Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an interview with Kyle Ziebarth the lead generation manager for ASTEC. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here.
Heidi Ellsworth: Hello, welcome to Roofing Road Trips. This is Heidi Ellsworth and I am a partner with RoofersCoffeeShop®. And we love our Roofing Road Trip podcast because we get to meet so many amazing people from the roofing industry and really kind of hear what's going on, going deep into figuring out what's happening out there and what's really creating success for contractors? And today is no different. Today I am with Kyle Ziebarth, the lead generation manager for ASTEC. And I have to tell you, I have just really enjoyed getting to know Kyle and the whole team over at ASTEC. They're doing some amazing marketing and support for their contractors. So Kyle, welcome.
Kyle Ziebarth: Thanks Heidi. Hey, it's great to be here with you and I've got my coffee ready to go so I feel like I've got the right mood here.
Heidi Ellsworth: Awesome. That is great. I've got my coffee cup too so we're going to have some nice conversations today. So Kyle, start out, tell us about ASTEC. I'd love to share with our audience some history of ASTEC and really what you're doing for roofing contractors.
Kyle Ziebarth: Sure. So some of this is almost the thing of lore and legend now around ASTEC, but you do have to go back quite a ways to get all the way back to the origins. As you may have mentioned, I think the family business, right? This was a Ziebarth family business for many years before we were acquired by ACP and it really starts with my grandfather in the '60s in south Florida who is a roof tile painting contractor. He was painting roofs down in south Florida, Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, for quite a long time, a decade or so. And he sort of turned that business into a successful business for the family, grow and expand it. But my grandfather, Richard, was a little bit of a tinkerer and he was always looking for new opportunities. He had a really entrepreneurial spirit and got sort of fascinated by NASA, of all things, right? The space race space shuttles.
Heidi Ellsworth: Love it.
Kyle Ziebarth: He started to dig into the ceramic that they used on the space shuttles as a insulator, as the shuttle is reentering the atmosphere it gets really hot, they put these ceramic panels on the bottom of the spaceships and decided, "Hey, this is something I can provide as a solution with my coating that I'm using in this roof tile painting business to provide some insulation for these people who live in the hot south Florida sun." Found that it was a great addition to the formulation, sort of ran with that for a little bit longer and then started doing some real science, hired some people, talked to some people, really understood chemistry and said, "Hey, is this something that we can really take to a larger scale and professionalize?" And that was in the late '70s and early '80s. And it's funny because if you look back in our... we have a marketing archive, and if you look back in our marketing archive, there's all these imagery of the space shuttle and space age technology and it was really a big push for the company back in the early days. But anyways, that was all kind of pre-ASTEC. The birth of ASTEC was really in the 1980s. And right after the very first elastomeric roof coatings started being developed in the '70s.
Heidi Ellsworth: Well before you go on, I just want to say that is really cool. That is some great family history and to be... the whole NASA, the marketing with the space generation, that's pretty cool. So congratulations, that's neat to be a part of that kind of family.
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah. It's funny because I've been telling this story, I'm approaching 40. I won't share exactly how old I am and I'm starting to feel a little bit older as I get up in the years. But I've been sharing that story since I was a kid. As you an imagine, an eight or a nine year old kid whose family is spelling space age technology, it's something you brag about in the school yard.
Heidi Ellsworth: [crosstalk] love it.
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah. Going way, way back to my early marketing and sales days it was telling the kids on the playground about how cool my family was, yeah.
Heidi Ellsworth: Hey, roofing's cool. That's great. I love it.
Kyle Ziebarth: Roofing is cool.
Heidi Ellsworth: So take us forward. So what happened with the family as the family kept going?
Kyle Ziebarth: So, yeah, in the early days of ASTEC or it was actually known as Insulating Coatings Corp back then, it was partially a roofing business but they were throwing this new coating that they developed on anything that they thought could benefit from this reduced heat gain, right? Anything that could benefit from a little extra insulation so you can think of all the different things, refrigerators, walls, pipes, storage tanks, those types of things. And it really wasn't until the late '80s, early '90s that roofing became the focus and primarily really metal roofing. And only in the early 2000s did we reformulate, develop a new product, one that resembles very closely the one that we still use today. And that was developed just specifically to be able to service flat roofs, membrane roofs, and asphalt roofs. And then the role that I've played and it's sort of funny because if you go back far enough, I mentioned my school yard sales days, as a family business you come involved and you get into the heart of it at any level you can imagine. So I spent time in the mail rooms packing envelopes when we used to do a lot of our lead generation by mail, I've been a telemarketer for the company, kind of been around it for my whole life. And this is really just a natural progression to have grown into this position with ASTEC and ICP to be the lead generation manager for the company. But yeah, it's quite the evolution from the '80s through today in terms of the way that the company has grown and developed. And now, having been acquired by ICP in 2019, it's really just opened up a whole new world of possibility. The amount of resources at our disposal and the contacts and the expertise that we have at our disposal with the people that we now work with at ICP has really just kind of shot us forward much quicker than we would have imagined.
