products you’re using and more. Make sure you have your customer’s consent before posting details or pictures about any project.

Also, do you have a company blog on your website? If so, share out individual posts with a “teaser” on the details the article contains, along with a link back to the specific post. This helps to establish your credibility as a knowledgeable professional, but can also help to drive potential customers back to your website to learn more. If you’re still working to set up your company blog, another option is to publish a “Note” from the left sidebar of your Facebook business page. This long-form Facebook post is a great alternative while you work toward setting up your blog online.

You can also consider sharing links to blog posts from a manufacturer whose products you use. They often provide helpful blog articles with tips and advice for both contractors and homeowners—so you may even find something of value to you in the process!

Lastly, you can use your page as a way to share positive customer testimonials in the form of photos and videos. Again, it’s important to ensure you first have your customer’s consent before sharing their testimonials. Be sure to also encourage your satisfied customers to submit their own Facebook reviews for a job well done. These reviews allow them to share their experiences and rate your performance directly on your Facebook page, which can help facilitate future business and leads.

Tip:

Facebook can also be used as a means to share company promotions, special holiday or seasonal incentives, and events you may be hosting or attending.

Page promotion: As you start to proactively post useful content, you’ll begin to establish a following on your page. However, there are also several paid promotion tactics you can use to increase your page’s reach and engagement.
One popular paid tactic is a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, which is a form of advertising where you pay a set amount each time someone clicks on an ad you’ve produced. Determine what you would ultimately like users to do, and create a post or simple ad that prompts them to take that action. For example, you can drive homeowners to visit your company website, provide their contact information for a free quote, like your Facebook page, download a coupon and more.

If you have a particularly interesting post that has been performing well on your page (maybe it has received a lot of positive comments, for example) and you’d like it to reach even more people, consider “boosting” or sponsoring that post. This means putting a set amount of money behind promoting a post, say $100, to expand its reach. Geo-targeting, or selecting a specific audience and geography you’d like to reach, helps amplify your message to the right people—your targeted customers.

Tip:

Avoid using text in your images for paid posts or campaigns. Facebook guidelines reduce the reach of these images as the system considers them too “spammy” or ad-centric and cluttered. In many cases, image text could prevent your promotion from running entirely.

Highlighted Contractor Examples

Wondering how to apply some of these strategies? Learn more from a couple of roofing contractors who are part of IKO’s ShieldPRO plus+ Contractor Program and are already successfully using them on Facebook:

Chad’s Roofing, Gilroy, Calif.:

  • Frequently posts project testimonials and before-and-after photos, along with job site videos that explain roofing processes to homeowners.
  • Consistently responds to questions/comments posted on the page.
  • Uses Facebook (and linked Instagram account) to promote business rather than a traditional website.

Able Roofing, Columbus, Ohio:

  • Collects and displays several homeowner reviews on its Facebook page (more than 50 at the time of writing).
  • Shares links to blog posts on the Able Roofing website, which include helpful tips for homeowners related to home improvement, trends and renovation projects.
  • Promotes company news and local events, as well as national holidays.

If you’re looking to grow your leads and engage with future customers, using these strategies on Facebook is a great place to start. Also, be sure to check out the IKO blog for even more helpful business tips and advice!

Overcome Procrastination in Three Easy Steps

You are a dedicated business owner. I know this because you are taking time to increase your professional development by reading this magazine and this article.

Because you are a business owner who is dedicated to success, it would make sense that you don’t procrastinate—right? You can quickly and easily accomplish all the important tasks and projects that help move your business forward. Your taxes are completed ahead of time. You are never up late at night looking for data to complete an estimate. You never have to redo tasks because you made errors as you were trying to finish by the deadline.

Before you stop reading in frustration, know that according to Tim Pychyl, author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, everyone procrastinates. So, you are not alone!

The question really becomes, how do you overcome your procrastination? There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to the procrastination challenge. However, there is a process you can follow to find your solution.
Use the acronym A.W.E.
A – Awareness. What are some of the tasks you procrastinate on most often?
W – Work. What are some strategies to help put yourself in motion?
E – Evaluation. What worked and how do you do more of it?

The Three-Step Process

Let’s start with awareness. What are some of the tasks that typically cause you to procrastinate? Do you avoid invoicing clients? Or posting on social media? Or sending estimates? Or evaluating employees? Or doing customer service follow-up calls? Or meeting with your accountant? Or creating a marketing plan? Or creating a business plan?

Start to really think about the tasks you put off. Now that you have a good idea about what those tasks are, it’s time to create a strategy to overcome procrastination. This is the work phase.

According to Pychyl, we procrastinate when we find a task unattractive. The more unattractive, the more we procrastinate. Unattractive tasks have one or more of the following traits. They are:

  • Boring
  • Frustrating
  • Difficult
  • Unstructured or ambiguous
  • Lacking in personal meaning
  • Lacking in intrinsic rewards (not fun!)
  • Which trait corresponds to your task? Do you procrastinate when it comes to invoicing clients because you find paperwork boring and frustrating? Do you put off evaluating employees because you find conflict (or perceived conflict) difficult? Have you decided that you’ll do a marketing plan next year (or the year after that) because the whole idea is ambiguous and you don’t even know where to start?

