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Promoting the value of underlayment

Volume 27/Number 21; March 3/10, 2014

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 11.16.50 AMThe industry has been promoting warranties for hard surface flooring products for what seems like forever. Warranties are a major selling point and a way of letting potential customers know the manufacturer stands behind its product. In-store, warranties are usually featured in POP signage and are always top of mind with savvy retail associates.

With that said, shouldn’t the same methods of warranty promotion be applied to what lies underneath flooring? When it comes to underlayment, what are the most effective ways for potential buyers to learn about its benefits? What attributes should be prominently supported?

According to Jack Boesch, director of marketing for MP Global Products, makers of hard surface underlayments QuietWalk and VersaWalk, a warranty is a guarantee that gives assurance about the quality of the product purchased.

When selling underlayment to retailers, manufacturers need to make sure the retailer knows the underlayment should match the customer’s application as well as the finished flooring. “A warranty might exclude a particular type of finished floor or subfloor,” Boesch said. “If underlayment is installed under a material that is excluded, the warranty becomes useless before it’s even tested.”

Boesch believes warranties can be an indicator of the level of confidence the manufacturer has in its underlayment and should be promoted in such a way. “If the underlayment warranty is [beneficial to] the end user, then bringing up a particular underlayment’s warranty during the sales process and explaining how it reflects manufacturer confidence can be a strong selling point.”

Most companies have different ways of advertising their warranties, most notably on their websites, in print form on marketing brochures, and with retailers that distribute their products. “End users need to be told to read the fine print of any warranty for the coverage provided and any disclaimers that the manufacturer inserts into the warranty, which would render the warranty null and void,” said Dwight Walker, technical specialist, DMX Plastics.Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 11.17.20 AM

DMX takes the direct approach and provides its warranty information on the front of its marketing literature as well as on the home page of the website for its 1-Step product. “We also provide a toll-free number to get more detailed information.”

To properly address the underlayment warranty, Walker noted, the information should be marketed in a two-fold approach. The first part is based on performance characteristics of the product, while the second part should relate to the product’s durability and life expectancy.

With the advent of the Internet, buyers today are more informed about products and material characteristics and, as such, “are becoming more aware of what they want in their new homes or renovation projects, which are products offering benefits important to them,” Walker added.

For Boesch, the best way to promote a warranty is to back it up with a high-quality product that exceeds industry standards and results in very few claims. “When claims do occur, we act promptly to help the retailer determine the source of the problem and resolve the claim quickly.”

Executives agreed on the quality issue, saying that for the retailer, selling underlayment solely on price will not help boost sales. In most cases, said Phil Reifinger, vice president of sales, Healthier Choice, retailers sell underlayment based on price and initial sound ratings. “Dealers that sell on price alone are likely providing an inferior product.

“Homeowners want materials that last,” he explained, “and they want features and benefits. Quality products that perform on a long-term basis should and often have extended warranties. A well-informed dealer can take the opportunity to upgrade the homeowner armed with the quality differences and associated warranties.”

For a typical flooring installation, he concluded, “the homeowner can upgrade to the best underlayment in the industry for only a few dollars more. It’s a win-win scenario for the homeowner and dealer.”