Heidi Ellsworth: I love these kind of stories from the roofing industry because there are so many strong families and family businesses that then become part of these new companies that are coming in, like ICP bringing everybody together and really providing the funding that you need to take the product to the next step. So tell me, before we get on because I'm so intrigued with your title, lead generation manager, but let's, before we go there, what are you seeing, Kyle, out there really with your history but also see what's going on, fluid applied roofing systems are so popular and it's just taking on a life of its own, what trends are you seeing with ASTEC and the industry as a whole?
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah. And this is another thing that has kind of evolved with us as we've grown as a company. You go back far enough and there was a lot of negativity around the idea of fluid applied roofing. There were contractors, customers, architects, specifiers who wouldn't touch it because maybe they didn't understand it or maybe it was just too new of a technology and a lot of people like to have a little bit of a base to work off of with a new technology like that. But really in the last... I'd say in the last decade, things have really turned around in a significant way. You look around and you look at all the major manufacturers and they're all offering product lines of some sort of fluid applied system or another and I think that's because of the demand is there. You look around and you talk to enough contractors, you talk to enough customers, I mean, we talk to contractors who find us because their customers have come to them and said, "Hey, I heard from somebody that I work with, that I'm familiar with, that they had a fluid applied system put on their roof. It saved them a bunch of money, they're very happy with the results, the roof looks great because it's cool, it's white, a reflective, you get all those extra benefits. Is this something you can offer me? I want to work with you because we've worked together in the past but I really want to make sure that I get the system that I'm looking for." So it's been really interesting to go from having to fight that uphill battle against people who may for one reason or another not have been too excited about the fluid applied systems in the early days to now it's becoming a way for us to meet new contractors and meet new people because they're coming to us saying, "Hey, we've got people who are asking for this stuff."
Heidi Ellsworth: Right. Well, it's all about the sustainability, the easy, the labor shortage. I mean, you're just in the right spot at the right time with your products.
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, that's something that has really been to our benefit and to our contractor's benefit is that it isn't something that requires you to be an expert in every area of roofing. I mean, if you understand roofing and you understand how to identify problems with a roof and then you can operate a commercial spray equipment, the barrier to entry is fairly low. You can get involved in working with a fluid applied roofing manufacturer like ASTEC fairly quickly. And that's really what we aim for. We want to kind of broaden our network, work with more people, find quality contractors that are looking for a good product.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's excellent. I love that. And so as you're talking about it, I think is kind of... Let's talk real quick about your title, lead generation manager. You don't hear that very often in too many businesses where there really is that focus on the contractors and helping them grow their business, tell us a little bit about that.
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah. So a couple things. I'll get a little bit more into the history, I don't want to kind of stay on that too long. But it's something that ASTEC has incorporated going back to the very early days. I mentioned my time in the mail room stuffing envelopes for direct mail campaigns so we've been doing this a long time, 20 plus years. But it has evolved, it has changed, we've adapted to the changing times and finding people where they want to be found in some ways where people are more hesitant to... or there's just too much mail coming into people's mailboxes. They sometimes get lost. We found other ways to kind of get in front of people and as my role has changed within ASTEC, I started out as a bit of a jack of all trades there, as you know, a family member coming in to the family business sometimes do. I've been on the IT team, I've done some of the regulatory and technical writing. A little bit of everything you could possibly think of but in the grand scheme of things, the thing that has really driven ASTEC's business and has helped our partners and our contractor network grow their businesses as well, has been this lead generation approach. In taking the steps to drive revenue right to our contractor's doors and saying, "Here's somebody who has a concern with their roof, they're looking to take on this project in the short term. And here's what you need to know to reach out to them, visit them if it's possible," which these days is a little bit tricky. But we've found ways to kind of work around that and be contactless and safe. But yeah, to be able to tell our contractors, "Here's someone you need to talk to because they're going to make a decision on their roof and we want you and ASTEC to be part of that conversation.
