BY MIKE MARKOVSKY
SPECIAL TO CONTRACTOR
IN TODAY'S BUSINESS environment, smart operators seize on every opportunity to get an edge. That means differentiating your offering, providing the utmost in customer service and creating a brand for your company that customers remember and value.
Easier said than done, at a time when margins are often too slim to afford "frills." But what about finding and leveraging no-cost or low-cost valueadded services provided by the manufacturers whose products you use? Is it possible to "offer as your own" customization and tailored engineering services that will add value (and margin) to the services you provide and better suit the needs of your customers? You bet!
Most specifiers and buyers are facing the same cost pressures that all businesses grapple with today. They must engineer their projects and contain costs, while assuring that the finished product meets the everincreasing demands of ultimate users. So, when supply-chain partners offer ways to save development costs and maybe even custom tailor applications, people tend to listen!
If you stop and think about it, every decent company has engineering expertise on staff that it routinely applies to new products and interim updates. These folks are intimately familiar with their own products and are usually adept at modifying those standard products to, perhaps, better fit a specific circumstance.
Who better to advise customers (both you and your customer) about one-off changes that could make a standard catalog product work better in your particular application? The answer is "no one," but unfortunately few people leverage this tremendous resource that could be available to contractors for the asking.
If you could offer such a service, would it be a valuable addition to your services? Yes! Would it add value that could easily support additional cost and margin? Yes! Would it differentiate you, at a time when differentiation is a key to long-term success? Yes!
Certainly, some manufacturers make those services readily visible via their own marketing efforts. As an example of this type of service, consider the Haws Corp.'s Engineered Solutions. As a manufacturer of a full spectrum of emergency showers and eyewashes, the Haws product line includes substantial tempered water offerings.
Typically, these products require tailoring to the specific needs of each client, which involves additional work by the specifying engineer — or a close coordination between the specifying engineer and the equipment manufacturer's engineering department. Items, such as the number of emergency equipment installations to be fed by the tempering system, the locations of those assets, the climate and ambient temperatures to be encountered and many more variables must be comprehended in the design.
While it is possible for the specifying engineer to design the entire system alone, it is usually more cost effective and timely to obtain help from the manufacturer of the equipment. This is especially true if the manufacturer offers all the components needed to build an entire system. The Engineered Solutions approach provides ready access to complete system design assistance, which can be arranged by the distributor or rep via a single phone call or e-mail.
With respect to pricing, premiums for custom-tailored products are reflected in the prices quoted for each job, with appropriate increases in the distributor and contractor margins, as well.
Contractors are encouraged to solicit the value-added assistance from all the manufacturers you support. If you can provide great products and value-added services — both with your own customer service and the (no cost) engineering expertise of your favored manufacturers — you will differentiate yourself at a time when differentiation matters most!