    Once you can identify the trait that’s holding you back, you can create a strategy to help move yourself into action. If a task is boring, make it fun. (OK, maybe paperwork won’t ever be fun, but it can be less boring.) Play music loud, challenge yourself to finish the task in under 20 minutes, and reward yourself when it is done.

    If creating a marketing plan seems ambiguous, add some structure to it. Talk it out with some colleagues. Consult with a marketing professional. Do some reading on marketing plans. Decide what your goals are for the plan. Figure out just one step. Once you’ve identified even one step, it becomes much easier to move into action.

    Finally, evaluation. When you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t, life becomes much easier. Yet you seldom take the time to slow down long enough to think through what is working! Take 10 minutes to check back at the end of the week. Which strategies worked? Where are you procrastinating less? Where do you still need to problem solve?

    By following the steps spelled out in A.W.E., you will be able to reduce the amount of time you procrastinate and increase your capacity to accomplish more in less time. Which leaves you with a lot more time to do all those things you love to do!

    Residential Selling: Consider Color, Contractors!

    Mina Starsiak (left) and Karen E. Laine started their own company, Two Chicks and a Hammer, to tackle home restoration projects. The duo currently stars in the HGTV series “Good Bones.” Photo: Two Chicks and a Hammer.

    Mina Starsiak (left) and Karen E. Laine started their own company, Two Chicks and a Hammer, to tackle home restoration projects. The duo currently stars in the HGTV series “Good Bones.” Photo: Two Chicks and a Hammer.

    “You can be a more profitable, more well-liked contractor if you talk to your clients about color.”

    Those are the words of Karen E. Laine, the mother half of the mother-daughter team who started second careers rehabbing houses in their neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis. Laine and her daughter, Mina Starsiak, discovered they had a passion for home restoration and started their own company named Two Chicks and a Hammer. Laine and Starsiak also currently star in the HGTV series “Good Bones,” which chronicles their projects repairing and rehabbing houses. They shared their insights on exterior design and the importance of roof color with Roofing.

    Laine and Starsiak note that people have strong emotional connections to color. They often use color to express their personality in both the interior and the exterior of the house. Since the roof is such a prominent exterior component, figuring out how it plays into the home’s color palette is crucial.

    Residential roofing contractors can set themselves apart from the competition if they can help homeowners find the right color combination for their home, notes Laine. “If a contactor can say, ‘I see you have a yellow house and a bright red door. I have some roof choices that will go well with that, and allow you to make changes over time,’ your clients are going to think you are a genius.”

    Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak believe since the roof is such a prominent exterior component, figuring out how it plays into the home’s color palette is crucial. Their home in the Indianapolis area is shown here. Photo: Owens Corning.

    Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak believe figuring out how the roof plays into the home’s color palette is crucial. Their home in the Indianapolis area is shown here. Photo: Owens Corning.

    Laine urges contractors to make the most of expanded color choices in shingles available today. “If you are contractor, carry samples with you, walk outside the house and show them how the shingle is going to enhance the exterior appearance and the color of the house,” she says. “Because it’s not just one-dimensional color; shingles are multi-dimensional. Some of them have red, and brown, and yellow. Some have blue and brown and yellow. Looked at from a distance, you might not see those distinct colors, but they inform the color spectrum of the roof and how it looks with the house.”

    She also recommends using a paint fan to help determine colors for other elements of the home. “There are usually six colors on each blade of a paint fan,” says Laine. “The top one is the lightest and the bottom one is the darkest. If you’re not secure in your color choices, you can just pick the medium color in the paint fan for your siding, the darkest color in the paint fan for your door, and the lightest color for your trim. Then you are guaranteed that they are all going to coordinate, and you’re not going to have something in the end that clashes.”

    Others might want to consider contrasting colors. “If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, then pick out a different color for the door,” says Laine. “For each homeowner, it’s a very individual opportunity to be creative and see how color feels to you. And the great thing about the colored roofs out there is because of the way they are made, they complement a wide variety of color combinations on a house.”

    Taking the time to explore different roof colors gives the contractor the opportunity to connect with the customer and build trust. Starsiak recommends that contractors take advantage of online tools that can be customized to demonstrate the ways different colored shingles will look on the house. “You can scan in a picture of your house and see how different paint colors and roof colors would look in just a few minutes,” Starsiak says. “If you were thinking of painting your house a different color, you can see which roof would go with it. There are online tools for everything now.”

    The right color combination can also make a home easier to sell when the time comes. “From a real estate perspective, there are a lot of things that go into the first impression of the outside of the house, including the siding and the landscaping or lack thereof,” notes Starsiak. “A huge part of that initial impression is the roof, so you don’t want to miss that opportunity.”

    Laine agrees. “A prettier house is going to be easier to sell, and the dimension that a colored roof adds to a house makes it prettier,” Laine says. “Aesthetics are important. You have to consider color, all you contractors out there. Look at all that alliteration—consider color, contractors! That’s your title, right there. I’ll give you that for free—it’s not trademarked.”

    Karen E. Laine (left) and Mina Starsiak were on hand at the 2017 International Roofing Expo to offer design advice to show attendees. Photo: Chris King.

    Karen E. Laine (left) and Mina Starsiak were on hand at the Owens Corning booth during the 2017 International Roofing Expo to offer design advice to show attendees. Photo: Chris King.