Heidi Ellsworth: Wow. And you know what? We talk to roofing contractors about this all the time is building those strong relationships with your manufacturers and what advice would you give to contractors about partnering with manufacturers to really help grow their business?
Kyle Ziebarth: It's something that we take really, really seriously at ASTEC. A business relationship, obviously, is a type of partnership, but we look at it as something a little bit deeper than that. We have some contractors that we've worked with for decades. And we've attended their children's weddings. We have events that we share with them and we get to go on fishing trips or we have the event near Tampa. I have a picture of one of our good contractors, one of our long term contractors, having his face licked by a giraffe at Busch Gardens. These are just the kinds of things that... it doesn't sound like much. It sounds kind of anecdotal but knowing those partners as people and not just as the people that you sell product to. It's a big part of what we do and it's part of the culture with ASTEC and with ICP too. We really value those relationships and feel that there's more to it than just finding somebody that you can work with but finding somebody that you like to work with.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. I do, I think contractors need to look at the culture and see does it fit them, does it fit their business, does it fit their business model? And then really look for those manufacturers like you who are willing to give back and to help them grow. And I think that kind of takes me to my next thought, having been in sales and actually been a regional sales manager out for a couple of different companies, how important... I mean, let's just talk about the importance of working with a good sales team and that helps support the company, the customers, that whole circle of really bringing the best product between manufacturers and contractors to building owners.
Kyle Ziebarth: One thing, to kind of tie into the last point that we were just making about the partnership, is while ASTEC is always looking to find new people to work with and new great companies and there's so many good companies out there, so many great contractors out there, it is important to us too to be selective and to keep the network fairly small so that we can provide that kind of high level of attention to each of our partners. We've got, right now, just off the top of my head, we worked with about 150 contractors around the US and some in Canada. And that sounds like a lot but it also is enough with the sales team that we have that our sales team is on the phone with every single contractor that they work with in their territory on a weekly or sometimes daily basis depending on how active that particularly territory is, seasonality or if there's an ongoing job. So there's a very tight relationship there between the sales team and the contractors. And we understand that some of the contractors that we work with are largely run by a single proprietor who might have a great team of people working with them but he or she might have a lot on their plate and being the on the ground kind of boots on the ground sales rep for their company is just one more thing that could be a little bit of a burden for them. And if we can help alleviate that somewhat with the experience that the ASTEC sales team brings to the table, that's a great service to be able to offer.
Heidi Ellsworth: I love that too because, Kyle, I don't know about you but I have been there where if you aren't bringing value when you make that sales call or when you make that phone call, if you aren't bringing the leads or bringing the value of relationships and building the business, it really just doesn't go anywhere. It becomes very monotonous and you really lose that relationship. So by doing what you're doing with your sales team, you're bringing value to those contractors and building friendships every day.
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah. And it goes beyond that too. The customer service team, the production team, there's a lot of people behind the scenes at ASTEC that contribute to that as well and really one that I don't want to fail to mention is our inside sales team and our sales support staff who are really almost more in contact with the contractors in many senses and the customers, the contractors, customers, then our sales team is these are the people who may be writing up proposals. We have a really great template for proposals that we use and we deliver a binder full of information to help educate the end user. And that's a service we provide for our contractors. Now a lot of them like to participate in that and make sure their information gets included to that package as well. But that's something that we do just as an additional bonus to kind of being an ASTEC partner. We do webinars with our contractors frequently, obviously there's the technical support aspect of having that great experience of somebody who's been working with ASTEC for a long time. And by the way, we've got two contractors, I mentioned that ASTEC sort of became a dedicated roofing company sometime in the '80s, right? We have two sales trips on the team, they were hired in 1986 and they're still with the company and they're still very active, still top producers for ASTEC and these guys just offer such a wealth of knowledge and a resource, company wide. So they kind of act as quasi technical advisors whenever we need them. And these guys have just seen it all.
Heidi Ellsworth: Boy, that speaks a lot to the culture of your company. That's a long time. That is awesome.
Kyle Ziebarth: Between my father who got in in 1986 and these two sales reps, there's over 100 years of experience in fluid applied roofing just between the three of them.
Heidi Ellsworth: Wow.
Kyle Ziebarth: [crosstalk] to think about that sometimes. But yeah, it's pretty amazing.
Heidi Ellsworth: And that's one of the things that you continue to bring to all of your contractors and your building owners. Because I love that, talking about your inside sales team and your customer service because they're working with all of your building owner customers and with the contractors. So you're really creating this triangle of success.
