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Roofing Road Trips with Heidi Welcomes Mark MacDonald

Roofing Road Trip with Mark MacDonald
June 10, 2020 at 9:32 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an interview with Mark MacDonald, Sales and Marketing Manager at Sherwin-Williams. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast here. 

Heidi Ellsworth: Hello, and welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi, part of Roofer's Coffee Shop Read, Listen, Watch program. This is Heidi, and I am very excited to be here today, with one of my really good friends that I met a couple years ago, through the NRCA, and we've just been doing a lot of really progressive research, technology, a lot of different things together. So, I am very happy today to welcome Mark MacDonald, sales and marketing manager with Sherwin-Williams. Mark, welcome to the show.

Mark MacDonald: Glad to be here, thanks for having me.

Heidi Ellsworth: We've had some really fun talks through our NRCA meetings, and you have been just doing a huge amount in the industry. Last time we talked, we did a podcast before, and we had our webinar, and you position continues to change with Sherwin-Williams. Or, should I say progress. Can you let everybody know what you're doing with Sherwin-Williams, and your title, and some of your projects?

Mark MacDonald: Sure, absolutely. So my title is still sales and marketing manager, although I wear a few hats. I certainly still do sales, I'm a sales rep in the Pacific Northwest. One of the projects that we're really proud of is we've launched Building Solutions, which is bringing multiple products and services into the metal building market, and I think that's been a huge thing for our customers looking for that one-stop shop. Where can I not only get the paint that I want, the colors that I want, but also that high performance sealant that I want, the touch up paint that I want? So there's a number of different things that we can bring to the table at Sherwin-Williams that, really, no one else can, and I think that makes it much easier for our customers, in the long run, from a procurement standpoint. And also, just a confidence in their products, making sure they have the right product, that's been tested and approved. Also, looking at innovation, one of the things that we've been really focused on is digitizing the metal roofing market. And, how do you do that? I think we've been spending a lot of time on that, and tackling that. And really now, with everything that's going on in the world, that's now more important than ever, so we're excited about that going into the future.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is so true. In fact, that's why I wanted to ask you, I want to get into that more, those innovations that you're bringing to the market, that you've been such a part of, with the whole team. But, before we do, from a sales position, we both live in Oregon, so we're both part of that Pacific Northwest, but what are you hearing from contractors, about this new normal? What things are you seeing change, as we're coming out of all this? And, what are contractors needing?

Mark MacDonald: Well, I think one of the things that hasn't changed in this situation, which is good, is the need for high performance products and options. And I think that the crisis that we're now going through, I don't think that's really changed. I think, in fact, I think we're going to see potentially increase for things like metal building and metal roofs specifically, and I think this really has heightened interest in it. Because now more than ever, our customers and their customers, the contractors themselves, want the opportunity to discriminate themselves in the market. Any time you're in a competitive market, that's certainly something that you need to bring to the table, but now more than ever. I think the other thing that people are looking for is the speed to respond to the customer. So not only do you have to have the right colors, the right technology and innovation, but also the ability to beat out your competitor in the market. So that speed to market is important, and bringing the right products to that customer are also equally important.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. You know, I've been hearing the exact same thing from contractors, they want to differentiate their business. And it seems like the ones that are using technology, and are using products like metal roofing, offering those services, really sustainability, they're the ones that the homeowners and the business owners want to talk to.

Mark MacDonald: Yeah, we're seeing the same thing, there's definitely a spike in interest in metal roofing. I think, in large part, that has to do with the technology itself, so you're looking at color, you're looking at performance, you're looking at unique aesthetic things like textured appearances, you're looking at a range of different types of products that you can put on that roof, a range of different costs of products that you can put on that roof. And all of those things are a tool in the tool belt for the contractor, and then you combine that with some of the technology that's now further empowering that contractor, and it makes it even easier to bring that high performance metal roof to the contractor and their customer.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. Yeah, I think so, too. You know what's been really interesting is talking to a lot of people on, really, what the COVID, obviously as terrible as it's been, it has been an accelerator in roofing. It's been an accelerator in adoption of a lot of new trends, and a lot of new things. What are you seeing along that line, or hearing from some of your customers?

