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Cemstone's Contractor Supply stores offer customers a hands-on approach to selecting building supplies.
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The Kuhlman Corp. head quarters in Maumee, Ohio, exemplifies the versatility and beauty of masonry products.

However, carrying ICFs in the stores is just the first step. Cemstone's Ready Mix and Contractor Supply sales teams also work hand-in-hand to ensure the products' compatibility translates into sales. The teams regularly share job leads and often submit dual bids for large projects: one for concrete, and one for contractor supplies. Kinsel estimates the producer provides concrete and pumping services for about 90% of the ICF jobs sold through their stores.

Thor Becken, Cemstone's president, uses an analogy to describe this strategy. If you see a building supply truck driving in the Twin Cities carrying shingles, trusses, and lumber, you won't necessarily see a ready-mix truck and pump behind it. But if you see a truck delivering ICFs, the mixer and pump won't be far behind.

Thinking like a retailer

The nine Contractor Supply salespeople also promote Cemstone's position as a market leader with the stores' targeted retail approach. Staff builds awareness and store traffic by meeting with customers and potential customers in their offices as they spread the word about special deals. For example, a recent promotion in Cemstone's frequent buyer program encouraged customers to buy 10 containers of curing and sealing product by offering the eleventh container free, along with a complimentary sprayer to apply it.

Even contractors not involved in the customer loyalty program are reminded of the stores at least once a month. Cemstone and its suppliers agree on special monthly discounts and alert customers through direct mail and in-store displays.

Like many strong retail sales programs, CCS also has an e-commerce component. Although Cemstone has continued to open stores to serve customers in local areas, the company wanted supplies to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Now, Cemstone's entire construction products catalog and its more than 10,000 items is accessible on the company Web site. Customers can access pricing and inventory, and order supplies on-line with free delivery.

“Our Contractor Supply Stores are just one part of the full-service packages we offer to our customers,” says Kinsel. But in terms of CCS's impact on Cemstone's ready-mix business, he says, “it's the tail that wags the dog.”

Building Customer Awareness

Employees at Kuhlman Corp., a major ready-mixed concrete producer in Ohio and Michigan, appreciate the benefits of materials that stand the test of time. In fact, the company has been promoting concrete and other quality construction products since 1901. Dedicated to these products and their customers, managers of this family-owned producer asked the architect to design its new corporate headquarters in Maumee, Ohio, as a life-sized product showcase.

With the help of an innovative architectural and engineering firm, SSOE Inc., the building was designed to bring the inside out. In other words, it incorporates a variety of building materials to represent Kuhlman's line of business. “Our concept was rooted in the fact that this is a family-owned, long lasting business that stands for quality products,” says Lance Mushung, project architect. “The design is a reflection of Kuhlman's heritage.”

Since the producer distributes such a wide range of construction products, from concrete and masonry specialties to brick and architectural stone, SSOE had its pick of materials. Together with the Kuhlman staff, the architects, designers, and suppliers selected materials that would best exhibit the products' capabilities.

On the building's exterior, the tasteful blend of building products is immediately apparent, as is the architect's attention to detail.