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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

This past year was one of the toughest our country has had in a very long time.  Economic crises, health crises and political crises peaked at different points all across the country.

This chaos hasn’t had the same effect on all businesses, but it has left some painting contractors hanging on by a thread.  While empty schools and businesses brought opportunity early in the crisis, residential painting was hit hard. Some homeowners didn’t want to share space in their homes with contractors, and others were left without a job and a paycheck.  In either case, a fresh coat of house paint was not a priority for them.

So far, 2021 is feeling a lot like 2020.  But by the end of the year, the pandemic’s impact on daily life should fade significantly.  And despite all the news articles about how the world will be changed forever, most people will be thrilled to get back to the life they had before.

What does this mean for painting contractors’ bottom lines?  It’s unclear what this year will bring.  But change always brings new opportunities, even in normal years.  Here are three opportunities for contractors hoping to squeeze some positive news out of another year of uncertainty.

Business Office Layouts Will Change

There’s plenty of talk about city workers moving hundreds or thousands of miles away to rural areas because they can work remotely.  That will probably take years to happen, if it happens at all. Most people won’t move until they know remote work is acceptable over the long term.

But even after the pandemic, there will be more people working from home at least some of the time than there were before 2020.  That means that fewer people will be in the office each day.

Office complex owners might have difficulty renting out their largest spaces, and may need to split them into smaller offices.  Businesses in long-term leases will probably want to redesign their offices to make better use of the space they have. That might mean more videoconferencing rooms, more shared offices or even subletting some square footage.

These changes will require knocking down walls, and they’ll need a paint job to pull everything back together when they’re done.  Painters with commercial experience (or those who have relationships with the general contractors who win these jobs) may pick up some larger projects from this work.  Make sure to keep in touch with commercial real estate management companies in your area!

People Will Invest in Home Offices

The transition to work-from-home status happened quickly last spring.  People set up standing desks in living rooms or repurposed a kitchen corner so they could stay productive – and employed.  While that might have worked for a little while, it’s not a home layout most people will want when they can start inviting friends and neighbors over again.

Once people learn that they can work from home more regularly, many people with a spare bedroom will choose to build a home office.  Having a room used exclusively for work is more convenient, more productive and potentially tax deductible.  For those who are repurposing what was once a specific-purpose room such as a kid’s room or exercise room, a paint job may be in order.

If people are only repurposing a room (or two) for a home office, that’s going to be a small job.  But those conversations can turn into something larger – and even if they don’t, if they’re happy with your work, you’re likely to be their first call when they need an exterior repaint or decide to do a facelift on the whole interior months or years down the road.  For painters in need of work in the short term, these small jobs can fill empty schedules and create new sources for referrals as well.

Commercial Space Will Be Repurposed

The previous two opportunities came from positive developments.  But it’s also an unfortunate fact that COVID has devastated not just businesses, but entire industries.

  • Some studios are releasing their movies directly to online streaming services this year, and it’s an open question whether movie theaters will be a viable business going forward.
  • More than 110,000 restaurants have already closed permanently since the beginning of the pandemic, and some experts have predicted that number may more than double by the end of this year.
  • Many of the biggest and most well-known “anchor” retailers in the United States have gone bankrupt in the past year, threatening the entire business model for shopping malls.

If these industries fail (or shrink massively) they will leave millions of square feet of retail space vacant.  Building owners can’t afford for that space to stay vacant forever, but they’ll need to repurpose it if they want to attract new businesses.

Whatever ends up happening to this space over the next several years, you can bet that contractors – including painting contractors – will be needed to make repurposing it a reality.

To learn how ProPainter Websites can help you find new customers, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.


Monday, January 25, 2021

Some business owners really love running a business.  They love making customers happy and having a great place to work, but they also enjoy everything that comes with it – financial management, sales, competitive strategy, mentoring employees and putting out fires every day.

Others started their business because they wanted to earn more by doing things right and treating their customers better.  They knew they’d have to deal with all the paperwork and problems that come with owning a business, but they really took the plunge because they just couldn’t keep working for someone who treated employees badly or told them to do things that weren’t fair to customers.

No matter which type of business owner you are, marketing can feel “dirty.”  But if you started a painting contracting business mainly because you wanted to do things the right way, you’re especially likely to dislike advertising.

Sure, you have a website. And you love it as much as anyone when you see a great review of your business online.  But does the thought of putting together a marketing slick about how great you are and sending it all over town make you feel a little nauseous?

People Dislike Marketing for A Reason

If it does make you nauseous, you aren’t alone.  Plenty of people think marketing is full of vanity and hype.  In a study commissioned by the advertising industry’s own trade association in 2015, 4% of people believed that marketers behaved with integrity.  Whoever those 4% are, if they’re still around after this past year’s brutal political ads, they probably changed their minds.

