I’d like to share a secret with you: Winter will be here in few months.
Many contractors will be unprepared because they aren’t taking steps now. We may be experiencing the dog days of August at the moment, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the winter.
The seeds you sow today will determine the harvest you reap in December and January. If you begin planning for the winter now, you won’t find yourself struggling to stay busy later in the year.
An easy way to address the winter doldrums is to pre-sell interior work. Begin marketing and selling interior work a month or two before your exterior season ends.
Contractors often ask about ways to screen prospects on the phone. Understandably, they don’t want to spend hours chasing unqualified leads. But screening on the phone can be equally bad.
Screening on the phone essential puts the prospect in the position of saying some pre-determined magic words. If he doesn’t say the right thing, he is immediately regarded as unqualified.
If you went into a restaurant, you probably wouldn’t appreciate being screened before you were shown to your seat. You wouldn’t like a pop quiz to determine if you could spend your money. So why do it to your customers?
I am not saying that we should chase every lead. If a customer wants a service we don’t provide or is out of our service area, their desires don’t fit our business model. But short of that, trying to screen prospects on the phone is a crap shoot at best.
A common topic of discussion among painting contractors is how to market their business. The question is usually posed as if there were a single, one size fits all answer. The real answer is: It depends.
It depends on your company’s skills and goals. It depends on your target market. It depends on the types of jobs you do most profitably.
For example, if you have a three-man crew, it probably isn’t wise to market for large commercial projects. If you specialize in custom painting, marketing for apartment make readies is a waste of your skills
The best way to market is to first identify who you want to market to. Then identify what media will reach that market. You can’t be all things to all people. Don’t try to market to everyone either.
I hear a lot of contractors say that they will travel to where the work is. I don’t know if they are bragging or complaining. But I personally think it is a waste of time.
As an example, I knew one contractor who was regularly traveling to New Orleans from Houston–a distance of about 350 miles. He was essentially claiming that there was no work in the Houston, despite being home to more than four million people. The real problem wasn’t a lack of work in Houston. The problem was that he didn’t know how to find it. And so, he would pack up his crew and drive to a distant city, because that “was where the work was.”
Years ago, I took a different approach. I was tired of driving fifty miles to give an estimate. So I dramatically shrunk my service area and shifted my marketing money to the smaller area. Interestingly, my volume increased and I spent a lot less time on the road.
Yes, we must go where the work is. But it’s often a lot closer than we realize.