A little guidance is never a bad thing. Offering that guidance through a series of professional builder seminars has helped Berkeley, Calif.-based dealer Truitt & White Lumber increase sales and secure customer loyalty.

A brainchild of the company's advertising department 15 years ago, the seminars, designed to present product and best practices information to their customers, have proven to be a firm winner. In 2006, the addition of seminars in Spanish, an acknowledgment of a changing labor force, garnered wide approval, says Mark Pearsall, the pro dealer's vice president of sales and marketing. "While we have been successful reaching business owners, they're not doing the actual work," he says. "We wanted to reach the guys who install the product."

Pearsall says the seminars cover everything from window and door installation clinics–typically the most popular–to explanations of California's building-code requirements for using fire-resistant exterior building products in areas at risk for wildfires.

Pearsall and his colleagues choose topics that are geared toward the most successful products they sell, like Marvin windows and doors, as well as associated components, like Tyvek, flashing, and engineered wood. When a new product is introduced in a seminar, Pearsall says, "we find that our customers really use it. Folks in this area really rely on us for education."

Truitt & White also uses seminar participants' feedback in choosing topics. When questions arose on where to source green building products, Pearsall and his team designed a seminar on the topic.

Acknowledging its customers' busy agendas, the lumber dealer holds its seminars Wednesdays between 5 and 7 p.m. in an on-site conference room and provides a light supper. The seminars regularly attract between 25 and 50 participants. A list of scheduled seminars is posted on the Truitt & White Web site, and special e-mails and statement inserts notify customers of upcoming programs.

A $10 to $15 attendance fee plus revenue from featured product manufacturers and distributors cover most of the series production costs.

For Pearsall, the bottom line is this: "The more we can do to make our customers successful, the more they will reward us with their business."