Mark MacDonald: I think there's really two lines of interest that seem to be really, really taking off. One is the need for visualization, and for the homeowner to really be able to see what is their roof going to look like, what is their house going to look like with that, and what are the options that are available. So that visualization piece, there's just a large number of people that are getting ... it was certainly going on before the COVID-19 happened, and now that it's happening, I think it's become even more important. So I think you're seeing an explosion in an interest in visualization, across the board, specific to metal roofing. Another thing that we're seeing an interest in is tools that make bidding itself easier, and quicker. And that's especially important for metal, because it is much more of a complex offering than, say, a simple asphalt roof. So anything that the contractor can get that simplifies that process is something that they are more and more interested in, and helps us grow our market.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah. As we've been doing our Coffee Conversations in the morning, and the different things that have been going on at Roofer's Coffee Shop, we have been hearing a lot of contractors, and they are talking about that, exactly what you're talking about, along with remote selling. They are really looking, and that really is that visualization tool that you're talking about. How do you sell over Zoom, how do you sell online, how do you sell with no contact? Then, how do you get back to them really quick? What are some of the suggestions that you have for your contractors on how they can incorporate these new technologies into their business?

Mark MacDonald: I think it starts with the visualization, and I think that's something that a number of manufacturers are doing, metal manufacturers are out there doing today. And they're continuing to invest and grow their visualization capability because, like you said, they see that the homeowner, this is a key tool for everyone selling to the homeowner, to allow the homeowner to see what they can get for their money. So that's probably one of the biggest trends that we're seeing from the metal manufacturer standpoint, and that certainly creates leads, and creates value, ultimately, for the contractor. So, I think that's really one of the number one trends we're seeing with visualization, is that the metal manufacturer is using that tool very effectively on their sites, to showcase their offerings to the homeowner, and then the contractors can leapfrog into it. The next piece that we're seeing are bidding and estimation tools, the ability to do remote estimation. There's a number of companies that have been out there for a bit, that provide that capability, that use satellite, for example. There's some that have attempted it using phones or iPad pictures, which is much more complicated, and I don't know that that's really matured yet. And even some companies that are using airplanes to gather that visual data, to provide that roofing takeoff. And that remote estimation capability is what allows the contractor to respond much, much more quickly to the need of that homeowner. So the visualization tool is certainly at the front end of that chain to create interest, create that lead, and then following it up with the technology required to decrease the cycle time, to get the bid in the hands of that homeowner. I think those tools are really what's changing the game in the market today.

Heidi Ellsworth: I agree, and I am seeing that over and over again. Having been part of Vehicle View when it first started, who knew we'd be here today? Everybody is using some sort of remote measurement tools. But, I also really want to go back to your comment about the manufacturers, and I think I would add in there, because I know you're really involved with the Metal Roofing Alliance, too, it seems between the manufacturers, and the Metal Roofing Alliance, and of course companies like Sherwin-Williams, the contractors have this great opportunity to really vet products, to find out what other contractors are recommending, and also what the manufacturers can help them with because it's now always ... sometimes, there's some pretty good deal out there, that the manufacturers are helping them incorporate this into their business.

Mark MacDonald: Yeah, I think it's good that you brought up the industry associations that are out there. We're both a part of the National Roofing Contractors Association, I'm a part of the Metal Roofing Alliance, and the Metal Roofing Alliance is a part of the Metal Construction Association. And those organizations, those trade organizations, are really what are responsible for the growth and knowledge across the United States, in terms of metal roofing. So, when a homeowner or a contractor wants to understand, what is a metal roof? What does a good, high quality metal roof look like? How do I know if I'm getting the right product, what are some of the things that I should be concerned with, or know about? All that information is out there because industry has invested in groups like the Metal Roofing Alliance, which is really, really a useful tool. So part of that journey for the contractor and the homeowner, to get smarter on those products, and that high quality end product that they want to deliver to their customers, and the homeowner wants, it's crucial to have that information out there. Luckily, the Metal Roofing Alliance, and the industry associated with it, spent decades refining that message, and helping provide the right information in a very concise way. So I think that I'm excited that that information's out there today, so now we can bring these other tools, the visualization tools, the remote estimation tools, all of those things can help capitalize on some of the interest that's being created by those other platforms, like the Metal Roofing Alliance, and the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, I'm going to throw this in here a little bit, because it's just leading in such a great direction. But, you have been instrumental with the NRCA on their Pro certification, and really trying to bring a lot of people together to understand metal roofing, and the need for the craftspeople out there who can install these beautiful metal roofs. What's happening on that realm?

