A jack of all trades

About this time of year many contractors start trying to figure out how to stay busy during the winter. Many consider alternative services, such as snow removal or hanging Christmas lights, as a way to keep the cash flowing and the crews busy.

While I am certainly not opposed to expanding one’s services, I have some serious questions about this approach. First, the time to start worrying about the winter is long before the winter. Planning for winter in mid-November is a little late.

Consider what this would mean in actual practice. If you want to offer an alternative service, you will need to market that service. Which means, you will divert resources from your primary business–painting–into a very seasonal service. Why not spend that money on marketing your painting business instead?

I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying to grow their business. But the proper way to do that is to market your business, not offer and market alternative services for a few months of the year. Stick to what you know and learn to do it well. In the long term, that will serve you much better than trying to find ways to use your ladders during the winter.

Adding value to your business

I recently sent an email to subscribers in which I explained how to address low-priced competition by offering more value to differentiate your company. A reader responded and asked for some things he could do to add value, and this post will briefly address that issue.

Consider the following facts:

  • Most painting contractors do not accept credit cards
  • Most painting contractors are not a member of the BBB
  • Most painting contractors do not have any form of certification, such as RRP or from manufacturers (such as Wolman)
  • Most painting contractors fax or email their estimates
  • Most painting contractors refuse to spend money on training for their employees
  • Most painting contractors submit estimates that are vague.
  • Most painting contractors do not offer color consultations.
  • Most painting contractors offer their clients little in the way of consumer education.
  • And the list goes on.

What if you were different in regard to a few of these items? You would suddenly offer more value than most of your competitors. What if you were different in regard to all of these items? Then you would offer significantly more value than your competitors.

When you offer more value, the low-priced competition ceases to really be a competitor. They are offering something completely different. So, if you find yourself challenged by low-priced competition add more value to your business.

Targeted marketing

Most painting contractors recognize the fact that they must have a targeted market. They will focus on new construction, or repaints, or residential, or commercial. They realize that each of these is different, and narrowing their market allows them to be more efficient. But they fail to apply this geographically.

I have talked to countless contractors who complain about long drives to give estimates or reach a job site. When I ask why they take on such projects, they respond, “I have to go where the work is.” While it is certainly true that customers cannot bring their own or office to our shop to be painted, it doesn’t mean that a contractor should drive anywhere and everywhere to get work.

These long commutes are often a result of untargeted marketing. Instead of selecting specific areas for marketing, they try to reach everyone. Instead of focusing their marketing in small geographic areas, they market to an entire city or county. The result is that they wind up driving all over creation.

(I realize that some of you may live in rural locations and long drives are simply the price you pay for your idyllic setting. I am speaking of contractors who live in more populated areas.)

If you don’t like long drives, reconsider where you are marketing.

Winter is not the time to market for winter work

For many painting contractors, winter can be a very slow period. Interestingly, many contractors wait until they have little or no work to realize this, even though winter occurs at the same time every year. (Trust me, I have a calendar.)

When they suddenly realize that winter is knocking on the door, these contractors desperately begin soliciting advice as to how to generate work. Unfortunately, it is usually too late. The time to market for winter work is during the summer and fall.

The problem goes beyond winter work. Too many contractors give little thought to marketing at any time of the year. As long as they have work for today, they are content. They don’t worry about tomorrow, let alone next week or the winter.

Marketing a painting business should be a year-round endeavor. It should never stop. Marketing drives sales, and when marketing does not exist sales will not either.

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