Customer Retention with Email

While many painting contractors have come to the conclusion that a web site is a “must have”, few take full advantage of the opportunities that it offers. One of those opportunities is building a customer list for retention marketing.

In this context, a customer list consists of names and e-mail addresses. You can then utilize a service to stay in touch with your customers automatically, as I am doing with this e-mail.

Many contractors have concerns about doing this, such as spamming customers, what to write, and how often to contact their customers. These are legitimate concerns, but they are easily addressed.

There are numerous services available–such as Constant Contact and AWeber–that make it easy to compile a customer list. Each service provides measures that require a customer to “opt-in”, which protects you from claims of spam. In other words, the customer is giving you permission to send him e-mails.

But why would a customer want to opt-in? What benefit would he get from giving you his e-mail address? Most likely none, unless you offer him something. You must give him some reason to opt-in, and one of the most effective ways to do this is a free e-book or special report, such as this one.

A special report allows you to offer your customer something of value, while simultaneously promoting your company. If you are the only contractor in your market doing this, you will have a significant competitive advantage. And the nature of the report allows the customer to easily share it with others–it is a form of viral marketing.

But then what? Once you have started building a customer list, what do you do? The beauty of the services I mentioned above is that you can use auto-responders to automatically send e-mails at predetermined times. You can literally contact your customer list without ever lifting a finger.

For example, you can program an auto-responder to send an e-mail every 30 days. The e-mails might contain information regarding products, services your company offers, seasonal specials, etc. Once you set up the auto-responders, this all happens automatically.

It is a documented fact that customer retention is one of the most powerful and effective means for a contracting company to generate leads. And by using the available technology, you can do this with minimal effort.

In the short video below, you will see how easy it is to use email as an effective part of your customer retention marketing.

If you would like to offer your customers a Special Report, you can purchase our 5-page template, which includes a contractor comparison guide for only $2.95. The report is provided in Microsoft Word, so you can add your company logo, contact information, or other details.

A Different Model for Paint Contracting

I’ve often heard it said that there are two types of painting contractors—those who focus on the technical side and those who are more oriented towards marketing and sales. Of course, a successful business requires the proper combination of both.

For the contractor who enjoys painting, sales and marketing are a “necessary evil.” He recognizes that, without some level of marketing and sales, he simply won’t have the opportunity to paint. For the contractor who is more inclined towards marketing and sales, production issues can be a constant headache.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to the traditional contracting business that allows each type of contractor to focus on what he enjoys. Indeed, I did this for several years, and it proved to be a win-win for all involved.

In the model that I followed, I offered a sales and marketing service for other painting contractors. They retained ownership of their company and were responsible for all production. I simply helped them with marketing, and then did all of the estimating for them. I received a commission for all jobs sold.

For my clients, they didn’t have to spend a large part of their day (or evenings) giving estimates. They could stay on the job and focus on production. They became more efficient. For me, I didn’t have to worry about production issues. I sold the job and then turned it over to them.

I won’t claim that this wasn’t without some problems. First, I spent an incredible amount of time on the road. My clients were servicing a large part of Houston, so I was giving estimates over an area of more than 1,000 square miles. That began to take a toll on me. Second, my clients were sometimes reluctant to do the marketing necessary to generate leads. Because of this, it was sometimes difficult to keep them with the backlog of work that they wanted. Of course, these issues can certainly be overcome.

Some might think it odd, and perhaps even damaging to one’s business, to work with competitors. While I still had my own contracting business, our service areas overlapped very little. In fact, I often received requests for estimates that were outside of my service area, but I was able to sell these jobs for another contractor who did service that area. So I was able to earn a sales commission and the contractor wound up with a job he otherwise wouldn’t have even bid on.

There are certainly variations to this model, but the important point is to create a win-win situation. And this is true whether you are the technician or the salesman.

Marketing for winter work

Winter is often a slow time for painting contractors. Unfortunately, many contractors wait until it is too late to start marketing for winter work. The time to market for winter work is not in the dead of winter. If you haven’t started marketing for winter work, do so today. Even with a limited budget, there are a number of effective methods that you can use to create leads going into the fall and winter.

Marketing to past customers is one of the most cost-effective forms of advertising. You can do a mailing as simple as a postcard or as elaborate as a four-page newsletter. An email newsletter is even cheaper. Services such as Constant Contact and AWeber offer a variety of templates that make it easy to create professional looking emails. Whichever route you take, the goal is to stay in front of your customers and remind them that you want their business.

Another creative marketing method is what I call the “sign promotion.” This marketing involves placing a sign in the yard of past customers (with their permission, of course). At the end of the promotion, hold a drawing for those who participated and give the winner a gift certificate to a nice restaurant. You have a lot of flexibility in how you do this promotion.

For example, you can do it for a few weeks or an entire month. You can put out all of the signs at one time or stagger them over a period of time. You can give a single prize or multiple prizes.

The more concentrated you can get your signs, the better. Imagine the impact if you have a dozen signs in a single neighborhood—it will appear that your company is painting every house in the neighborhood. The repeated exposures in a short period of time can have a very strong impact on home owners in the market for a painting contractor.

No matter what you do, if you want this winter to be better than last winter, then you must take different actions. And that means marketing early and often.

The lure of owning a painting business

The lure of owning a business, along with a slower economy, has swelled the ranks of painting contractors. Low cost of entry, minimal equipment requirements, and the attitude that anyone can paint has led many to start a painting business. Statistically, these new contractors are facing long odds—most new contracting companies fail within five years.

The chances for long-term success for these new contractors can be greatly enhanced if they take the time to learn some basic business skills and develop systems for their business. A contracting business involves much more than putting paint on the walls. Unfortunately, many overlook the business side of the equation and think that the only skill they need is the ability to spread paint. They worry more about what ladder to buy than what accounting software to acquire. They put more effort into selecting a paint brand than branding their business.

Certainly some level of technical ability is needed, but without marketing, sales, and administration there will be few opportunities to demonstrate those skills. Without the ability to generate leads, sell jobs at a profitable price, and manage the business, there simply won’t be any jobs. Technical skills alone will not make for a successful business.

The ability to generate a consistent flow of leads is crucial to any painting business. Doing so requires more than “word of mouth” or randomly placing ads. It requires a marketing plan, careful tracking and analysis, and an adequate marketing budget. It requires a consistent message and proper targeting. It requires a long-term commitment to building brand awareness.

Selling at a profitable price presumes that the contractor knows his actual costs. This requires an understanding of accounting basics, as well as an identification of the true cost of doing business. Ignoring expenses won’t make them go away, but will make it difficult to pay the bills. Perhaps more importantly, without an understanding of financial matters the contractor could easily wind up broke and in debt.

Whether a contractor works alone or manages multiple crews, he will have tremendous demands on his time. He must be able to prioritize, focus on the long-term, and deal with many different issues. This requires time management skills, leadership abilities, and the patience to train employees. It requires systems to operate efficiently and consistently.

Neglecting these facets of a paint contracting business does not mean automatic failure. But it can result in unnecessary stress, frustration, and wasted money. It can make it more difficult for the contractor to accomplish his goals and build his business. It can add complexity and problems to what is already a difficult task.

Starting a painting business is not rocket science. But it shouldn’t be approached in a lazy or slipshod manner either. It should involve careful planning and thought. It should involve a commitment to ongoing education regarding both technical and business issues. Doing so will greatly increase the chances for success.

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