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Here’s Why You Need An Online Store For Your Contractor Business With Will Housh And Paul Redman

SBM 615 | Online Store

 

People want solutions online. If you don’t have an online store, they’ll find someone else who does. Join in the conversation as Will Housh, the founder & CEO of Contractor Commerce™, and Paul Redman, Vice President of Sales at HVAC Technologies, discuss the advantages of online shopping for contractors. You can list any product you want to sell. Just put them right on your website! Will and Paul’s mission to future-proof contractors’ businesses drives them to give you the tools you need to sell online. Are you ready to put your brand in front of your customers daily? Tune in!

Listen to the podcast here:

Here’s Why You Need An Online Store For Your Contractor Business With Will Housh And Paul Redman

I’m here with Tall Paul and Will Housh. Some of you may know we’ve had Will on the show before. I’m excited to share Contractor Commerce with you. Everybody I’ve talked to over here, if you don’t have it on your website, you got to have it on your website. That’s a conversation that I’ve had with everybody.

Tersh has this on his website. Send some traffic to the site and check it out. They’re going to talk about it. This is the future. People want solutions online. If you don’t have it, they’re going to find somebody else who does. These guys here offer a solution that is about as easy as you’re ever going to be able to make it to have your own store without going through all the headache, development and everything else. With that being said, we’ll talk a little bit about what you guys do.

Thanks. We appreciate you guys having us on. We’re excited. We’re here at Service World Expo in Louisville. We’re talking about online stores for contractors. Our whole point of view is that the future is that every contractor is going to eventually have an online store. That’s how consumers want to shop. That’s how we all shop for everything anyway so why in the world would we not do the same thing? If you’re needing their plumbing, electrical or whatever trade you’re in. The products and services that you sell your customers, they want to buy them right through your website and the technology exists to make it easy. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what Contractor Commerce is all about.

I can’t imagine a scenario that we’re here several years from now and your customers still don’t have a way to apply the things that you sell on your website. We are talking with a couple of different marketing companies here. I think there are probably 10 or 12. The idea is that everyone’s spending millions of dollars on ad campaigns, sending their consumers to landing pages, contact forms or phone calls. How do the biggest brands in the world convert?

They convert with a credit card. The idea that online shopping shouldn’t exist for contractors is absurd. It should absolutely exist. We’re trying to make it a normal thing. We think this is a perfect opportunity. Thanks to Service World Expo for having us. We had unveiled. We’ve been testing for years. When I say testing, we’re practitioners. We do eCommerce ourselves. We’re now letting contractors have that technology on their website too. We’re excited about it.

I think the one thing that I love about it ours is it’s a subscription service. I have a couple of clients that I’ve personally gone to in their house and they were missing their Aprilaire filters. They’re like, “I bought the house. There’s never been one there.” I was like, “Here is a link to where you go to get it.” I send them to my website and they signed up. Now every several months, it automatically is sending them one. When it arrives, that’s when they know to change it out. There’s like, “I’ll change it up now.”

The unique distinction is when they get on your site, they’re not following the link and landing on another site where they’re creating an account, processing an order and you’re getting back credit for it. They’re going on your site. They’re placing an order with your company. They’re getting an email from you and a text message notification with the FedEx tracking number and they’re getting that Amazon Prime-like experience directly from you. They don’t know who we are, no offense to Will but they probably never will.

We put an invoice inside the box with the contractor’s label on it so that it’s a fully branded experience. The other key is the margin. Many contractors have given up on the idea that you can make a margin on furnace filters. Before I go off the rails here but the idea of going to SupplyHouse, picking up a filter, bringing it back to the shop and taking it to the customer. Even if you pull the shop out of this, it is highly unproductive and the risk of damaging and handling, all these things. SupplyHouse handles the big boxes. That’s their core.

