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A note from Leapfrog:
In this guest post, tradesmen Dennis Darling (bio below) provides his thoughts on how LED lighting manufacturers can work more effectively with tradesmen to help increase product adoption and promote industry growth. -Sarah Bailey, Marketing Manager for Leapfrog Lighting.
In order for LED lighting to become fully accepted and widely used, it must first win the hearts and minds of tradesmen in the field. We have more specifying power and are looked to more frequently for advice by decision makers than most would think. Our firsthand experience and systems knowledge are invaluable, and smart supervisors know it. We also have been known to walk off the job and cause total chaos because we don’t stand behind what we were asked to install or the way we were asked to do it. For LED lighting to win the tradesmen’s hearts and keep construction moving at a steady pace, lighting designers, sales staff and dedicated specifiers will need to speak a language that the trades understand. Most importantly, they will need to give us a reason to change the way we do things now.
If there is one trait that all successful tradesmen share, whether we are electricians, carpenters, low-voltage specialists, or drywall installers, it is that we each have our own recipe for success, and we stick to it like construction adhesive. The job and specs may change, but we still have a formula for the day’s routine, and a formula for how each task is carried out–even a formula for the exact material(s) we feel comfortable installing in a given situation and location. Tradesmen are a lot like baseball players—if we hit a winning streak, nothing in the world will make us change the way they do things. To make us change any part of the recipe, you must be able to show how it will make our piece of the pie more tasty.
source: Balance Trades
Another trait that successful tradesmen share: extreme pride in our work. Not only do we get the satisfaction of creation every day we go to work, but we have knowledge that even a doctorate degree won’t provide, and they know it. This pride, and the reputation that goes along with it, is a huge part of our success, and we’re not about to put it at risk for anything we are even the tiniest bit unsure about.
I can’t count the number of times I have walked off, or threatened to walk off, a job because of a disagreement with project managers, superintendents, or architects, over how or what is to be installed. If any part of the project fails, it is my reputation and name that takes a hit. The Jasper County, Georgia, courthouse is a perfect example. As a historical restoration specialist, I rarely even saw the interior of the new annex building, at least until the day it rained. Water poured into the new subterranean commissioner’s chambers and I just happened to be cleaning up the mess when the local newspaper snapped a picture that ended up on the front page. For years, that was the first thing anyone in town mentioned when we spoke. I hate to think how many jobs it may have cost my own company, never mind the general contractor whose problem it really was.
Part of gaining tradesmen’s trust is speaking to us in terms we are familiar with—and on our schedule. There is no time in a fourteen-hour work day for continuing education. Learning about new products, new terms, and our practical definitions has to happen on the fly, at the product counter or on the job site. Tool and building material manufacturers like Makita, DeWalt and Owens-Corning have known this for years and send sales reps with premiums and samples to job sites throughout the building season to get the latest product news out to those who install and talk about the products with their peers and clients. I first learned about puncture-resistant tires from an industrious job site rep— nothing says puncture resistant like a pneumatic nail gun to the sidewall.
A tradesmen’s job is exhausting and busy, and we don’t want our time wasted in any way. Which brings us to this: find the briefest, most to-the-point way of communicating to us 100 per cent of the time. Overly technical or overly hyped information is not the way to win our hearts and loyalty. Give us what we need to know to make the decisions that are required to get the job done right and on time. That is all we are concerned with.
The LED industry needs to understand the inner-workings of tradesmen and consider marketing differently to us. Focus on top-of-mind factors such as ease of installation and maintenance, fail rates, special protocols, and market accessibility. Also, because time is of the essence, tell us how many supply houses stock the specific LED product and whether I can grab them on the way to the job? The industry must also provide us with answers to the questions that property owners ask, and do it in terms that make sense to laypersons so that the information can be relayed without translation to the client.
Effectively communicating with tradesmen in a way that we understand can have a very positive effect on the growth of the LED lighting market. When installers understand the benefits that LED lighting has for them personally, they will complain less and increase their efforts to work with LED. Furthermore, they will tell supervisors that they prefer to work with LED. These supervisors will tell trade company owners, who will try harder to land these desirable jobs. When superintendents see more, and lower, bids for these projects, they will tell project managers, who will then specify LED more often. The chain goes on and on, and in more than one direction, as many installers who work in the commercial sector also moonlight in the private residential sector, doing remodeling projects and the like for individual homeowner-consumers.
Manufacturers, suppliers, and lighting professionals should remember that constant and appropriate communication with tradesmen is vital in continuing the growth and adoption of LED lighting. And that waiting for the trades to make a personal effort to get on board is a waiting game the LED lighting industry can not afford to play. Waiting for tradesmen to fall in love with LED lighting is like waiting for molasses in January; by the time it happens, you may want something else instead.