Mark MacDonald: Yeah, that's a good question. One of the key gaps that we have in the market today is really straightforward, it's people. We need more people that are interested, and then ultimately get trained, and are skilled in putting roofs on. Obviously in this conversation, we're talking about metal roofs, so we want more skilled people getting involved in this market, participating, and growing it. So we know that the demand is increasing, now we've got to make sure that we have the people to backfill it. One of the key programs that's in the country today is led by the National Roofing Contractors Association, and that's the Pro cert program. That Pro certification program is, I think, in the long run is key to supporting the market with those people. So that program has been launched, we could spend a whole podcast talking about that program.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yes we could.

Mark MacDonald: It's absolutely fantastic, the ability to get verifiable, certified, qualified contractors on the job site. What I've been advocating for is really for the metal roof, which is a smaller subset of the market, to make sure that we have coordination in the industry to get the technical documentation aligned with that's already out there, because the MRA and MCA have done a fantastic job bringing forward that technical documentation, making sure that it's correct, and really even the baseline training documentation. So now, we've got to take that to another level, and bring that into the Pro cert program. So it's really important for our industry that that happens sooner than later. I thank the leadership, I've got people like Reid Ribble, the head of the NRCA, to really listen to the voice of the customer, and take that into account, and try to bring that forward sooner than later. All of us in the metal roofing industry are very excited about that.

Heidi Ellsworth: It's needed right now, because like you said, and we've seen it, MRA, the Metal Roofing Alliance, has all these studies, some great information. In fact, they're a partner on Roofer's Coffee Shop, so anyone listening, you can find all this information, and some of the studies that they've done on the growth of metal, and the consumers are really asking for it. One of the great campaigns that I just love that you all have done is the Make More with Metal, and really helping contractors understand how they can incorporate this metal roofing into their business, along with the technologies associated. Can you talk a little bit more about that? How can contractors really take that step, to bring metal roofing as a product offering to their customers?

Mark MacDonald: Absolutely. That was something that Sherwin-Williams brought forward, was the Make More with Metal campaign. And really what we wanted to do is just try to take another step at connecting those contractors with manufacturers to learn more, because the contractors, at the end of the day, they want to have a great business that brings great value to that homeowner. They know that the homeowners, more and more, want metal on their home because it's a high quality, high performance product, and people want that, more and more. When you look at how do you get into that market, the first step is, really, finding a manufacturer who has that product, and learning about it. We started doing that at some of these shows, like at the International Roofing Expo, and the response was just astounding, we really had a lot of contractors coming up, and we did directly connect them with manufacturers in real time. It was very exciting because these are people who want to grow their business, and that's great for them, and it's great for us. And metal is a much more profitable enterprise than, really, almost any other approach, in terms of a coated metal product, compared to asphalt, for example. It is a great way to grow your business, and make it sustainable for the longterm. When you tie all this conversation together, what's exciting for someone that wants to get into metal is, number one, homeowners want it, the demand is there, we know that. So then, how do you get into it? Well, you've got to partner with, you've got to find a manufacturer, and you've got to get trained on how to properly install their products, and bid them. And great news, there's bidding tools out there that help that bid process, simplify it by quite a bit. And there's also tools like visualization out there, to help them sell it upfront, and participate in that process with the homeowner. All the tools are coming to bear, and we think that the Make More with Metal campaign, we're going to continue that into 2021, to make sure that we're getting that message out to the contractors, and we're going to continue to partner with our manufacturer base to get that message out. We're really excited about continuing that campaign.

Heidi Ellsworth: Yeah, I love the fact, too, how you've brought the technology in on that, where really understanding that this is the kind of product that is the new future, I think. It's durable, it's sustainable, it's environmental, all the things the next generation wants. And on top of it, I know how much work you're doing on really surrounding it with strong technologies, not only for the roofing contractors to do better, but that will provide a smoother process for the homeowners and the business owners, too. I know we've already talked a little bit about this, but can you bring it all together, how those technologies that you're wrapping around the metal roofing?

