Manufacturer Programs for Deck Builders

CERTAINTEED CORP.

800/233-8990, certainteed.com/certainteed/pro/builder/fencedeckrail/programs/buildingsolutions

Product

EverNew vinyl decking and railing, composite railing

Program

Building Solutions

Entry Requirements

Apply online Purchase product to accrue points

Benefits

Product training Replacement warranties Cellphone discounts Redeem points for merchandise and business tools Correct Building Products

CORRECT BUILDING PRODUCTS

877/332-5877, correctbuiltzone.com

Product

CorrectDeck polypropylene composite decking and railing

Program

CorrectBuilt Zone

Entry Requirements

Basic and Premier memberships Apply online for Basic membership Training and testing for Premier

Benefits

Basic: Promotional materials Subscription to Deck News Warranty redemptions Premier: All of the above Contractor referrals and Web site listing 10 percent discount on design software Ongoing product training Fiber Composites

FIBER COMPOSITES

800/343-3651, weatherbest.com/professionals

Product

Weatherbest recycled plastic and wood decking and railing

Program

Weatherbest Installers Network (WIN)

Entry Requirements

Apply online

Benefits

Contractor referrals Web site listing and link Custom-printed literature Online product ordering GeoDeck

GEODECK

920/435-1526, geodeck.com/cdi.html

Product

GeoDeck recycled plastic and cellulose decking and railing

Program

Certified Deck Installer (CDI) Rewards Program

Entry Requirements

Online sign-up Training at local dealer Purchase product to accrue points Benefits

Redeem reward points at catalog retailers Nail-gun promotion Tamko Building Products

TAMKO BUILDING PRODUCTS

800/880-1834, builderscircle.com

Product

Evergrain wood and plastic composite decking and railing

Program

Builder's Circle (note: Builder's Circle involves a consortium of building products, not just Evergrain decking)

Entry Requirements Apply online Purchase product to accrue points

Benefits Redeem points for more than 6,000 items Tiger Claw

TIGER CLAW

860/940-6266, deckfastener.com/for_professionals_preferred.asp

Product

Tiger Claw Hidden Fasteners

Program

Preferred Contractor Program

Entry Requirements

Apply online Complete certification program

Benefits

Rebates on products Contractor referrals and Web site listing Trade show passes Promotional and sales tools TimberTech

TIMBERTECH

800/307-7780, timbertech.com/ forprofessionals/contractors/ contractors.aspx

Product

TimberTech composite decking and railing

Program Elite Contractor

Entry Requirements

Apply online Pass assessment test

Benefits

Contractor referrals and Web site listing and link Product samples and sales materials Custom-printed literature Home-show assistance Trex Company

TREX COMPANY

800/289-8739, trex.com/trexpros

Product

Trex recycled plastic and wood decking and railing

Program

TrexPro

Entry Requirements

Apply online Build a deck with Trex

Benefits

Product training Contractor referrals and Web site listing Universal Forest Products

UNIVERSAL FOREST PRODUCTS

800/598-9663, ufpi.com, ufpi.com/product/latitudes/pro/builders.htm

Product

Latitudes wood flour and polyethylene decking and railing

Program

Latitude Compass Program

Entry Requirements

Apply online Purchase product to accrue points

Benefits Rewards program: Redeem points for more than 3,500 items Certified Installer program: Contractor referrals and Web site listing Promotional and sales tools

by Jefferson Kolle

Imagine this: At 10:30 p.m. Henry Homeowner in North Carolina goes online to research products for the big deck he wants to have built on the back of his house. He finds a manufacturer in central Ohio that makes exactly what he is looking for, but he's at a loss about what to do next. Then at the top of the Web site he sees a tab that says "find a contractor in your area." He enters his zip code and contact information and clicks send.

When Henry arrives at his office the next morning, there's an e-mail waiting for him from Carl Contractor, who does business two towns away. They arrange to meet that evening at Henry's house and when they do, Henry and his wife are impressed with the manufacturer's decking samples, photographs, and other promotional materials — all of which have the name of Carl's company printed on them. Two weeks later, Carl and crew begin building the new deck. Everyone's back is well scratched: Henry gets his deck, Carl lands a job, and the decking manufacturer sells product.

Deck-contractor rewards programs similar to the one described in the scenario above have been proliferating as explosive growth in the composite-lumber industry has coincided with a jump in consumer Internet use. Composites account for about 20 percent of the decking market, up from 10 percent just five years ago; and according to The Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., 60 percent of Americans polled in September 2007 researched products on the Internet, up from 35 percent in 2000. It's reasonable to conclude that consumers are increasingly researching decking products online too — and clicking that "find a contractor" tab.