    Mobile Technology Is Changing Online Marketing for Roofing Companies

    It seems like the Internet is changing every six months, doesn’t it? The moment you have a marketing strategy worked out, it is thrown into flux by another Google update or market trend.

    Right now, that market trend is toward mobile technology. This shouldn’t come as a shock. In fact, I bet you’ve checked your phone since you started reading this article, and we’re only four sentences in!

    Mobile technology has significantly changed the landscape of online marketing. More homeowners are using their mobile phones to search for roofing services than ever before. But between the rapid changes in homeowner behavior, the explosion of mobile devices and the intense local competition most roofing companies have, keeping up with the mobile world can seem daunting, if not impossible.

    Fear not! We are going to tackle the five ways mobile technology is changing the residential roofing business, and discuss how each one is going to help you win more business from online homeowners.

    1. MOBILE is no longer a millennial phenomenon. It was only a few years ago when we were shrugging off the mobile movement. Mobile obsession was primarily a thing for teens and twenty-somethings, right?

    Not anymore. Since mobile devices have become more affordable and accessible, homeowners of all ages are turning to their phones when they have an urgent need, such as a repair or roofing emergency. In fact, that is the first device they turn to.

    For homeowners over 50, mobile phones are the central device in their daily lives, and they are likely using them to make phone calls and submit web forms. And while home ownership among millennials is rising, a hefty number of leads tend to come from the 50-plus crowd. Adapting to mobile technology is going to help you drive leads across all demographics.

    2. GOOGLE has welcomed mobile with open arms. Google tells us that more than half of the queries on their search engine now come from mobile, and it is only going to increase. As a result, they have revamped their pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to reflect the immediacy of mobile searches. Folks at the top, as they say, get the best fruit.

    In PPC campaigns, roofing companies need to optimize for mobile. This requires more than checking the “Mobile” box in your ad campaign. You will want to use extensions that make it easier for homeowners to call from their mobile devices and determine how close you are to their location.

    Simply stated: homeowners are making their roofing choices at the top of Google’s mobile search pages. To get to the top, you need to have mobile-optimized ads that appeal to mobile users. Being at the top of the page is one of those lead drivers that growing roofing companies cannot do without.

    3. TAP-TO-CALL is exactly what homeowners are looking for. In the time-constrained world that we’re in, Google offers homeowners a number of specific roofing choices immediately. However, being at the top of the page means nothing if a person can’t get in touch with you.

    Homeowners with roofing needs want to resolve the issue as soon as possible. That’s why it’s important to have a tap-to-call option on your website pages and ads. But, that is only half the battle.

    In home improvement, excellent phone work is still necessary. There is nothing more frustrating to homeowners than going to a roofing contractor’s website, liking what they see, dialing the number … and then getting no answer. Or a long hold time. Or going straight to voicemail. Or not getting a prompt call back.

    All of these non-responses drive the homeowner to do the same thing: call your competitor.

    Mobile has made it easier than ever to go down a list, contacting company after company until they get a response. Roofing companies that want to grow and scale need to have tap-to-call options and strong phone practices to make the most of their mobile presence.

    4. RESPONSIVE WEBSITES are more than the future—they’re the industry standard. Mobile is now a fact of life for roofing companies. And if your company’s website requires customers to zoom in on teeny tiny letters, they’re going to get frustrated and move on.

    At the very least, every company needs to have a responsive website that accommodates all sizes and models of mobile phones. Responsive sites are Google-friendly and they display in ways that are easiest for homeowners to navigate and understand.

    If you’re not sure if your website is responsive, try to access the URL on your mobile phone. Can you see the words at a glance? Do you have to slide around to find a phone number? If so, you probably need to upgrade to a responsive design.

    Having a responsive website boosts your site’s usability, making it more likely that you’ll be there when a homeowner searches for roof replacement. Plus, customers in the 50-plus bracket will sincerely appreciate text that is easy to read.

    5. MOBILE WEB FORMS are your key to connection, so get it right. Homeowners are embracing web forms in greater and greater numbers. And it’s easy to see why. With busy routines and packed schedules, many homeowners simply have limited time to solve their roofing issues. A web form shows the homeowner how responsive you are and how much you value their inquiry.

    That is why more and more roofing businesses are turning to online appointment scheduling in their web forms. Letting the homeowner select an appointment time has a number of benefits. First, homeowners who can schedule their own appointments are far more likely to complete a web form. Second, it gives you a competitive advantage over other forms that do not offer scheduling. It’s simply more convenient and gives the homeowners a greater feeling of control.

    Also, self-schedulers are much less likely to become no-shows. As we all know, no-shows are frustrating, costly and a big headache. Letting the homeowner commit to a time that works also shows that your easy to work with and responsive to their needs.

    Lastly, web forms are a big hit with Millennials. The 35 and under crowd loves to schedule everything online— haircuts, spin classes, restaurant reservations, vacations, hotel stays. You name it, they are reserving it online. This, too, is becoming an ingrained behavior among the next generation of homeowners, so optimizing your web forms is going to become even more important in the years to come.

    Dominate the Mobile Market

    Many roofing companies are frustrated with the online world. Roofing is already a very local business, which makes it challenging to grow and expand. By embracing the mobile world, roofing companies can stand out and beat the competition. And for roofers looking for replacement leads, it’s 100 percent worth the time and expense to do it right.