Mark MacDonald: Well, I think the technology, in general, that we've touched on, it starts with having the people ... The way we see this is you have to have a holistic solution in the marketplace, to make sure that the customers get what they want, in this case a high quality metal roof. That starts with having the right people. Now, we can't train people, that's not really what we're in the business for, but our manufacturers certainly do that, they do that every week, they do that all the time. And they partner with their contractors, who do the same. That is something we can advocate, and we can connect people, and network, and that is, I think, step one, and we started that process some time ago, and we're going to continue to do that, so that's part of the process. Another part of the process is continuing to support the market with the high quality products that we have, and have had for decades, and making sure that there's awareness of what is out there, what is in the realm of the possible. Not just with color, which is where we lead in the world, color innovation, but making sure that we have a range of technology, high quality products, whether that's textured products, whether that's a range of aesthetics, or high performance products in difficult environments like agriculture and industrial applications, all the way down to high performance coatings for residential and commercial applications. So making sure that the customers are aware of what those products are, what's available to them. We've got to continue to do that, and continue to grow that innovation. Even in sustainability. So, we're a world leader, or the world leader, in sustainable coatings for this market, and we've been in that position for a long time because that's what we're investing in. And we have to continue to make people aware that they can deliver coil coated, pre painted, sustainable, high performance product with the right color, and the right texture that the customer wants, so that's a key part of it. The next part that we talked about was visualization, and that's something that, certainly, Sherwin-Williams continues to look at. And our customers, most importantly, they're already there, they're already bringing visualization solutions to the market every day, so that continues to be important to get those homeowners in. Another aspect would be our continued participation in the industry associations that we talked about, having people like Reid Ribble at the NRCA, supporting metal. Having people like Renee Ramey at the Metal Roofing Alliance, leading the charge with industry, making sure that the message and education is out there for homeowners and contractors alike, that's incredibly important. And then finally, the tip of the spear, which is supporting innovation to the contractors themselves, and the manufacturers, that allows them to streamline their process, and bring their product to the market as quickly as possible. Those are all things that Sherwin-Williams is really interested in, and keenly aware of. And we're going to continue, across all of those realms, to help grow this market that's so important to our customers.

Heidi Ellsworth: Love it, I love it. Thank you, that just brings it all together, and I think the contractors can see exactly how they can get their arms around it, and start taking it to market. But, I think I'd also like you to talk ... so many people think about Sherwin-Williams, and of course they think paint, and color, and all those things. But, you've been very active in really facilitating to bring all of the building products together, that are part of the Sherwin-Williams portfolio. Maybe you could talk just a little bit about that, too, your new campaign, Elevate Your Products. There's a lot of stuff there.

Mark MacDonald: Absolutely. We at Sherwin-Williams believe that our customers deserve to have the best products available to them, that they can put into their homes. So when I talk about homeowners, the way that we serve the homeowner is really through our manufacturers, who are our customers. So what we're doing is making sure that our manufacturers, select manufacturers, have these tools in their tool belt. So you talk about what other products do we do? Yeah, Sherwin-Williams, we're the largest coating company in the world, and because of that, that means there's a lot of things there. One of those things is we innovate more than any other company in the world in coatings, we invest more in innovation, and we have a larger array of products than any other company in the world, particularly for this market. So some examples of that, when you put our high quality coatings, you're going to want a high quality sealant, and we have that. So we have Geocel, they've been 40 years, and we've recently brought to bear on the metal roofing market hybrid sealants, that's one of the trends that's been going on for some time, is a move towards hybrids for a number of reasons. So we saw that, we know that that was the case, and we brought forward a high performance sealant to the market, that's in addition to the high performance tri polymer sealants, the 2300 line, that's been going on for a long time. So we're really excited to have not only our robust 2300 line that's been there for many years, but our 4350 hybrid sealants that we can say, "Look, these have been tested on our coatings, and we know that they work." There's not another company that can say that, because they don't do sealants, so that's been fantastic for our customer base, and we're excited to continue that program well into the future. That's probably one of our biggest offerings, is that 4350 hybrid sealant for the metal roofing market, that's something we're really excited about. Another piece that we're excited about, we have things that people don't even necessarily know that we make even though it seems obvious. But, we do things like touch up paint, with our Ready Match program. We have an edge sealer, that's been available for some time that's exciting, and we're getting a lot more interest in. And, we also have, when you think Sherwin-Williams, most people would think of the stores, we've got more than 4600 stores across North America. So a question in our market, for the metal roofing market, the metal building market is hey, can I get the paint that I have, can I get that color in a different product, like your house paint, or a stain, can I get that at a store? The answer is absolutely yes, so we offer, for select customers, an architectural paint match program, where we give them a proprietary code, they can walk into a Sherwin-Williams store, give them that code, and they can get any product that's available in that store in that color, that aligns with the color that they're already buying from Sherwin-Williams in their residential, roof, or wall panel. Those are programs that we're bringing to market, that's part of our Building Solutions program. There's not another company in the world that can do that, and we're very exited about continuing that into 2021.

