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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Contractors Should Be Aware of Regulations Before Using Drones on Construction Sites

This article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. For legal advice about the use of drones, contact an attorney.

The 21st century has brought with it explosive growth in technology that is changing the world we live in on a daily basis. New innovations are allowing for more efficient ways to do business in various industries; the construction industry is no exception.

Among the more controversial innovations with vast potential to revolutionize construction work is the Unmanned Aircraft System, or UAS, which is more commonly known as a drone. These remote-controlled flying robots have already found their way onto construction sites around the country, and use is proliferating as entrepreneurs discover more ways to apply drones to commercial uses. Although drones may yield numerous benefits to contractors, they have also created a need for new regulations to allow them to fit into the national legal landscape. As a result, contractors wishing to employ drones on their construction sites must be aware of such regulations.

BENEFITS OF DRONES

The application of drones to construction work has begun to yield advantages in several areas, including marketing, inspections and surveys.

Traditionally contractors have presented their ideas and progress to their customers through a combination of diagrams and photographs of the site. Drones allow contractors to show off their work in a new way. By attaching a video camera to a drone and sending it through and around a construction site, contractors can provide customers a fully immersive virtual tour of the site, including aerial views and observations of areas that otherwise would be difficult to reach. This new marketing tool will surely be a boon by visually enhancing the viewer’s experience.

Drones also have the potential to more efficiently monitor the activities of workers on a job site for progress and ensure all workplace policies are being followed. Because construction sites involve the work of many people, usually in different areas that can be difficult to reach, a small flying camera can quickly and efficiently aid site superintendents in monitoring projects.

Another area in which drones have begun to make an impact is surveys. In the past, surveyors have completed their work by carefully drawing lines and manually measuring distances. Today, drone technology allows for much larger areas to be covered in much less time. A drone can be synced with GPS technology to create a quick, reliable, mobile mapping system or with thermal imaging systems for thermodiagnostics, assessment of damage and estimating of projects.

LEGAL CONCERNS FOR CONTRACTORS

Before applying drones to a worksite, however, construction professionals must be aware of several laws that will affect their use. Many laws that have been considered common practice with regard to drone use thus far have recently been nullified by a comprehensive new set of rules finalized by the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Aviation Administration on June 21. These new rules follow:

HIRE A CERTIFIED PILOT IN ADVANCE
Not just anyone can operate a drone commercially; a pilot must be certi- fied in advance. The new rules issued by the FAA include a new system for certifying drone pilots. The new system creates a certified position, “Remote Pilot in Command”, a title which can only be obtained via receiving a remote pilot certificate. Any person operating a drone must possess this certification or be under the direct supervision of someone who is certified. To qualify for the remote pilot certificate, a person must meet the following requirements:

  • Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by either:
  • — Passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
    — Holding a Part 61 pilot certificate other than student pilot, completing a flight review within the previous 24 months and completing a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

  • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, Washington.
  • Be at least 16-years old.

This certification system also allows for temporary early access in certain circumstances. For example, any person certified as a Part 61 pilot will, upon submission of an application for a permanent certificate, immediately receive a temporary remote pilot certificate so he or she does not have to wait before continuing drone work. All applicants not certified under Part 61 can still receive temporary early permission; they will receive a temporary certificate after being satisfactorily vetted by the TSA. In addition, foreign pilots must meet these requirements at least until international standards are developed.

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The Building Industry Is Working to Reduce Long-term Costs and Limit Disruptions of Extreme Events

“Resilience is the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and to withstand and recover rapidly from deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally occurring threats or incidents.” —White House Presidential Policy Directive on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the Gulf Coast as a category 3 storm. Insured losses topped $41 billion, the costliest U.S. catastrophe in the history of the industry. Studies following the storm indicated that lax enforcement of building codes had significantly increased the number and severity of claims and structural losses. Researchers at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, found that if stronger building codes had been in place, wind damages from Hurricane Katrina would have been reduced by a staggering 80 percent. With one storm, resiliency went from a post-event adjective to a global movement calling for better preparation, response and recovery—not if but when the next major disaster strikes.

CHALLENGES OF AN AGING INFRASTRUCTURE

We can all agree that the U.S. building stock and infrastructure are old and woefully unprepared for climatic events, which will occur in the years ahead. Moving forward, engineering has to be more focused on risk management; historical weather patterns don’t matter because the past is no longer a reliable map for future building-code requirements. On community-wide and building-specific levels, conscientious groups are creating plans to deal with robust weather, climatic events and national security threats through changing codes and standards to improve their capacity to withstand, absorb and recover from stress.

Improvements to infrastructure resiliency, whether they are called risk-management strategies, extreme-weather preparedness or climate-change adaptation, can help a region bounce back quickly from the next storm at considerably less cost. Two years ago, leading groups in America’s design and construction industry issued an Industry Statement on Resiliency, which stated: “We recognize that natural and manmade hazards pose an increasing threat to the safety of the public and the vitality of our nation. Aging infrastructure and disasters result in unacceptable losses of life and property, straining our nation’s ability to respond in a timely and efficient manner. We further recognize that contemporary planning, building materials, and design, construction and operational techniques can make our communities more resilient to these threats.”