    While the mobile world is complex and somewhat confusing, so is the rest of running a business. And I’m guessing your company is already doing that well. If you embrace these mobile trends, you’ll learn how to master them and drive more leads–and more business–to your company.

    Work Experience Is A Factor in Leadership Development and Diversity

    Corporate values. Leader behaviors. Diversity and inclusion training. Hiring goals. High-potential training programs. Affinity groups. Mentoring. While these are all important practices for developing leaders and increasing gender diversity, they are not a substitute for one of the most important, but frequently overlooked, contributors to leader development and leadership diversity—ensuring that women in the pipeline are assigned to the high-impact, highly visible, challenging roles and project assignments that will prepare them for executive management.

    EXPERIENCE-DRIVEN DEVELOPMENT

    The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) points to experience as a critical factor in executive development. In the introductory chapter to Using Experience to Develop Leadership Talent, the book’s editors, Cynthia McCauley and Morgan McCall, define “experience-driven development” as “identifying people with potential, giving them challenging assignments, and holding them accountable for both results and growth.”

    CCL has devoted an online publication exclusively to the subject titled Experience Driven Development. The organization states that despite being the most important element of the learning process, experience-driven development often gets scant attention in the workplace: “Individuals broaden and deepen their leadership capabilities as they do leadership work. In fact, there are good reasons to believe that learning from experience is the number one way that leader development happens. Yet this number one driver of learning gets the least attention in our leader development systems.”

    Experience-driven development reflects the familiar CCL 70-20-10 framework for leader development stemming from the original Lessons of Experience research of the late 1980s. This model states that roughly 70 percent of development can be attributed to challenging on-the-job experiences; 20 percent to mentoring and other developmental relationships; and 10 percent to formal coursework.

    The challenging job experiences can include such assignments as:

    • Starting something from scratch.
    • Turning around a failing or struggling business unit or initiative.
    • Special high-visibility projects.
    • Roles reflecting increases in scope and scale.
    • International assignments.

    Ann Morrison, co-author of The Lessons of Experience and author of The New Leaders: Guidelines on Leadership Diversity in America, states that “such assignments involve autonomy, visibility, access to senior management, and control over considerable resources.”

    She continues, “They are often used as tests and rewards for the people judged to have high potential; they constitute the ‘fast track’ in many organizations.”

    Morrison stresses that to be effective, these developmental challenges need to be balanced by recognition (including pay, promotion, autonomy, resources, and respect) and support. She notes that organizations need to be aware of additional sources of challenges experienced by diverse leaders (for example, unconscious bias, higher performance standards, and family issues).

    The sample in the original Lessons of Experience research, upon which the 7020-10 model is based, was made up almost exclusively of white males. Followup CCL research concluded that men had access to a greater variety of challenging job experiences than women.

    THE CATALYST RESEARCH ON HIGH-POTENTIAL EMPLOYEES

    Recently the Catalyst Organization has undertaken a global longitudinal study of 1,700 post-MBA high-potential employees in companies such as General Motors, IBM, Ernst & Young, McDonalds and UPS. In the research summary entitled “Good Intentions, Imperfect Executions? Women Get Fewer of the ‘Hot Jobs’ Needed to Advance,” authors Christine Silva, Nancy Carter and Anna Beninger refer to the critical job assignments for development and advancement as “hot jobs.” They conclude: “Highly visible projects, mission-critical roles, and international experiences are hallmarks of ‘hot jobs.’ They predict advancement, yet our findings show that women get fewer of these hot jobs than men.”

    The authors point out that most global companies have embraced the cause of gender diversity and virtually all of them have established formal leadership development courses. “Despite these efforts, women remain under-represented at senior levels, indicating that these programs may not be paying off equally for women and men,” they note. “And past Catalyst research shows there is typically little accountability in place to ensure women’s equal access to development opportunities.”

    The Catalyst study explored three of the most potent sources of experience-driven development: project leadership, challenging roles and international assignments. The results show that women lag behind men with similar education and organizational tenure in terms of their access to fasttrack development opportunities. The study found the projects that men worked on typically had budgets twice the size of the women’s projects, and the men’s projects had three times as many employees assigned to them.

    SHARED ACCOUNTABILITY FOR DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP DIVERSITY

    So, if high-potential, post-MBA women are getting fewer of the high-visibility and high-impact roles that are essential for their development and for increasing gender diversity in the executive ranks, who is accountable for changing the status quo?

    According to experts at CCL, experience-driven development should be viewed as a shared responsibility involving the CEO and senior leaders, human resource executives, the immediate manager, and the individual employee. In their conclusion to Using Experience to Develop Leadership Talent, editors Cynthia McCauley and Morgan McCall comment on the critical role of the CEO: “The potential contribution of the CEO cannot be overstated. We’ve seen how important the chief executive is in making leader development a fundamental part of the business strategy, in modeling expected behavior in developing others, and in holding managers accountable for the development of their people.”

    McCauley and McCall point out that senior leaders have development accountabilities similar to those of the CEO and must also “make sure that the boundaries among their parts of the business can be crossed for developmental as well as business reasons.” The authors point to immediate managers as an important focus, as they are the gatekeepers to challenging work assignments and often play a role in identifying high-potential talent.