Heidi Ellsworth: That's cool. You know, I love it when you look at something, something you know so well, everyone knows Sherwin-Williams stores across the country, and then all of a sudden you're like, "Oh, you do that, too? Oh, that's awesome." So that's really, I think, our goal obviously, at Roofer's Coffee Shop, is to educate, to make sure that everybody does know all the great products that you have. In fact, right now, and this happened at Christmas, it's happening now, so everybody, even if you're listening to this podcast later on, you should always be watching out, we're doing a contest for a free case of 4350, which I'm pretty excited about. And, they get to pick their own color, whatever they color they want and they need for what they're doing.

Mark MacDonald: That's exciting, that's a big deal for us. We really are happy to be partnered with Roofer's Coffee Shop, to get that word out about 4350, getting that sealant out in the market. We've got a number of customers that are already putting roofs up with it, and it's a fantastic part of our offering, and we're excited about bringing that out to customers, so thanks for working with us on that.

Heidi Ellsworth: Love it, love it. You know, as we come out of this crazy time, and we're moving into the season, obviously there's already been a number of storms, but the weather's getting nice, there's a lot of roofing going on, I just think this is the time, also, ... and maybe we can leave it, as we get to the end of our podcast here, but that opportunity to work with homeowners, we just had a great conversation yesterday with a contractor, Mark, and they were like, "We want people to think of roofing and the exterior the same as they would an interior designer." I think Sherwin-Williams is really able to bring that, to bring that feel and that experience with color. Maybe, helping the contractors to really use that, as they're moving forward working with their homeowners and building owners.

Mark MacDonald: I think that's a goal that we've been talking about for a little bit now, where when typically, when a homeowner looks at the house, and they have really three elements, when you talk about that curb appeal, that looked at. One is the front of the house, the siding, the windows, the door, all that kind of stuff. Another one is landscaping. And those are seen as aesthetic levers that they can pull, so in other words they can repaint the front of the house, they can change out and add some shudders, or delete them, they can change their landscaping and add bushes, or take them away, or a tree here or there. But typically, when people look at the roof, they see it as something they have to leave alone or deal with. I think that's because, typically with something that's an asphalt roof, there's really not a lot of variability in what you're able to put on there. The great news for our customers and the homeowner is that with metal, that's no longer the case. Now, this is another aesthetic lever that you can play a little bit, you can add color, you can add different features to that roof, that you really just can't do with a different product. So we think that, to your point, that's another really exciting opportunity for metal in this market today.

Heidi Ellsworth: And using technology, they can visualize it before they even sign on the dotted line, so that's pretty cool.

Mark MacDonald: Absolutely. Yeah, the future is here, and Sherwin-Williams is happy to be leading the charge with these things, with our customers.

Heidi Ellsworth: That is cool. Well Mark, as always, I love our conversations, and I know we're going to have many more here, on the Coffee Shop. I really appreciate you taking your time out today, and sharing all this innovation, tips, advice, to help contractors make more with metal. Thank you so much for being here today.

Mark MacDonald: Thank you, thanks for having us.

Heidi Ellsworth: Okay. And for everybody whose out there, please, these kind podcasts, we are getting experts like Mark every single day, they're coming in, they're sharing advice, so be sure to go under the Read, Listen, Watch section of Roofer's Coffee Shop, and check out all of the podcasts. In fact, you'll hear Mark on there in a couple other podcasts and webinars, a lot of great information that you can listen to whenever you need to. So please share it with others in the industry, and thank you so much for being here today.

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