Kyle Ziebarth: Oh absolutely, yeah. That's a good point. This leads me to a great example, I can tell you a story. So we had an opportunity to work with a big food processing company in Missouri, and you probably know from being around how these food processing buildings can be structured, they're very complex roofing systems, a lot of penetrations, a lot of pipes, vents carrying hazardous or corrosive, high temperature chemicals or fluids from building to building within their facility. And we had the opportunity come in, sent the contractor out to take a look. And they got on the roof and said, "I'm not sure we can do this. This looks like a very, very complicated job, these people are going to have to spend a ton of money to get their roof back up to snuff." And we sent our sales rep out there, kind of spent some time with the contractor, with the building owner and just went through the system, this customized system they came up with just for this roof to make sure that all the areas where there is potential for these chemicals to impact the roof surface and all these different penetrations and how we could... there were some areas that were saturated and they were able to take out some of the insulation, replace it with new... put a new substrate down on top and then coat the whole system and get it under warranty with ASTEC. It was like a true, exactly what you said, it was all three parties working together to find a solution that otherwise might have been a much more difficult or much more expensive for the building owner. It might have taken us out of the running in terms of us selling the product and the contractor being able to work on the project themselves.
Heidi Ellsworth: Still I believe, even in this age of remote and remote sales and social distance, that those relationships are... that's the key to success for all of us is creating those kind of long term... because that building owner is always going to come back and want to work with you and with ASTEC and the contractors. But take that one step further, Kyle, for me too because I know you do some amazing things with warranties. So let's wrap that in, how are you providing the warranties that the building owners need that work for the contractors, that work for ASTEC? It just seems that you have, again, that win, win, win mentality.
Kyle Ziebarth: Oh yeah. That's a great way of putting it. Whenever we come up with a solution whether it be warranties, a new way to generate some opportunities, anywhere we think about new processes, new procedures, it's always with that mentality of we service our building owners and we service our contractors. And we're looking out for ourselves to some degree too. We can't be completely selfless here but in the grand scheme of things, yes, we're very conscious of the fact that if a warranty only works for ASTEC, it's not providing the value to the customer. If the warranty only covers ASTEC's liabilities, it's not helping the contractors. So we've made a point, and this is something we've done for a long time, ASTEC warranties do cover the labor and the product on the job. So for a portion of the warranty, we do ask the contractors to be on call, to service if there's any issues for the first third or so of the warranty. But after that, any issues that arise, we just cover them ourselves. We fund all those repairs, we pay a contractor if they need to service the roof. And obviously we always provide the materials that need to be provided and honestly the other part of this is that we want people to understand the warranties so we've really gone out of our way to keep our warranties as simple as we can.
Heidi Ellsworth: That's great.
Kyle Ziebarth:They're two pages. You don't have to have a legal degree and a magnifying glass to kind of understand what we're covering and what things might not be covered. So it's really an effort that took some doing back in the early days but we've been happy with our warranties for a long time. We have not made many changes to them as the environment of the roofing industry has changed. And we do want to make sure that we're looking out, making sure our end users are covered, they're making an investment, but also making sure that the contractors who we trust and who we know are going to do a good job don't get left on the hook for some issues that might not be totally up to... on their labor. So we do make sure that we're trying to help everybody out. And by the way, the first question we always ask when we get a complaint of a roof, and we're all in the roofing industry here, we know that there's a lot of factors that can play into this and reasons why you would have issues on a roof. But the first question we always ask is, "How can we solve the problem?" It's not, "Whose fault is it, who is it to blame, how can we avoid addressing this problem?" It's always, "How can we fix the problem?"
Heidi Ellsworth: I love that. That is awesome. And it opens everything up and then finding solutions and having everybody walk away happy. So well I have to tell you, Kyle, I think if I'm out there right now in the roofing world listening to this, we have definitely gained some interest and so I think it's time that you and I share the excitement of what's coming up pretty soon.
Kyle Ziebarth: I'm excited.
Heidi Ellsworth: I know. So for everyone listening, the thing that's so exciting is that Kyle and I are actually going to do a webinar together all on marketing and all the great stuff that ASTEC is doing to provide leads, to provide all these marketing tools and I'm going to also be talking about RoofersCoffeeShop and all the digital tools there that can help contractors. And Kyle, I am super excited about this.