People want solutions online. If you don't have it, they'll find someone else who does. Click To Tweet

The idea that it needs to be a low-margin item isn’t true either. You should be able to mark it up. In our case, our clients mark it up 20%, 25%. You’re making 25% of the filter that you would have never sold otherwise if you wouldn’t have had it on your website because they would have bought it off of Amazon. That’s the hard part that contractors might think, “My customers don’t buy.” We’re talking filters. We’re not even talking about systems yet. Contractors think, “No one buys that many filters from us.” You’re right. They are buying from Amazon.

I passed a huge billboard that had a Menards filter program. I told these guys before we went on, Home Depot is all over Pandora. I don’t know if they’re targeting me or what but they’re all over Pandora promoting their online filter program. The big-box stores are going after it hard. You know that there’s a reason why. They’ve done the research. You’re losing market share to a big-box store. You’re not even trying to fight back.

On top of the revenue and the margin that’s available on filters, an even bigger deal is maintaining that close, loyal and sticky relationship with as many customers as possible. Having your brand in front of them on a regular basis because you’re giving them the convenience of the filter so that when they need a service call and they need a quote on a new system, who do they think of first? It’s the company that’s taken care of them on the filter side. That’s not to mention selling maintenance agreements, tune-ups, other services and fully installed systems. The future is that customers want to do all that stuff on your website. It isn’t just about filters.

Dive deeper into that. The systems and other options that you’re able to sell with it.

Think about all the other things that we shop for in any other industry. There’s upfront pricing. There’s pricing transparency. You want to go buy a car, you go on the Ford website. You can pick the vehicle. You can customize it. You can add all your options and you can see what the pricing is going to look like. You can even send that to the local dealership and walk right in there and it’s a done deal.

You’re going to buy a King Ranch and you’re like, “It’s $80,000?” They didn’t think it was $30,000. That’s what happens in air conditioning because contractors are not putting the pricing online but consumers are going on and searching for it. If contractors aren’t putting the pricing online, other people are putting the pricing online. They’re getting the wrong pricing. No wonder I see all these groups that someone will post a text message exchange with a homeowner or whatever. They’re like, “This person is such an idiot. They think a full change out should cost $4,500.” It’s not their fault. That’s your fault.

There’s no reference point online.

There’s no other industry where it would not be okay to have up for pricing. You don’t put your entire retail price book online.

SBM 615 | Online Store
Online Store: The idea that online shopping shouldn’t exist for contractors is absurd. We should exist.

That’s what I was going to ask. They’re not going to see XR17 is going to cost this amount. How do you work that out? We all know that there are situations where a call to change out may be different than restricted access attic.

One point of clarification is we’re not talking about selling individual pieces of equipment and shipping them to the customer. What we’re talking about is the local trusted contractors selling a fully installed system to their local customers. The contractor provides the equipment, labor, warranty and a professional job. The contractor can choose how they want to list that. What pricing do they show? What description they show but an important part of the flow is once the customer goes through and answers a few simple questions and picks out the system that they want, the next step is a site visit.

It’s not the end-all-be-all.

We’re all from this industry. We know that there are situations that come up. You need to do a load calculation. You need to measure. You got to make sure there are no unique circumstances that might change the price one way or the other. The homeowner understands that also. They got a sight-unseen price, super convenient and easy but let’s go out and verify it. We then get the job rolling and collect payment when we’re finished with the work.

We have had instances though with Travis Smith of Sky where he had ductless mini-split pricing on his website in a general contractor. Someone went in and put their credit card number in and bought it from him. He had to call them back and let them know like, “This is for residential.” The concept is that people are comfortable with this. This is how you buy things. Going back, I know we skipped forward to systems. I don’t want to say a controversial topic but people drop passionate lines around the ideas. It’s not up to contractors whether or not it’s a good idea. It’s up to the consumers. The contractors who do business the way consumers want to do business will win and look at every other company in the world to prove that out.

There are three levels there. It’s not you have to do it all or you can only do one thing. You can pick and choose that.