With these principles in mind, there has been a coordinated effort to revolutionize building standards to respond to higher demands.

STRENGTHENING BUILDING STANDARDS

Resiliency begins with ensuring that buildings are constructed and renovated in accordance with modern building codes and designed to evolve with change in the built and natural environment. In addition to protecting the lives of occupants, buildings that are designed for resilience can rapidly re-cover from a disruptive event, allowing continuity of operations that can liter- ally save lives.

Disasters are expensive to respond to, but much of the destruction can be prevented with cost-effective mitigation features and advanced planning. A 2005 study funded by the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Emergency Management Agency and conducted by the Washington-based National Institute of Building Sciences’ Multi-hazard Mitigation Council found that every dollar spent on mitigation would save $4 in losses. Improved building-code requirements during the past decade have been the single, unifying force in driving high-performing and more resilient building envelopes, especially in states that have taken the initiative to extend these requirements to existing buildings.

MITIGATION IS COST-EFFECTIVE IN THE LONG TERM

In California, there is an oft-repeated saying that “earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do.” Second only to Alaska in frequency of earthquakes and with a much higher population density, California has made seismic-code upgrades a priority, even in the face of financial constraints. Last year, Los Angeles passed an ambitious bill requiring 15,000 buildings and homes to be retrofitted to meet modern codes. Without the changes, a major earth- quake could seriously damage the city’s economic viability: Large swaths of housing could be destroyed, commercial areas could become uninhabitable and the city would face an uphill battle to regain its economic footing. As L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo said, “Why are we waiting for an earthquake and then committed to spending billions of dollars, when we can spend millions of dollars before the earthquake, avoid the trauma, avoid the loss of afford- able housing and do so in a preemptive manner that costs us less?”

This preemptive strategy has been adopted in response to other threats, as well. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., emerged as a national example of electrical resilience with its microgrid, an efficient on-campus power-generation and -delivery network that draws electricity from a gas-turbine generator and solar-panel field. When the New Jersey utility grid went down in the storm, police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency-services workers used Princeton University as a staging ground and charging station for phones and equipment. It also served as a haven for local residents whose homes lost power. Even absent a major storm, the system provides cost efficiency, reduced environmental impact and the opportunity to use renewable energy, making the initial investment a smart one.

ROOFING STANDARDS ADAPT TO MEET DEMANDS

Many of today’s sustainable roofing standards were developed in response to severe weather events. Wind-design standards across the U.S. were bolstered after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 with minimum design wind speeds rising by 30-plus mph. Coastal jurisdictions, such as Miami-Dade County, went even further with the development of wind- borne debris standards and enhanced uplift design testing. Severe heat waves and brown-outs, such as the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, prompted that city to require cool roofs on the city’s buildings.

Hurricane Sandy fostered innovation by demonstrating that when buildings are isolated from the supply of fresh water and electricity, roofs could serve an important role in keeping building occupants safe and secure. Locating power and water sources on rooftops would have maintained emergency lighting and water supplies when storm surges threatened systems located in basement utility areas. Thermally efficient roofs could have helped keep buildings more habitable until heating and cooling plants were put back into service.

In response to these changes, there are many opportunities for industry growth and adaptation. Roof designs must continue to evolve to accommodate the increasing presence of solar panels, small wind turbines and electrical equipment moved from basements, in addition to increasing snow and water loads on top of buildings. Potential energy disruptions demand greater insulation and window performance to create a habitable interior environment in the critical early hours and days after a climate event. Roofing product manufacturers will work more closely with the contractor community to ensure that roofing installation practices maximize product performance and that products are tested appropriately for in-situ behavior.

AVERTING FUTURE DISASTERS THROUGH PROACTIVE DESIGN

Rather than trying to do the minimum possible to meet requirements, building practitioners are “thinking beyond the code” to design structures built not just to withstand but to thrive in extreme circumstances. The Tampa, Fla.-based Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has developed an enhanced set of engineering and building standards called FORTIFIED Home, which are designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through system-specific building upgrades to reduce damage from specific natural hazards. Research on roofing materials is ongoing to find systems rigorous enough to withstand hail, UV radiation, temperature fluctuations and wind uplift. New techniques to improve roof installation quality and performance will require more training for roofing contractors and more engagement by manufacturers on the installation of their products to optimize value.

Confronted with growing exposure to disruptive events, the building industry is working cooperatively to meet the challenge of designing solutions that provide superior performance in changing circumstances to reduce long-term costs and limit disruptions. Achieving such integration requires active collaboration among building team members to improve the design process and incorporate new materials and technologies, resulting in high-performing structures that are durable, cost- and resource-efficient, and resilient so when the next disruptive event hits, our buildings and occupants will be ready.