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah. This is going to be great. And we've worked with RoofersCoffeeShop long enough that I have some ideas of what you might be presenting but I don't want to spoil too much. And from our side, yeah, there's a lot of interesting things that we've been doing lately that have really had a big impact on the amount of opportunities we're able to provide to the contractors. Digital is so big right now, it gives us so many opportunities to reach more people, more frequently at the right times, it's an exciting time to be in the marketing and in the lead generation field.
Heidi Ellsworth: It is and I love the title of this and really we're calling it, it's really more of an online event because we're going to be... yeah, we're going to have presentations but we're going to be talking, we're going to talk about lead generation. And I love the title of it, Walk More Roofs in 2021. Because that's really what contractors need to do in a safe and sound way and you mentioned that earlier. So I'd love for you to kind of go into that just a little bit more, some of your vision on how to keep contractors and sales and estimators safe but also be able to walk more roofs.
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah. I mean, it's been and interesting challenge in 2020, right? The good news for roofers is for the most part, right, we're working outside. That's been beneficial as contractors who is may be doing more interior work I can imagine the challenges are even greater. So we do have the benefit of working outside. We definitely use phones, communication, email, text messages, whatever we need to do in order to set up the right situation, scenario, whether that be, "Hey, we can find a way to either throw a ladder up, get on the roof, that's simple." Or if the interior access to the roof is there, tell us the best way to come into the building and have the least impact and we'll follow all the protocols for coming in for an external visitor. But find a way for us to have the least impact on your day to day operations that we can and it's been working, it's required us to be flexible in some cases but it has been working in terms of staying safe and staying contactless whenever we can. But yeah, and then to talk about walking more roofs, that's the goal, right? You could use any various number of metaphors for this, more swings at the bat, more shots at the goal. However you want to think about it, the more chances you get to inspect a roof, to propose a solution to a customer, the more opportunities you're going to have to sell more work.
Heidi Ellsworth: Right. And that really comes down to working with manufacturers, to working with ASTEC, and really looking at how you are developed generating leads and how you're able to then pass that on to your qualified contractors and I just want everybody to know out there that this is not just for ASTEC contractors, ASTEC is inviting everybody in to really learn and to be a part of this marketing online event. When it comes to leads, things are still cooking out there, aren't they, Kyle?
Kyle Ziebarth: Yeah. Every channel that we use to generate opportunities has been chugging right along all year. There's been some times when we've had to make adjustments in terms of the way that we talk about these on site visits from the contractors, people have been concerned about that but yeah, there's been delays here and there in terms of when work has started but people are definitely still talking about their issues with Bruce and wanting to have a contractor come and tell them how they can fix those problems. So that definitely has not slowed down.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. When you put the right solution with the right people with the right installations and the right warranties, you have a recipe for huge success.
Kyle Ziebarth: Absolutely.
Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, well, okay. So December 10th we are going to be online. You can find all the information on RoofersCoffeeShop, you can also find it at ASTEC. But of course ASTEC has a full directory of RoofersCoffeeShop where you can get information on getting in touch with Kyle, we're gong to be really... you're going to see it everywhere because we really want to get a lot of people on this event and be able to really talk marketing and talk about 2021 and how the contractors and walk more roofs. What else, Kyle, what else do we need to tell everyone?
Kyle Ziebarth: I think just set the date on your calendar, be there, and we'll be excited to see everybody join in and have a conversation about marketing and how we can all help grow each other's businesses.
Heidi Ellsworth: Well, I'm telling you, I'm very excited about this. Thank you so much for partnering with us, this is going to be great.
Kyle Ziebarth: Oh this has been awesome, Thanks Heidi.
Heidi Ellsworth: Okay. Well thank you so much, Kyle. And, again, I invite everyone to register, you'll be seeing that on the site, on RoofersCoffeeShop, register for this online marketing event which is Walk More Roofs in 2021. Kyle and I will be sharing information and resources that really could make a difference for you and your business in this coming year. I also want to thank everyone out there for listening to this podcast. Please listen to all of our podcasts on our Read Listen Watch section of RoofersCoffeeShop, there is so much great information out there along with other multimedia videos, webinars, articles, eBooks, you name it, this is the place to learn about the roofing industry. So thank you again, thank you Kyle.
Kyle Ziebarth: Thank you. Got to go top off my coffee.
Heidi Ellsworth: Perfect. Me too, me too. And we'll be back here in a month and we'll be sharing a lot of great information so we'll talk then.
Kyle Ziebarth: Can't wait. Thanks, Heidi.
Heidi Ellsworth: Thanks. Have a great day everybody. Bye.
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