Reward programs differ, but all are meant to build brand loyalty, mainly by helping contractors get more work. Carl will continue to spec a particular product if the manufacturer provides promotional materials, advertising, training — and customer leads that turn into jobs.

Deeper Pockets

There are distinct financial advantages to aligning your business with a large manufacturer, according to Martin Grohman, the founder of Correct Building Products (877/332-5877, correctdeck.com), which makes CorrectDeck decking and railing. He points out, "Manufacturers spend millions of dollars on marketing each year, but obviously your average decking contractor doesn't have that kind of budget."

Joining a manufacturer's program allows a contractor to take advantage of corporate marketing dollars. When the name of your business becomes associated with a product, every time local homeowners see an advertisement for that product, they also think of your company.

The programs offer all kinds of perks to attract participants. Trex — along with listing its members online — provides training on how to use its products. Lance Bunch, program manager for Trex Pro (800/289-8739, trex.com), says, "Contractors are the front line in getting our products out there. We want them to feel like they are partnering with Trex." The company will also assist in local home-show promotions and showroom set-up. "We want to help contractors become outdoor-living companies rather than just deck builders," says Bunch.

Some companies offer more nuts-and-bolts benefits. For instance, TimberTech (800/?307-7780, timbertech.com) gives contractors product samples and sales literature to show to customers as well as T-shirts for members of the crew. Cheryl Roysdon, senior marketing manager for the company, says TimberTech will also assist with co-op advertising, whereby a qualifying contractor's business name and contact information will be included in corporate advertising in local newspapers and in TV and radio spots.

Other companies offer everything from custom-printed sales literature with the contractor's name included, to business cards, door hangers, and end-of-the-driveway signage. Fiber Composites (800/343-3651, weatherbest.com) allows you to order composites online if you're a member, "so they're waiting for you at your dealer right when you need them."

Some even feature free or inexpensive tools. GeoDeck (877/804-0137, geodeck.com) offers a $749 Hitachi Coil Nailer for just $99 with the purchase of 1,000 square feet of GeoDeck decking. All you have to do is download a form, fill it out, and give to your supplier.

With the rewards program for its Latitudes line of composite decking, Universal Forest Products (800/?598-9663, ufpi.com) takes a slightly different approach — its benefits are intended to be used after you've taken off your tool belt for the day. Mark Deremo, the director of marketing communications for Latitudes, says, "We wanted to offer a broad array of premiums that appealed to many people with a wide range of interests. Golf or fishing gear, clothes, cook wear, Nascar tickets — you name it. Many members redeem their points for personal use — and others might convert points into gifts for a spouse or child."

Piggyback on the Growth Of Composites

Qualifying for some programs is as easy as just signing up; others require training, product-knowledge testing, or the purchase of a particular quantity of products. Patti Pellock, marketing manager for the CertainTeed Fence, Railing and Deck Division (800/233-8990, certainteed.com), says, "The remodeler program is a points program based on qualifying purchases of a combination of all CertainTeed products. Points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, and various business marketing tools. [The program] requires the contractor to purchase $35,000 annually in at least two CertainTeed product categories."

Several programs offer more than one tier of involvement. Correct Building Products, for example, has basic and premier memberships; the latter includes deck design software and other enhancements. TimberTech has Elite and Premier membership levels. Some tiered memberships are based on the amount of purchased products and others require different levels of training and testing.

Due to homeowner demand for low-maintenance composite decking products, the market is expected to continue to expand, at 5 percent to 10 percent annually. Growth will breed more competition, not only among manufacturers but among contractors too. As such, awards programs will become more important for both.

Gary Daley owns DeckBuilder in Barnegat, N.J., and is an elite member of TimberTech's contractor awards program. "The company's program gives me everything I need to sell its product," he says. "This has allowed me to grow my business just as fast as I want to. There's no better backing than that." Daley was quick to add that many of the composite decking materials on today's market are similar in their composition, even their warranties, and that what makes one product better than another for him as a contractor comes down to the support and benefits offered by the manufacturer.

The bottom line is that it pays to search the Internet and talk to your dealer and product rep about the available company rewards programs. It could take your business to a whole new level. ?

Jefferson Kolle is a former carpenter, turned freelance writer.