One reason people are so suspicious of marketing is that it has become common for companies to use it to try and convince customers that they’re better than they really are.  Gasoline powers all sorts of economic growth, but when gasoline companies advertise that they’re environmentalists, they aren’t really using marketing to emphasize facts – they’re using it to sell lies.

USA Today compiled a list of the worst product claims of all time.  Did you know that 5 Hour Energy is recommended by doctors?  It isn’t – but they didn’t let that stop them from saying it was.  A TV ad showed a Nissan Frontier pushing a dune buggy up a sand dune, which it can’t even do.  The Cheerios box used to say they lowered cholesterol, which they don’t. Now the box says they “can help” lower cholesterol.  And the list is full of cigarette and weight loss product claims that were all bogus.

It only got worse when things moved online.  Now, advertising doesn’t just lie to you, it tracks your every move to figure out which lies you’ll believe.  Companies can (and do) show you completely different ads based on your age, gender, location and beliefs.

Marketing With Integrity

Consumers have been sick of false claims for some time now. And marketing has already started to change as a result.  Marketing will always exist because small businesses (including painting contractors) need to get the message out about who they are and what they do.

That’s what marketing should be – telling customers who you are and what you do.  Not trying to tell every possible customer what they want to hear.  Not trying to be five things to three people.  Marketing should be about making a few big commitments that you intend to keep.

So if you could handle more painting jobs, don’t let your stomach turn over the thought of marketing.  Great marketing doesn’t require anything that you shouldn’t be proud of.  Tell customers about your business.  Tell them about the areas you serve.  Tell them about what types of problems you can fix.

And then make one to three commitments that you intend to keep.  Most importantly, whatever it is that you wake up and try to do better than everyone else every day, tell people about that.  Maybe that’s being on schedule and not leaving anyone hanging. Maybe it’s being the best cabinet painter in your area. Maybe it’s getting the job done right the first time, or never making a recommendation you wouldn’t follow yourself.  Whatever it is, tell them how you want your service to be judged.

Since your principles aren’t likely to change, you won’t have to come up with a new marketing message every quarter.  Since your customers will see the same message over and over again, they should have a pretty good idea of what to expect when they hire you.  And if you always focus on those few commitments, you’re probably going to do a good job of delivering them.

When you do deliver on your commitments, you’re going to get referrals and great reviews.  And when you read reviews that say “They do exactly what they say they’re going to do,” you’ll know that your marketing worked.

This is marketing that you can be proud of.  Making commitments and following through on them is a key element of integrity.

To learn how ProPainter Websites can help your painting business market with integrity, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.


Monday, December 21, 2020

As a painting contractor, you want your website to do two major jobs for you – get you found online and get potential customers to give you a call or fill out a form. Your website should be one of your major sources of lead generation.

In order to get you found online your website has to search well in Google search. In order for it to search well you need to practice the key principles of Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

Black box

Thankfully, SEO is not considered a mystical practice or a black box like it was 5-10 years ago. But there are still many common mistakes that are being made by painting contractors when it comes to their websites. We are going to highlight three of the biggest and give you tips on how to recover from them.

SEO Mistake #1 – Setting it and forgetting it

We see a lot of websites that were probably built three to five years ago that have not been touched since. That’s a significant mistake. Google likes freshness. They like to see that you are an active business. When you don’t update your website that sends a signal to Google that you are not an actively operating business and it will absolutely hurt your search results.

Your website is not a destination or a one-time event, it is a journey. When was the last time your website was updated?

If it’s been more than six months, now is the time for an update. Take a look at your website. What needs to be updated? Has something changed about the way you do business? Are you still offering the same services? Do you still have the same team?

Add updated photos to your website. Highlight big jobs you’ve completed and/or those that are different from the other photos you have on your website.

Finally, set yourself a reminder to post something new once a month going forward – new photos and at least one update to the content on your home page.

SEO Mistake #2 – Not having enough content

The number one factor Google is looking for when it comes to the organic search results is quality content. They want to provide the highest quality and most relevant results for their users. One of the ways they determine quality is by the amount of content and one of the ways they determine relevance is by keywords and closely-related keywords.

A one-page website is not going to cut it. Google wants you to demonstrate your expertise and it’s pretty hard to do that with enough depth on one page. How many pages are on your website? If the answer is less than five, you definitely want to add more. Set a goal to reach 10 pages. Even if the answer is 10, you will likely be better served with 15-20.

Create a page for each of the different services you offer. Create interior and exterior house painting pages. If you’ve already got those, perhaps you can get even more specific with a kitchen or cabinet painting page.