Pick the things that you’re comfortable with, that feels right for your business and you can work your way into other modules as you go along. Services, memberships, tune-ups and things like that, homeowners are buying those from contractors through their websites left and right.

A great example is we have a client in Florida who sold their first membership and I called them to ask them, “What did you do? What did you change in your business to sell this membership on your website as opposed to having to CSR do it on the phone or doing it in the house?” She looked it up and said, “This customer, they were a maintenance customer years ago. We haven’t been able to get ahold of this guy. He fell off the Earth and somehow went onto their website and renewed his membership.” That’s what consumers want.

Put your brand in front of your customers on a regular basis. Click To Tweet

With that being said, it’s not the maintenance agreements that are sold in that second tier. We can put other items on there even if we wanted to sell our merchandise and stuff like that. Is that correct?

You can list any product you want to sell. If you want to put one of those fancy hats on there or some of those fancy shoes that you wear, put them right on there. It’s a collector’s item.

Not to name drop shamelessly but Lou Hobaica has garbage disposals and water heaters.

If somebody is reading this, it’s the easiest word to spell ever.

You love Lou Hobaica. It rhymes.

Go to his website and visit the shop page. He’s killing it. I love the way it’s designed.

The idea is if I’m a contractor, I would feel and they have been over the years, so threatened when a customer calls in and says, “I got a quote from your company but I went on Amazon. I notice I can get that for $2,800.” My response as a contractor is you can get that same unit off of my website for $4,800 and it includes the professional installation and warranty. It brings value back to that thing that’s being deconstructed and commoditized. All contractors are afraid that one day it’s going to be like a law. Those parts and materials are going to have to be broken out and everyone’s going to know profit margins.

It’s their fault because there’s no transparency. You get it wrong and the customer is ticked off because you came into their house and you told them that their comfort systems are $27,000. They Google and land somewhere to find out that the material costs $3,800.

SBM 615 | Online Store
Online Store: The consumers don’t decide if something is a good idea or not. It’s up to the consumers.

That is why the separation is happening. It’s why equipment is being bought online direct. It’s because contractors haven’t provided upfront transparent pricing already. Consumers want to know, they’re going online to find out and contractors aren’t giving them what they’re asking for. That’s our whole philosophy. Let’s start with what the customer wants and work backward.

I have a story about when I was doing sales. I was at someone’s house and I gave him my price. He pulled his phone out and he was on an AC wholesaler or something like that. He said, “It’s this price right here. What’s the difference?” Because he didn’t know. He’s like, “Can’t you install that for $500?” “We can’t.” It’s amazing the disconnect between homeowners and contractors and I think this bridges the gap. Honestly, we’re going through this entire expo. There’s nothing else like this out there.

The reality is there will be things out there like this but aren’t centered on the contractor. If I’m in the Service World Expo in 2027 and there’s not a company called BuyYourACDirectOffMyWebsite.com, we’ll ship it to you and hook you up with a qualified installer, I would be surprised. Those technology companies are existing because they see the margin in HVAC, plumbing or whatever it is. They see an opportunity just like every other industry. They did not consult the taxi industry when they created Uber. They did not ask what was best for taxi drivers. Tech companies and manufacturers aren’t going to ask what’s the best. It’s going to be what’s best for them.

The fact that we came from a contracting background means we’ve started from a mentality of what is best for the contractor. We want contractors to be able to future-proof their business and give them these tools so that regardless of the changes in the industry that are already here and that are coming, they’ve got the tools at their fingertips to keep succeeding and keep differentiating.

I can talk from a marketing perspective while getting this on your website. It is one piece of code and it took 30 seconds to do the whole thing. Log in to the website, put it on, save it and it was live. From a point of view of setting this up, it is fast. There is some backend work you have to do to set up your store and stuff but that’s stuff you constantly work on. Getting this on your site, live and being able to offer filters in a day is easy. It’s never been easier to do this. It’s plug-and-play. You got to talk to these guys first and figure out what solution works best for you.

The development team at Contractor Commerce has worked hard to make sure that it’s a fully customizable experience because we know that right out of the box, everyone’s going to have different requests and different ways. They want to ask questions and different things that matter for their market. When people sign up, they go through an onboarding session and that onboarding session is setting up the custom settings so that the contractor is comfortable with the experience that the consumers can see. That’s a big part of the process too. It’s easy to plug in, put it on the site and it’s customizable, which is cool.

If there’s one thing we know, it’s right here on my shirt, “Your Customers Want To Shop Online.” Since we know that, what do we do with that information? How are we going to change our behavior and how we run our business to be successful and give customers what they want? Getting an online store is easy to do. It’s customizable. You can sell anything you want, products, services, systems and it’s here. It’s not some idea out in the future. It’s here now.

I want to talk not about the technology of Contractor Commerce but the nuance it’s created between the relationship between a homeowner and a contractor when they’re not waiting until they’re in the home to build value and reveal the price. Frank told me something that I’ll never forget. He said that people would rather deal with the known than the unknown.

People would rather deal with the known than the scary. Click To Tweet

Everyone thinks they’re going to get sold. Nobody likes to be sold. Everyone wants to buy. They want to purchase but they don’t be sold.

When you walk into a restaurant, they hand you a menu with all the options and the prices on it and you get to pick. That’s an enjoyable experience. It’s not enjoyable when it says, “Market price,” and then they put the price. Tell them what it costs.

I don’t want to discount any of the traditional ways of doing business. I still think word of mouth is way better than digital marketing to some degree. It depends on how much reach you can get. Is there anything better than saying like, “Call Tersh. He will come out to your house. He will sit down with you and he’ll get this taken care of.” There’s nothing better than that but how scalable is that?

As we wrap things up, we’re right here at our limit, why are you standing next to me?

I was thinking, if your name was Robert, would you be as popular? You’re like Oprah.

They asked me what’s my last name at the booth up there. I was like, “I don’t know.”

If my name were Phil or Ryan, would I be Tall Ryan?

It may have stunted your growth if you had done that. It can be a bad thing because there are people who have said, “I know him,” but they don’t know me. It’s whatever but I’ve learned to deal with it and the nicknames, I got them in high school, middle school and elementary school. I learned to live with it.

SBM 615 | Online Store
Online Store: You can list any product you want to sell. Just put them right on your website.

We’re still getting them now.

Let’s be honest, we do.

It’s been good hanging with you guys. Thanks for having us on.

Honestly, it’s truly a pleasure to come and chill with you guys for sure.

These guys are easy to talk to. Just start a conversation with them. Go to Tersh’s website and check it out. There are a bunch of other ones out there. It’s ServiceEmperor.com.

Go to ContractorCommerce.com. Our pricing is upfront and online. You can sign up without talking to us. You can set up filters on your website for less than $49 a month. You can have the entire suite of contracts and commerce all set up for $149 a month. It’s super cheap. If you sign up and mention Tersh, you’ll get the first month free.

Thank you so much for coming to the show.

Thanks.

Thanks, Josh.

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About Will Housh

Will Housh was a traditional HVAC and plumbing contractor. In 2006, he recognized that eventually everything would be bought and sold online, so Will moved into e-commerce.

Today, Will leads an eCommerce business called Same Day Supply and a software-as-a-service business called Contractor Commerce. Will is engaged as a volunteer and board member at two non-profits mainly focused on serving orphans, foster children, and other vulnerable kids.

Will is actively looking for additional suppliers with whom they can partner in the e-commerce business. He is also seeking opportunities to serve as an investor, advisor, and/or board member for companies where Will can add value and bring a fresh perspective through his extensive experience with HVAC, eCommerce, technology, and digital marketing.

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