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Marketing and organization skills for professional painters

"You're a painter, and a good one. Jobs are done correctly and customers are happy. So where is the business? And why are profit margins so low? If you're asking these questions, it's a good bet your marketing and organizational skills need upgrades."


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July 30, 2014 by Steve Payne

Editor’s note: This article was submitted to us by the folks at ShurTech Brands, the painter’s tape manufacturer. It’s great when manufacturers send us articles, like this one, that try to HELP their contractor customers with their small business skills, instead of just promoting their own products. Why don’t we see more of this? Kudos to the folks at Painter’s Mate / ShurTech.

By Katie Frohnapple, category manager, Painter’s Mate Green® brand painter’s tape

You’re a painter, and a good one. Jobs are done correctly and customers are happy. So where is the business? And why are profit margins so low? If you’re asking these questions, it’s a good bet your marketing and organization skills need upgrades.

Be Seen

Advertising is the lifeblood for a painting contractor. A sign in the yard and on the truck, flyers, business cards, word of mouth – these are the old-school, tried-and-true methods for drumming up business. Larger painting businesses traditionally have gone to greater lengths, augmenting these methods with TV, radio, newspaper and online advertising. Today, with a low-cost-investment, painting contractors of any size can expand their reach exponentially via social media.

LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook and so many more social media platforms have proven their usefulness in delivering painting contractors to potential customers. LinkedIn, in particular, is a great asset for connecting with potential customers and associates, and promoting a painting business.

Websites geared toward home improvement as well as rating sites are fertile fields for promoting work and obtaining new business. Houzz.com is a good example. The site, a platform for home remodeling and design, boasts of connecting millions of homeowners, design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals, and reportedly offers the largest residential-design database in the world. Courtesy of Houzz.com’s “Find a Pro” tab, users can search for home improvement professionals in any category and location. Painting contractors setting up shop here have an abundance of potential leads. Beyond that, the site takes questions from visitors seeking advice. This gives painting contractors the opportunity to provide expertise and suggestions, positioning them as knowledgeable professionals in their field. They can also use this platform to showcase projects.

Positive ratings on sites such as AngiesList.com and HomeAdvisor.com go far in attracting customers and showcasing your work, as does Yelp. Be sure to monitor any sites with content related to your business in order to make timely contributions and updates, and quickly respond to questions, comments and reviews.

Painting contractors promoting their business online should go beyond listing basic company contact information. Post photos that show off your best projects. Include images that indicate expertise – designs, difficult surfaces, tricky corners, heights, etc. Encourage feedback by asking questions and keep conversations light and entertaining.

Be the Expert

You’ve worked to establish a good professional reputation. Put such knowledge and experience to work to help the business grow. Consider well-known names in your business, advises Dun & Bradstreet in a presentation on marketing for small businesses. How did these people become experts? By promoting their accomplishments and knowledge. Boost awareness of the business by speaking, writing, providing testimonials and offering availability to be interviewed.

Share tips, tricks, and detailed helpful advice and observations in blogs and on social media platforms. With a little know-how, podcasts are an option. Find websites related to painting and ask about contributing, or seek out reputable sites that target communities where you’d like to expand your business.

Offer information on color selection, budgeting and other topics that, as a painting contractor, you feel customers should know. Explain the different types of paints and coatings. Explain how a good paint job can enhance property value. Explain the importance of using the correct tools for the job. What types of sprayers, brushes and rollers work best with various surfaces and paints? Clue readers and listeners in on products that will improve productivity and quality in a painting job, such as Painter’s Mate Green® brand painter’s tape. The tape is ideal for protecting areas from paint and the high-quality paper helps to prevent paint bleed and gives crisp paint lines. Your audience will appreciate the knowledge you bring to the table on topics like these.

Organize to Better Handle Business Growth

To properly handle the expected business growth from your increased marketing efforts, organization is vital. Running a painting business, scheduling employees and projects, estimating, billing and collecting… all of it can test your organizational and multitasking abilities.

Simplification is an ideal route to organization. Start by removing the clutter. Clean up old office equipment and furniture. Sell it, recycle it – just get it out of the way.

Paper clutter is cited as the number one problem for the majority of businesses, according to a study by the National Association of Professional Organizations. Another study reveals that a person on average spends 4.3 hours per week searching for papers. These hours come at the expense of productivity, workplace effectiveness, creative thinking and other business essentials. Mishandled paperwork, according to the Small Business Administration, represents the biggest burden to small businesses, standing in the way of servicing customers and improving the bottom line.

Start with the paper. Take the time to go through filing cabinets and shred any irrelevant or out-of-date documents. Recycle old periodicals. Then take on email – an unruly inbox can be as frustrating as a mystery stack of papers.

Develop an Information Management System

It used to be called a filing system back when paper was the currency of day-to-day business. Today, with email and so many electronic forms, receipts and files, the term is information management system (IMS). Do some research on commercially available IMS software that can store and organize electronic documents. The time spent upfront will pay off handsomely when important documents can be accessed in seconds and your paint contracting operation can conduct business in a cleaner, more efficient – and paperless – manner.

The IMS can be backed with software programs for billing, customer and employee management, as well as estimating. Some programs offer suites of software that, once set up, handle all of these tasks. Think of the headaches saved at tax time if all of your expenses, income figures and receipts are collated and stored automatically.

Associations – Your One-Stop Shops

A collection of like-minded business owners, backed by industry and service professionals, can provide the resources and expertise that painting contractors need when tackling marketing and organizational tasks.

Networking through an association brings together business owners and managers, allowing them to share common problems and solutions as well as ideas for improving productivity, profit margins, and much more.

Through surveys and reports, associations provide information on industry standards and best practices. Want to know why Painting Contractor A is more successful than Painting Contractor B? A glimpse at best-practices data provides the answer and offers a roadmap for your business to prosper.

Associations provide news, insight and guidance on new and potential regulations or policies that can affect individual businesses. They also advocate on members’ behalf to regulators and elected officials. Training is another area where associations shine, offering seminars, skill-building courses and more. Association-sponsored events also serve an educational purpose, keeping members current on new products and innovations.

When evaluating potential associations, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, first determine what your business wants to achieve by joining, and what resources are needed on your end to realize an effective membership. Then choose the association or associations that align most closely with those goals and costs.

Get Started

With these tips, painting contractors can begin spreading the word and reaping the benefits of increased business. At the start, doing so takes time and money – not to mention some serious thought – but the potential payback can set your business up for long-term, sustainable success.

Katie Frohnapple is the category manager of Painter’s Mate Green® brand painter’s tape marketed by ShurTech Brands, LLC


Steve Payne

Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
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