    Finally, they comment on the individual’s role in their own career development: “Ultimately, individuals are responsible for those aspects of development they can influence, most immediately taking developmental opportunities when they arise and proactively seeking them when they don’t, being open to learning from these opportunities, and taking actions (such as seeking out feedback and building in accountability) that increase the likelihood of learning.”

    KEY QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

    Experience-driven development. Hot jobs. Fast track. To increase leadership diversity, it is critical that the résumés of women reflect a variety of challenging, visible, high-risk, high-impact roles in preparation for top management positions.

    The research project by the Catalyst Organization echoes early research at the Center for Creative Leadership and concludes that post-MBA, high-potential men are more likely than their female counterparts to be assigned to larger, more visible projects. The men are more likely than high-potential women to have profit and loss responsibility, as well as supervisory responsibility. Significantly more men than women are selected for international assignments.

    The questions below may stimulate your thinking about leadership diversity and professional development in your organization:

    • Are you placing women in high-visibility, high-impact positions?
    • What role does “unconscious bias” play in the development of high-potential women?
    • Are women required to demonstrate greater readiness for a challenging role than their male counterparts?
    • Do your organization’s diversity metrics reflect experience-driven development?
    • What role will you play in bringing about needed change?

    Three Types of Contracts Offer Different Benefits and Risks

    For the first time in years, construction material costs are rising. In March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported numbers showing a 4.8 percent rise in material prices between February 2016 and February 2017.

    For contractors who have been working on long-term projects, the price increases could mean lower profit margins, or even losses, as they complete their work. Contractors who are in the estimating, bidding, and contract negotiation stages for new projects will want to ensure profitability and manage risk where possible. In particular, selecting the best pricing system for a project and properly drafting the contract to reflect it is essential, especially during periods of material cost increases.

    Three prevalent pricing mechanisms are fixed-price contracts, cost-plus contracts, and guaranteed maximum price contracts. Here’s the lowdown on each type and the benefits and risks with respect to cost changes.

    FIXED-PRICE CONTRACTS

    Fixed-price or lump-sum contracts are contracts where the parties, sometimes through extensive negotiation, agree upon a fixed sum for the labor and materials to be furnished. Typically, the contractor will prepare a schedule of values where portions of the work correspond with a certain percentage of completion, and pay applications are submitted for the appropriate percentages (often, minus an agreed-upon amount of retention). If the parties want to change the scope of work, a signed change order will be required, and the parties must negotiate and agree upon the change order pricing before signed.

    Fixed-price contracts offer contractors limited protection—and in some cases, no protection—in the event of material price increases. Indeed, “the normal risk of a fixed-price contract is that the market price for subject goods or services will change.” (See Seaboard Lumber Co. v. U.S., a 2002 Federal Circuit Court opinion.) Many contracts contain force majeure provisions that excuse or absolve parties from performing their contractual duties in the event of unforeseeable circumstances that are beyond their control and that make performance impossible or commercially impracticable. Examples of such events include “acts of God” like floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes, as well as events such as riots, terrorist attacks, and labor strikes. However, force majeure clauses can be difficult to enforce, and most courts, like the Federal Circuit in Seaboard, view cost changes as a normal, foreseeable risk and not an event that will excuse contractors from further performance. Therefore, when negotiating a fixed price, contractors generally should plan to be held to that price.

    However, properly drafted fixed-price contracts can give contractors options to mitigate potential losses arising from cost increases. One strategy is drafting the contract to read that the fixed price is based upon material prices as of the date of signing and that significant increases in material prices will or shall (not “may”) entitle the contractor to an equitable adjustment of the contract price through a signed change order.

    Contractors should also be entitled to adjust the contract price or time of completion to account for other problems—like delays, material shortages, or other difficulties acquiring materials—that can occur when costs increase. Such provisions will have better chances of being enforced if the contract specifically defines what constitutes a “significant” percentage increase in price. Additionally, contracts should include provisions protecting contractors from liability associated with delays and shortages. Some fixed-price contracts also provide that in the event the parties cannot agree on a price for change orders, the change order work shall be paid for on a time-and-materials basis including overhead and profit. If contractors are unable to negotiate an equitable adjustment provision, a time-and-material measure for change orders can provide some protection.

    COST-PLUS CONTRACTS

    For contractors, while the above revisions to fixed-price contracts may be helpful, cost-plus contracts will provide the maximum protection against material cost increases. Cost-plus contracts—also known as time-and-material agreements—are agreements whereby contractors bill for the cost of the labor and materials, plus a fee that is either a percentage of the project costs or an agreed-upon flat fee. When invoicing, contractors include documentation of their payment to subcontractors, vendors, and material suppliers to provide proof of the cost. They then invoice for the cost plus the agreed-upon percentage of the cost.

    Unlike fixed-price agreements, cost-plus agreements place the risk of cost overages and increases on the owner. If the contractor’s fee is a percentage of the labor and material costs, these arrangements also create potential for contractors to benefit from cost increases. However, they eliminate the need to negotiate a fixed price, they make change orders much simpler to implement, and in periods of cost decreases, they can benefit owners.

