By Joe Raboine

The landscaping/hardscaping industry has evolved immensely over the years – and even more so this year as new tools and products continue to be introduced. Contractors of all stages – from new business owners to award-winning tradesmen – have the opportunity to capitalize on training and development programs as they wrap up 2020 and head into the new year. Homeowner needs and tastes have changed, too, meaning contractors need to offer more flexibility – in terms of pricing and design. And, of course, COVID-19 has been a catalyst for contractors to develop new strategies to serve both their employees and their customers remotely. 

There’s certainly a time crunch when it comes to investing hours in training and learning how to use new programs and services – and even how to better market the business as a whole. If they aren’t careful, contractors can fall victim to routine and miss the opportunity to grow their business, advance processes and increase efficiencies. Luckily, there are many resources available to contractors on the local and national levels that often only require a membership application. By investing time in training and learning now, contractors will see strong growth in their business in the future. 

Training tools

On the contractor training side, there are a variety of different tools available to support business owners and teams, providing resources on the latest products, trends and more. Most vendor partners have an extensive video library to keep contractors ahead of the curve and knowledgeable on new products and installation methods, offering step-by-step training videos for different product lines, as well as base prep. An added benefit of video training resources is the time saved – most are formatted within a digestible timeframe, making it easier for contractors and crews to fit viewings or team sessions into their schedule. 

Many manufacturers also have an online training center or portal, housing videos, as well as other significant resources and materials. Here, contractors can directly access collateral, news and articles about the vendor and industry updates, or virtual events and training sessions. Unfortunately, the current climate has halted or limited face-to-face interaction, preventing large in-person training, lunch and learns, tradeshows and other special events. However, many vendor partners were quick to pivot and offer events virtually to maintain safety while providing the same quality content through a more convenient platform. 

Bottom line impact 

Training is just one facet of a business that has an impact on the bottom line. Contractors should tap into additional resources provided by their vendors, such as sales and marketing tools, to help run their business more efficiently. Many manufacturers now provide a multitude of sales and marketing material to help contractors “sell themselves” (and the products) to customers. These assets typically include sales sheets with detailed product information and photography, product catalogs and other print and digital literature. Some vendors even offer the option for brand customization on materials such as business cards.  

Design tools have become increasingly popular – and beneficial – for contractors when working with clients. New technologies allow contractors to create graphics and 3-D renderings to give homeowners a more accurate representation of their outdoor living space design. Using these design tools often increases customer satisfaction, provides more assistance with material quantities for a smoother ordering process, improves communication between the contractor and homeowner and – the best part – often increases closure rates.  

While not necessarily a revenue driver, many vendor partners also offer contractor reward incentive programs based on product sales. The more projects completed using that partner’s product, the more they can earn – encouraging contractors to push ahead, so they can redeem rewards. 

Benefitting the contractor – and the homeowner 

In recent years, one of the most beneficial programs to both contractors and homeowners is financing. Several manufacturers in the market today offer different financing plans through their authorized contractor partners. While there has been an uptick in home improvement this year, particularly outdoor living projects, many homeowners may still need some form of financial flexibility. 

Through financing programs, contractors can offer payment plans that fit their clients’ needs and design plans. Many financing programs have high approval rates and an easy application process, making the contractor’s job easier and homeowners feel more at ease. Some manufacturers have reported up to 50% increases in sales by offering financing options. 

Maximizing your potential 

In today’s environment, contractors have a full spectrum of programs, services and tools to help maximize their business potential right at their fingertips. As we continue navigating through the pandemic and post-pandemic world, these resources will be even more valuable for continued growth – from a revenue and educational perspective. It’s necessary for contractors to have open lines of communication with their vendor partners to ask questions and offer feedback and suggestions for tools they may need in the future. It’s no surprise that contractors and vendors are dependent on one another and committed to each other’s success.     

Joe Raboine is the director of residential hardscapes at Belgard. He works to ensure that Belgard’s contractors and dealers are receiving best-in-class service, products and experiences. Joe started his career as a contractor over 25 years ago. 

Since 1955, Belgard’s locally made and nationally backed products have transformed thousands of residential and commercial properties in North America. Belgard sets the standard for landscape design and innovation. For more information, visit www.Belgard.com