Roofing in a Recession – A Look Back and Ahead


Growing up in the 80’s was filled with many great memories, especially in popular culture (Music, movies, sports). One sport in particular was fascinating to me, and that was boxing. The sport was filled with great fighters and my favorites were the middle weights, there was Marvin “Marvelous” Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, John “the Beast” Mugabi and Sugar Ray Leonard. all of these fighters had their own distinct style and my favorite was Hagler. What does this have to do with roofing, you ask? I’m getting there.

If anyone remembers this era in boxing you will know that Sugar Ray Leonard was the most popular and flashy of the bunch. Leonard used a style most commonly referred to as in boxing circles as “stealing rounds” when he was in a tough match. When Leonard was in a close fight, like the fight with Hagler, he had a penchant for closing out the rounds in a dazzling flurry of punches and combinations…as if the rest of the round was just a walk through for the final minute. while spectacular, it had very little impact on the opponent, but a tremendous impact on the judges. Yes, Leonard won that fight along with many others in the same fashion, it may not have been as awe inspiring as a knock out punch but it added wins and more big money fights.

2009, started out like a Leonard fight where we were getting smacked around with hard shots and were against the ropes only to put on a flurry in the last quarter and a half to steal victory in down economy. Our company had some really good projects in ’09 and saw growth in 3 straight quarters, the industry as a whole was up and down all year.

The recession, as most recessions do, have allowed us the opportunity to examine with a fine tooth comb, what is working and what is not working in terms of operating a roofing company in Seattle. First and foremost, if you are a smaller company like we are you live and die on advertising..word of mouth is the creme de la creme, however if you are a smaller operation such as ourselves you have to cast a wider net to attract potential customers. Let’s look at a few key advertising strategies commonly used in our industry and their impact on a company in such a tight economy as we saw in ’09.

Print: In the good ole days, oh about 8 years ago, this form of advertising was king. From Yellow Pages to Yellow Book, Dex, Superpages, Etc, Etc..Funny thing happened to them over past 10 years or so…the Internet. Unfortunately the print advertising conglomerates did not get the memo that they are no longer king of the jungle, that title has moved to Google, and thus they have not adjusted their pricing models much, if at all. The real problem with print advertising is the terms of the contracts, you have to commit to an annual amount regardless of what happens to the economy and in 2009 many companies went belly up due to overcommitment to print advertising and an economic collapse. I’m not an advertising exec so I do not know the answers to making print a more budget friendly form of advertising, but they need to figure out how to integrate the print side of things with their online models. all of the print guys have opened up online storefronts to buffer sagging print sales, unfortunately they are a bit behind the game in how to implement, manage and sell these services. If they do not adjust to the times and offer better services they may go the way of tube TV’s.

Internet: Without going into a layman’s discourse in internet advertising and Search Engine Optimization, I will offer my own perspectives on these fast growing areas of advertising. In today’s world we are besieged with technological advancements, from smart phones to smart TV’s, we are increasing the reach of content across a broad spectrum of delivery devices. So far one thing has not changed much in ways of searching for content and that is by “Googling” it, or searching for it over the internet..whether that is by iPhone, PS3 or your PC it will look the same and more importantly, indexed the same. We have always valued SEO and PPC campaigns for our company as a main source of lead generation. Our SEO work has done well and as far as ROI it has produced the most bang for buck. Not so much for our PPC efforts, we partnered with a print conglomerate to implement a PPC campaign that was not only NOT producing as it should, but became one of the most difficult relationships in over 25 years in trying to get them to rectify the situation. I will not mention any names (!), but charging customers a premium price for a campaign that failed to honor the results as stated in the contract, then conveniently firing every person handling the account as a way to abscond accountability was reprehensible. Never mind the fact your company had no idea what the other part was doing, i.e. our “account Manager” had no idea our campaign was not being fulfilled because the people doing the PPC part of things were a separate company altogether called Marchex, and they did not communicate at all with the good ole folks at…it was a nightmare of Elm Street proportions. Having ranted about that, we did find out a more effective way to do PPC and in tandem with the ‘organic’ side of things works quite well and should be the primary function of any small business.

Lead Generation Companies: This form of advertising can be attractive because you pay per lead. If you are on a tight budget but need leads, this may work to get things moving. Sometimes the leads are bogus or not real profitable, sometimes they are the same leads your competitors get, but you at least have a tangible lead to try and close for a set price. The problem I have with these types of services is that they seem to always find a way to charge you for a lead, even if it was garbage…or they are out of business 6 months later. We have not tried too many of these types of services, because quite frankly we feel that market is becoming over saturated with too many start ups and the leads are becoming diluted. Some friends of mine have mentioned Angies List and ServiceMagic as two of the better companies that offer this type of service, but we have yet to pull the trigger on any one of them. As print starts to die off this may be a more viable way of getting attention…we’ll see.

Direct Mailers: We do not use these, but that does not mean it is not a viable solution to the exorbitant costs of print. One reason we do not like it is because it does not reflect our “green” stance when it comes to more paper waste. Cannot really comment on this type of I’ll leave it alone.

Everything else that can be done, should be done in these times. We learned a lot in 2009 and most importantly it has been to streamline operations that keep the quality of work intact but eliminates the overhead of costs…not an easy task and usually one that comes out of necessity. We have been fortunate to operate in a more nimble fashion than some of our competitors and we offer a larger variety of services than most of our competition. This has allowed us to not only survive but thrive in this recession. We have always prided ourselves on offering the best roofing services, from roof leaks to roof cleanings to Re-Roofs, we feel this past year as difficult as it was has given us a glimmer of hope that 2010 will be much better.

We hope this information is helpful to some of those in our industry as any potential customers and current customers, we love to share with you some of our experiences. Even if some of you are our competitors, we all share the same planet and economic environment…we are all in this together. Good luck in 2010.


Source by Damon Shelton