A Roofing Contractor Drives Sales and Leads with Fast and Easy Energy-efficiency Financing

After 15 years in the roofing business, I’ve seen countless construction, design trends and sales methods change over time. The one thing that has always stayed the same? That first discussion with the customer around the kitchen table, looking at the scope of the job and then getting right down to finances. It’s the conversation that can make or break a project: Can the customer get the financing he or she needs to complete the job? Do we need to offer other options? Scale back? Or, even better, can we expand the job and sell into higher-quality products and designs built to last?

Supported by local governments, the YgreneWorks PACE program allows property owners to perform energy-efficiency and resiliency upgrades on their homes or businesses with zero down, a low interest rate and simple annual payments made through their property taxes.

Supported by local governments, the YgreneWorks PACE program allows property owners to perform energy-efficiency and resiliency upgrades on their homes or businesses with zero down, a low interest rate and simple annual payments made through their property taxes.

Regardless of project size or complexity, customers have two top-of-mind factors when considering a reroof: cost and time. As roofing contractors, we strive to deliver the highest-value renovation in the shortest time possible. To keep our team at Cal-Vintage Roofing of Northern California, Sacramento, at the industry forefront with competitive product and service offerings, we’ve developed a partnership with Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Ygrene Energy Fund to offer customers the latest in financing. The result has been a much happier kitchen-table conversation, alleviating customer concerns about reroofing costs and ultimately increasing our business by 20 percent.

KEEPING PACE WITH A GROWING TREND

Ygrene Energy Fund is a leading multi-state provider of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. Supported by local governments, the YgreneWorks PACE program allows property owners to perform energy-efficiency and resiliency upgrades on their homes or businesses with zero down, a low interest rate and simple annual payments made through their property taxes. These “green” roofing projects can include everything from cool roof shingles that slow heat build and save on electricity costs to reflective insulation providing a better thermal barrier for a building.

Increasingly, Cal-Vintage customers are more concerned with how projects impact the environment and are always interested in ways to lower utility bills. In fact, many PACE-qualifying upgrades are now being mandated by law; for instance, Title 24, Part 6, of the California Code of Regulations requires that residential and nonresidential buildings adhere to strict energy-reduction standards mandated by local governments. This has resulted in an uptick in owners who need major roof renovations and also need a way to afford the upgrade. As similar laws gain popularity amongst U.S. cities and states, PACE is a valuable tool for customers looking for better reroof financing options. As a large roofing company, we at Cal-Vintage must take it upon ourselves to offer every way to comply with these rules.

To qualify, Ygrene considers the equity in the property, not the personal credit of the property owner, unlocking finance doors for entire groups of customers. So far, more than 40 Cal-Vintage clients have taken advantage of the PACE option to avoid dipping into savings, escape lengthy paperwork and skip extensive background checks. Securing traditional reroofing loans can be a long and difficult process. With PACE financing, our customers have been able to complete larger, longer-lasting projects faster because the financing comes through in two to three days rather than two to three weeks.

BECOMING A CERTIFIED PACE CONTRACTOR

many PACE-qualifying upgrades are now being mandated by law; for instance, Title 24, Part 6, of the California Code of Regulations requires that residential and nonresidential buildings adhere to strict energy-reduction standards mandated by local governments.

Many PACE-qualifying upgrades are now being mandated by law; for instance, Title 24, Part 6, of the California Code of Regulations requires that residential and nonresidential buildings adhere to strict energy-reduction standards mandated by local governments.


Our job as roofing contractors is to provide the best value to our customers and community, and in a world of changing regulations and housing needs, this value extends to financing. The entire Cal-Vintage team is trained through Ygrene’s Certified Contractor Education program to know when and how to offer PACE financing as an option at the kitchen-table discussion.
The Ygrene education and certification program includes in-person training for our sales teams matched with webinars and online tutorials that can be accessed from the web anywhere, anytime. Topics cover all the information we need, including details about the PACE program, important consumer protections, step-by-step instructions for helping customers fill out the online application and how to ensure we receive our payment in a timely manner.

The Cal-Vintage sales team also received an in-person, individual training by a Ygrene regional area manager dedicated to our team. The training included information about program features and benefits, access to the web portal, the proposal tool and in- depth answers to our questions. As PACE requires a number of legal disclosures and approvals, our contractor team was briefed on the application and approval and funding processes so we could properly answer any custom- er questions. Additionally, Ygrene offers a support call-center to field any additional questions on the financing.

GETTING STARTED

We heard about Ygrene through a customer and reached out to the company’s local representative to become certified. The process was simple, and all of our questions were answered in the training session. Since the company’s inception, Ygrene has trained nearly 3,000 contractor companies in communities across its service territory. With $1 billion in approved applications and $350 million in closed contracts, Ygrene has been generating successful outcomes for customers and contractor partners across the U.S. Those interested in becoming a certified contractor can visit Ygrene Works’ website.

PHOTOS: CAL-VINTAGE ROOFING OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA