THE MAGAZINE FOR PROFESSIONALS

Making the Pro Connection

by Jim Williams

SW13121005U.S. demand for paint and coatings is forecasted to reach 400 million gallons by 2019, growing 3.8% annually, which is valued at $31.5 billion, according to a new study by The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm. And professional painters drive a large part of that business.

“About 70% of paint sold today is sold to a professional paint contractor,” says Joseph Dellafave, Benjamin Moore manager, commercial contractor and facility maintenance. “The professional paint market is vital to our success. The majority of paint sold on a daily basis is to paint contractors, so it’s very important that we continue to find innovative ways to support their businesses.”

Behr Process Corporation’s Tim O’Reilly, director of pro services, The Home Depot Channel, says Behr is committed to find new ways to support the pro industry. “Behr has a long history of developing high-value products throughout our partnership with The Home Depot,” O’Reilly says. Over much of the last decade, Behr has been steadily building and growing its products and service programs to better support the company’s growing number of pro customers. “The professional painter and the work they do are very important to Behr.”

How important is the professional paint market to Valspar Paint?

“Like any paint manufacturer, the largest segment is always important,” says Steve Wiezorek, Valspar’s director of product marketing. “For more than 200 years, Valspar has been working with pros in multiple categories and multiple segments; our committed partnerships are the reason for success with the pro. We want to be an important part of any pro’s business, providing creative solutions for on-site or in-store services that make painters more productive. That is our number one goal.”

It’s the same story for paint giant Sherwin-Williams, which owns and operates 4,000 stores across the country. “The professional paint market is the backbone of our business, and what makes our company hum,” explained Jeff Winter, the company’s director of wholesale marketing, residential repaint. “Sherwin-Williams is a professional paint company.”

CHANNELING THE PRO

The major players in the paint manufacturing industry share a common theme when it comes to marketing their products and services to the professional paint contractor: It’s critical they know they’re important to us. The channels manufacturers use to reach pros is both varied and diverse.

“The professional paint market has always been, and remains, extremely important to PPG,” says Tom Dougherty, director of pro marketing, PPG Paints. “PPG built its reputation in the architectural coatings business on the pro side, and we consider it one of the key foundations of the business today.”

Dougherty says PPG announced a comprehensive brand strategy in 2014 to service professional customers with its PPG Paints and PPG Pittsburgh Paints brands through its U.S. company-owned stores and independent dealers.

“PPG reaches professionals through three channels of distribution in the U.S.: 3,000+ paint-dealer locations, more than 630 PPG Paints company-owned paint stores, and at The Home Depot,” Dougherty says.

Behr also leans heavily on The Home Depot to market to pros. “The Home Depot is our distribution partner,” O’Reilly says. “Our products are featured amidst an assortment of the supplies and sundries needed to address any project, and with extended hours and will-call, the convenience is exceptional. We also offer factory tinting and direct-to-job site delivery in many markets.”

Valspar’s Wiezorek says his products are sold in more than 5,000 retail locations, “offering a wide range of coatings for any pro and for any job,” he says. “We also have an on-site and on-demand direct-to-the-pro channel called ValsparPRO Solutions that brings the paint store to any job site, providing coatings, paint sundries, expert support, and on-site color matching and tinting—keeping paint crews painting and more productive.”

Like Valspar, Sherwin-Williams serves pros through its retail stores, but also through a sales force of 2,500 outside reps. “They have a singular focus: to support the pro,” Winter says. “Every one of our products is, first and foremost, tested by the pro market. We also often introduce products specifically for the pro market that are tested and applied by professional contractors. All benchmarking for application centers around the pro, too. One example is ProMar 200 Zero VOC Interior Latex Paint, a professional product and a standard in the industry.”

Dunn-Edwards Paints, one of the country’s largest independent manufacturer and distributor of high-performance paints and paint supplies, boasts having some of the greenest paint products in the industry, which is something important to pros who spend every day handling paint, explains Tim Bosveld, Dunn-Edwards’ VP of marketing.

“We’re the only major manufacturer who removed EG (ethylene glycol) from its paints—something we did voluntarily in the 1980s—and our paint is produced in the world’s only LEED Gold-certified manufacturing facility,” Bosveld says.

Bosveld says Dunn-Edwards reaches professional painters via its 124 company-owned stores in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, as well as more than 80 authorized dealers throughout the Southwest.

RESPONDING TO THE NEEDS OF PROS

Reaching the pro is one thing, but keeping them happy is something quite different. With nearly 1,000 paint and coating manufacturers in the market, pros have a choice when it comes to the products they use.

“Painters are always looking for ways to mitigate their risks; callbacks and failures can eliminate all profit,” O’Reilly says. “This causes inertia around the processes and products chosen for all types of jobs. It’s natural for pros to be loyal to their brands. We respect this—we want them to try our products so they’re making an educated decision.

Dougherty agrees. “When a professional painter finds a brand they can trust, they become comfortable with that brand, knowing they can rely on the service, products and people backing the brand,” he says. “Professionals loyal to PPG brands find that our dedication to the professional, as well as our expertise and vast product and service offerings are designed to meet their individual needs no matter the size and scope of their jobs.”

Meeting the diverse and changing needs of the professional paint contractor in this competitive landscape is always goingo be a challenge.

“Sometimes, the biggest challenge is actually communicating all the things we can actually offer a pro contractor,” Winter says. “Pros sometimes don’t know all the things we offer or may be skeptical. They ask ‘You really do that? You do all of that for your customer?’ We find the biggest challenge is in effectively communicating the full scale of what we can and do offer the professional market.”

“Each product developed needs to meet attributes important to all pros, no matter what segment they’re working in,” Wiezorek says. “Through the continuum of price points, each product may provide a different benefit. Valspar offers architectural, and even industrial, coatings used traditionally by pros. In terms of service, we partner with our channels to help grow their pro focus. Our ValsparPRO Solutions channel also provides a ‘pro-only’ service model.”

Says Dougherty: “We are very excited about the professional paint business going into 2016 and beyond with most economic indicators that impact painting pointing in a positive direction. We’re hopeful, and we’re ready to work as hard as we can to help our professional customers expand their businesses.”

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