Question: what’s a building products brand without contractors?
Something too frightening to contemplate.
But don’t worry. If you want to strengthen your connection with -- and better market to -- this all-important part of the channel, there is a win-win-win strategy for brands.
It’s called contractor training.
Why is it being embraced by major building products brands? The answer is simple. It builds skills. It builds loyalty. It builds brand.
There are dozens of major manufacturers now offering a variety of general contractor training options. OSI. National Lumber. Firestone Building Products. Owens Corning. Sherwin-Williams. Johnson Controls. LP Building Products. These companies are offering everything from tip-based educational videos, short online classes and jobsite training to mobile training “roadshows” and extensive training universities covering a range of topics: CEUs; regulatory compliance; application options; and installation tips and tricks.
Whether run through the distributor or delivered directly to the contractor, training programs add value for everyone in the channel, building skills and increasing knowledge.
According to an article on ForConstructionPros.com, “in today’s high-tech, high-speed business environment, people need to learn and improve 50 percent every four years just to stay even,” while additional training is needed to excel.
And contractors want to excel on the job as they want to make meaningful contributions and be recognized for what they do. Contractor training meets those needs, especially when manufacturer certification is involved.
Take OSI, a Henkel brand and Point To Point client. The manufacturer of sealants for windows and doors created the OSI Certified Installer Program through which contractors receive free training on their terms: in-field or online. The in-field training is conducted by OSI technical sales reps on the jobsite or at various dealer locations around the country. As an alternative, contractors can also take the training course online. After successfully completing the training, contractors are OSI-certified and OSI offers a 15-year warranty on new window and door installations.
Certification means contractors have met a higher quality standard. This gives them a measure of recognition by the brand, added marketability to the homeowner and reassuring peace of mind - as does being trained in ways that work best with the contractor lifestyle. Online training classes, installation videos that can be downloaded to smartphones, jobsite training… these are the ways today’s contractors want to be trained.
An added bonus? These new training methods also help distributors serve their contractors more effectively. According to a Point To Point survey of 499 building products distributors:
- 27% of distributors said their contractors expected them to provide virtual training
- 38% of respondents said their contractors expected them to offer installation training
- In-person training remains in demand. 37% of respondents said contractors expect them to provide this too
Manufacturer certification programs, in particular, do more than build skills. They build credibility and differentiation for the contractor, and that builds loyalty.
Empowered by technology, property owners are more in control when it comes to choosing a contractor. They’re doing their homework and understanding more about what makes a quality contractor. Being certified is a recognizable differentiator: one that builds trust due to the credibility it engenders.
Additionally, certification translates into fewer callbacks, better warranties, and a system approach to construction. It gives a property owner the confidence they need to select the certified contractor over others. For contractors, that differentiation and the business that ensues, build manufacturer loyalty.
But brands don’t have to just provide certification. Training programs that offer business development skills such as social media marketing, lead generation, and conflict resolution and social media marketing -- both for contractors and distributors -- are also valuable for contractors.
In the long run, contractor training builds brand.
By raising the capabilities of contractors, creating a superior tier of certified contractors and extending product warranties based on the work of those contractors, manufacturers enhance their brand as a quality company.
Offering courses both online and in the field -- training contractors the way they want to be trained -- tells contractors that the brand “gets them.” This creates an emotional connection with the contractor and reinforces the brand’s image as a company that responds to evolving customer behaviors.
Brands wanting to market to contractors to drive loyalty should look first to establishing contractor-focused training programs. By broadening training methods to include contractor-desired online, video, mobile and jobsite training -- and by expanding training topics to include certification as well as business development training -- manufacturers will build skills, build loyalty and build brand.