    GUARANTEED MAXIMUM PRICE CONTRACTS

    While some owners will be wary of cost-plus agreements—especially when material prices are on the rise—guaranteed maximum price (GMP) contracts may serve as a compromise that could help both contractors and owners mitigate risk. GMP contracts are a modified cost-plus option in that they function like cost-plus agreements—contractors invoice for the labor and material costs, plus their fee—but the contracts establish a maximum price for the entire project. Contractors invoice in the same manner they would for a cost-plus agreement, but once the owner has paid the maximum agreed-upon amount, the remaining costs are the contractor’s to bear.

    Often, parties to GMP contracts also agree that if the sum of the cost of work and the contractor’s fee total less than the guaranteed maximum price, the difference in the cost and the agreed-upon maximum fee reverts to the owner or is split between the two parties. This makes some owners more amenable to these agreements than they would be to traditional cost-plus agreements, which can make project costs very unpredictable.

    Whether parties decide that a fixed-price or cost-plus agreement is best for their needs, they should take care to draft the price terms clearly in order to avoid ambiguity and confusion. Generally, courts enforce contracts as written if they are clear and unambiguous, but if an ambiguity exists, courts will must look to extrinsic evidence to determine what the parties intended, leaving the fate of the dispute to a jury or fact finder. For example, in Rosa v. Long (a 2004 N.C. Court of Appeals opinion), a homeowner and contractor entered into a contract stating that the contractor would build a turnkey dwelling for the “sum of $193,662.60” but later stating that contractor would receive a commission in the amount of 10 percent of all materials, subcontracts, and labor obtained and expended by the contractor. Because these terms suggested that the contract was both fixed-price and cost-plus, a jury decided what the parties intended instead of a judge enforcing the terms as drafted. Clear, proper drafting is essential to increasing the parties’ chances of a predictable outcome in the event of a dispute.

    Social Media Marketing Requires Strategy

    Social media Social media is one of the most effective avenues for marketing your business, no matter what industry you are in. It is low to no cost and provides a business with connection to a wide range of prospects, referral partners, and clients.

    One thing to embrace about social media marketing is that the best campaigns are informational; sharing information and knowledge works really well with social media. You are positioning your company as the experts in the field. That’s how you build trust. So, when you are thinking about creating a strategy, think about what you know that you can share.

    Start with what you are hoping to accomplish. All marketing should have a goal. What do you want people to do? Social media does not respond well to “buy now” types of marketing campaigns. However, you have a great opportunity to create awareness and action that connects you to your buyer.

    So, what do you want people to do? Call or visit your business? Clip a coupon? Watch a video? Attend an event? Be very clear and specific about what you want this particular campaign to accomplish. You will have a chance to implement other campaigns in the future. It’s important to realize that marketing is the kind of thing that changes over time. As your goals change, your marketing will change with it. So, don’t get caught up thinking that you have to have one sensational marketing campaign. Sensational would be great! However, you will want to create and implement marketing campaigns over time. So, focus on the goal at hand.

    Now that you know what you want people to do, ask yourself this key question: which people? What does your target audience look like? And please don’t think it’s everyone, or everyone with a roof! It isn’t. Your best clients have things in common. Create the outline of that great client so you know who you are speaking to. Knowing who you are targeting is instrumental in creating your marketing strategy. You probably have a couple of target audiences. You aren’t going to message to all of them in the same way or the same places. For example, if one of your target audiences is over 80 years old, social media marketing may not be the way to go. Traditional marketing is probably more effective with them. If a target market is women in their 40s or 50s, Facebook is ideal.

    When your message is broad because you trying to hit everyone, you hit no one. Your message should be specific and should be directed at a clear target audience. This is how they will hear it. Remember that you can implement other marketing campaigns to reach out to other audiences. Stay away from trying to hit all of them at once. That’s a message that will be so big no one will hear it and you won’t accomplish your goal.

    Once you know what you want to say, and who you want to say it to, you have to decide where you should be communicating. This is a critical part of social media marketing success.

    There is a danger of getting caught up in trying to do what the business next door is doing. Or what someone tells you to do. However, that’s not necessarily the best thing for your business! You want to be where your target audience is going to hear your message.

    For example, if you are selling to consumers you probably want to have a Facebook business page. That’s a great place to connect with consumers who need your product or service. It isn’t necessarily so great if you sell business to business.

    There are a lot of places online that you can post. Ask yourself where your target is. And how do they consume information?

    Let’s explore some options that you might not be thinking about but have impact:

    Video. Using video in your social media marketing can have an incredible impact. Video gives you the chance to demonstrate your product, or a how-to on the job site. It also gives your audience a chance to see you. Don’t underestimate how powerful this can be.

    People buy from people they trust. One of the best ways to build trust is to talk to people directly. Video gives you this opportunity.

    You can post your videos on YouTube and/or Vimeo. Then you can share them on other platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. You can also use video in blog posts and email marketing.

    Guest Blogging. If there are blogs out there that you follow, start commenting on the posts. Once you’ve developed a relationship with the blog owner, ask if you can provide a guest article. That can get you in front of their audience, which can elevate your credibility and exposure.

    Podcasts. There are a lot of podcasts that seek guests to share expertise. Do some research to find the ones that make sense for your business. Then reach out to the host. Remember that this is not a commercial for your business. You share your expertise around some aspect of your industry. You then have a link you can share through your social media platforms. Being a guest on a podcast can increase your credibility.

    Email marketing. Often overlooked, email marketing is one of the most effective marketing methods available today. Not only does it allow you to stay connected to your audience, but you can now connect your marketing email to your social profiles. This expands the reach of the email.

    If you are new to social media marketing pick ONE avenue and get used to it. Consistency is critical to social media marketing success, so don’t overdo it right out of the gate. Give yourself the chance to get used to the process and to build steam. You can always add to your strategy as you move forward.

    Think about where your target audience is going to hear your message, determine what you want them to know and do, and then decide how you want to connect with them. Social media marketing is really about connecting and building trust. That’s why it’s social marketing. As you build awareness around your company you will find that your marketing momentum will build. Your company will become a household name and people will share your information with their networks. The spider web of the Internet will expand your efforts and you will realize a significant impact to your business growth.

    Understand Your State’s Limitations on Non-compete, Non-solicitation and Non-disclosure Agreements

    It is likely that at some point in their careers, laborers will be asked or required to sign an agreement restricting their activities once the working relationship comes to an end. National Public Radio reported in November 2016 that roughly 18 percent of U.S. workers were bound by non-competition agreements alone. This is in spite of the fact that numerous states restrict these agreements, which are prevalent in the construction industry. Many contractors require workers—particularly high-level employees—to sign such agreements as a matter of course. But whether it makes sense to do so—and which type of agreement is the best fit—depends on businesses’ needs and goals, as well as the controlling law.

    NON-COMPETITION AGREEMENTS

    Generally, non-competition agreements or clauses—also known as “non-competes”—prevent workers from engaging in the same business as their employers’ business after the relationship is terminated. This agreement often occurs at the beginning of the labor relationship with employees making this promise in consideration of new employment. These clauses can prohibit workers not only from starting their own businesses in competition with a former employer but also from working for competitors.

    For businesses, the goal of non-competes is to prevent former employees and independent contractors from offering the same services or products as the business. Should the employee or independent contractor choose to violate a non-competition agreement and engage in the same business, typically the employer is then entitled to injunctive relief whereby a court orders the worker to stop engaging in that type of business.

    By their nature, non-competes are contracts that restrain trade or commerce. For this reason, many jurisdictions disfavor these agreements. States vary greatly as to whether non-compete clauses are enforceable and, if so, how agreements must be drafted to be enforceable. For example, most who do business in the state of California are aware of that state’s general ban on non-competes (see Section 16600 of the California Business and Professions Code).

    Other states, such as Florida, allow non-competes to be enforced in particular circumstances set forth by state statute. In Florida, Title XXXIII, Chapter 541.335, requires that non-competes be signed and in writing to be enforceable. The law also sets forth detailed restrictions that depend on the party against whom they are being enforced. The Florida statute places duration and geographic limitations, among other limits, on these agreements.

    In many states, though no statute governs non-competes specifically, court decisions have created com- mon-law restrictions on them. These restrictions tend to be time- and location-based limits similar to the ones codified in Florida. Under Chapter 75 of the North Carolina General Statutes, contracts “in restraint of trade or commerce” are illegal and generally unenforceable. However, in interpreting this ban, North Carolina courts have enforced non-competition clauses in certain, limited circumstances. Under North Carolina case law, to be enforceable, non-competition agreements must be in writing, signed by the employee/in- dependent contractor, and based on valuable consideration. Furthermore, the duration and location in which the worker cannot compete must be “reasonable”. Finally, such agreements must be designed to protect a legitimate business interest, such as investing time and resources toward training employees. (See Young v. Mastrom Inc., a 1990 N.C. Court of Appeals opinion.)

    Provided that the terms of these agreements are reasonable, they are generally enforceable regardless of whether the worker quits or is terminated (as long as the termination is not otherwise in breach of an employment contract).

    Adequate consideration is an essential element of any enforceable contract and of covenants not to compete in particular. In North Carolina and other states, courts have found that mere continued employment is not sufficient consideration to render a non-compete enforceable. In North Carolina, the promise of a bonus, raise in pay, promotion or a new job assignment is generally sufficient consideration. This means that employers who want current workers to sign a non-compete should be prepared to offer them something in addition to continued employment.

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    Nothing Boosts Lead Generation Like a Strong SEO Plan and Solid Rankings

    What better way to attract potential customers for your roofing business than to rank at the top of Google, Bing and Yahoo for your products and services! Ranking organically in “search” is the ultimate form of inbound lead generation.

    However, common laments heard in business circles are that SEO, or search engine optimization, is dead, it no longer works or it just costs too much to get results. All three statements couldn’t be further from the truth. Business people know that paid ads are a quick way to show up at the top of the search engine results pages, which are commonly called SERPs. But research shows that most savvy searchers bypass these paid ads at the top and opt to click on the first few organic results.

    Many so-called SEO experts have given up on the tried-and-true SEO tactics in favor of other avenues, like social media, to direct relevant traffic. Although social media has its place in an online marketing strategy, nothing truly helps boost lead generation like a strong SEO plan and solid rankings. Every business needs to take advantage of the potential results SEO may achieve by doing what it takes to compete and start collecting that low-hanging fruit of new customers on the web.

    Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of websites are created every single year, making it more difficult to rank well—in the top 10 spots on page one of a SERP. Getting those coveted, top spots on search engines for related searches may seem inaccessible, but there are some SEO strategies that can help.

    Because the original algorithms to rank websites on SERPs was easily manipulated, constant changes were made to increase the complexity of the algorithms and weed out SPAM websites that deliver little to no value to users. The constant evolution of these algorithms has made it a real necessity for every business to have a serious, ongoing SEO strategy. As business owners, we all know that worthy achievements rarely come without deliberate and concerted efforts. The good news is there are some basic on-page SEO tactics that can deliver real results in today’s competitive internet landscape.

    Focus Keywords

    The foundation of ranking well with a website should center around a list of words or phrases that are targeted. These keywords should be relevant to the business, brand or service. It helps to have a specific keyword or phrase in mind for each and every web page that is created. For instance, a roofing company may have a separate page for “roof repairs”, “new roof” and “replacement roof”. By focusing the keywords in each page around each specific topic, the chances of ranking for searches that include those words increases.

    Be sure to include information about your service area, naming the towns in which you work. The keywords or phrases that are targeted will ultimately determine the focus of the content, meta tags and the entire architecture of a website. Start with the keywords you hope to rank for and build content around them.

    Instead of trying to rank for generic terms, like “roofer” or “roofing”, which have lots of competition, try ranking for long-tail keyword phrases, like “new roof in Stockbridge Massachusetts” or “roofing repair contractor near Chicago” for more achievable results. Long-tail keyword phrases should be highly valued because they give businesses a better chance at reaching customers that are close to the point-of-purchase. Being more specific with keyword phrases will yield less competition and higher results for the pages. Remember, potential customers who use these more specific terms in their search are more likely to convert into paying customers.

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    Maximize Risk Transfer to Your Commercial General Liability Insurance

    Roofing contractors face potential liability from numerous aspects of their businesses, including employee-operated company vehicles and equipment; work-related injuries; property and equipment damage; “disappearing” materials; defective work and materials; and a multitude of employment issues, such as wrongful termination claims. All reputable contractors protect themselves and others by purchasing Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance. The scope of available coverage runs from basic policies to wide-ranging “multi-peril” policies, which bundle multiple coverages to address a number of potential risks. A multi-peril policy for roofing contractors may include coverage for damage arising from defective work, operation of vehicles or equipment, worker’s compensation, employment practices and even employee theft.

    Insurance simply represents the transfer of risk from the insured to the insurance company. Taking a proactive approach to understanding the insurance you purchase allows you to maximize that risk transfer or at least know where you bear the majority of risk.

    The Basics

    A CGL insurance policy generally consists of three primary sections:

    • The insuring agreement.
    • The exclusions.
    • The endorsements.

    The insuring agreement defines what the policy covers and is generally written quite broadly. Virtually all CGL insurance policies require that such property damage or personal injury result from an “occurrence,” typically defined as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions”. Many of the terms within the insuring agreement are specifically defined for purposes of the policy and require analysis, depending on the claim asserted and the particular coverage implicated.

    The exclusions are simply that— claims and/or damages the insurance company will not cover. For example, CGL insurance policies commonly contain exclusions for “Contractual Liability”, defined as “bodily injury or property damage the insured is obligated to pay by reason of the assumption of liability in a contract or agreement”. Since many subcontracts include express indemnification clauses, this can be a major area of concern for the contractor.

    Endorsements are documents attached to a policy that amend the terms in some way and can expand or restrict coverage or even modify the definitions. One common misperception is the belief that endorsements are synonymous with exclusions. To the contrary, it is not uncommon for an endorsement to narrow the scope of an exclusion or eliminate an exclusion entirely. Endorsements can be used to tailor a policy to a particular industry or trade, and insurance companies use them to modify standard Insurance Services Office (ISO) policies to comport to their particular philosophy, such as cancellation and non-renewal provisions or requiring binding arbitration to settle coverage disputes. Endorsements are usually identified by description and form number as part of the Declarations Page.

    There are common Endorsements that result in additional exclusions. One of particular concern to any contractor is the “Independent Contractors and Subcontractors Limitation”, which provides that claims for bodily injury or property damage caused by independent contractors/subcontractors used by the insured are not covered unless that independent contractor/subcontractor maintains its own insurance coverage with limits equal to the insureds and names the insured as an Additional Insured on its policy.

    To limit your personal exposure, it is imperative you do not ignore the Endorsements! It is an important part of your policy and you need to understand the terms.

    Duty to Defend Versus Duty to Indemnify

    An insurance policy creates two separate and distinct obligations for the insurance company: the duty to defend and the duty to indemnify.

    The duty to defend consists of the insurance company’s obligation to hire counsel to defend the insured in response to a claim. That obligation is not
    dependent upon the insured’s liability but whether the allegations made by the plaintiff states a claim potentially triggering coverage. The duty to defend
    exists even if the claim is groundless, false or fraudulent.

    The duty to indemnify is the insurance company’s obligation to pay the successful plaintiff when that claim falls within the scope of the insurance policy.
    In the insuring agreement, the insurer promises to “pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ to which this insurance applies.”

    It’s often said that the duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. The carrier’s duty to defend exists when the claim potentially triggers overage, while the duty to pay exists only when the insured is obligated to pay damages and the claim falls within the coverage provided by the policy.

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