It’s important to remember that each page should include quality content that demonstrates your expertise. Adding five more pages with two sentences on them will not help. You want to create relevant content for somebody who is searching for those services. The more specific you can get the better your website will likely search.

Once you set your goal, create a schedule to help you reach it. If you have five pages and your goal is to get to 10 pages, give yourself a month to create each new page. In five months you will have reached your goal. Take a month off and then set a new goal.

SEO Mistake #3 – Not highlighting areas served

Chances are good that you serve several cities and towns. Are you representing all of those cities and towns on your website?

We see far too many painting contractor websites where we’ve really got to work hard just to find one location they are serving. That’s not good. The areas you serve should be one of the easiest things to find on your website.

When it comes to local business services (like painting), every search is a local search. If you are not sending signals to Google by including each of the cities and towns you serve on your website, then Google will never show your website in the search results for potential customers who are searching for a painting contractor in those cities and towns.

You need to include your target cities and towns multiple times in multiple places on your website. How do you do that well?

If the total number of cities and towns you serve is five or less, or you really want to highlight five or less, you could include them in the header of your website. You should include them in places that make sense in your content. You can put a list in your footer. You can create captions for your photos that include the location of the job. Ask your customers to include their city or town in their review, or you can append it on to the review along with their name and type of service.

Another great way to highlight the areas you serve is to create an individual page for each city and town. Try to make these pages as personalized to the city or town as possible. Mention landmarks. Include photos from jobs you’ve done in that city or town. Highlight the services that are most popular in that city or town.

In Conclusion

If you’ve made one, or even all, of these SEO mistakes it’s not too late to recover. Just follow the recommendations above and stick with it. Don’t try to eat the elephant in one bite. Break it up into accomplishable goals and take it on one bite-size piece at a time.

If you’d prefer to just hand your website and SEO over to somebody that you can trust to take care of it for you, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

“The best way to earn a customer’s business is to think like one.”

That’s a lot harder than it sounds.  For instance, you know how to tell if a paint job is a good one – but do you know what customers look for?  They might not even be looking for the right things – but whatever they’re looking for, you want to make sure you’re doing it!

Here’s a potentially tougher question:  where do customers go to find a painting contractor?  If there’s one thing you probably haven’t looked for recently, it’s someone to paint your house.  But you’ve got to get into the customer’s mind to know where to find them.


Or, you could just read this article!  Here are the five main places people go to find painters – along with advice on how to be the contractor they choose.

#1 – Friends, Family and Co-Workers

Word of mouth is still some of the best marketing out there, and it doesn’t cost anything at all!  Any good marketer would tell you to always ask for referrals from happy customers after you’re done painting their home.  But here’s the problem: odds are, they don’t know anyone who needs a painting contractor right then.

The key is to stay “front of mind” for your customers, so that when someone does ask them if they know a good painting contractor, they’ll remember you.  This doesn’t mean pestering them to death with referral requests.  You could send former customers an email a couple of times per year offering specials for them and their referrals only.  You could also ask with a mailed card – but make sure it’s not a generic postcard ad!  Most people throw those away before they even look to see who they’re from.

#2 – Google

This one is obvious.  When people want to find something, they Google it.  There are three ways to get on that first page, and there is intense competition for all three.

The first way is to buy ads from Google – and the odds are high that you will spend thousands of dollars before you make a return on your investment, if you ever do.  There are too many multi-million dollar companies paying handsomely for these spots, including the companies listed in #5.

The second way is to show up in the local pack – the small set of businesses that are nearby the person conducting the Google search.  You can’t really control how close your business address is to someone’s phone or computer.  But you can control whether you have a business address listed in Google My Business, and whether you have dozens of great Google reviews from previous customers.  (We’re happy to help you with both of these!)

The third way to show up on Google is to have a great website – one that details the services you’ll perform, has pictures to show your work, lists the specific areas you serve and makes it easy to get in contact with you.  Google’s search algorithm AI “reads” each website’s content to determine if people are likely to find value in the website, and only a small handful of them make it to the first page.  (We help with this, too!)

#3 – Social Media

Depending on who you ask, the average person spends from 30 minutes to more than an hour per day on Facebook.  People talk about all sorts of stuff on Facebook – including asking friends who they’d recommend for home services.

It’s a great idea to be present on Facebook (or Instagram).  But it’s not a great idea to only post coupons, specials and other advertisements on there.  Remember, people are using Facebook to laugh, learn or relax, but not to buy.  If you’re providing painting tips, personality and humor on your Facebook account, people will interact with you, but if it’s being used only as a sales tool, Facebook will keep your visibility very low and your followers will have already tuned you out anyway.

#4 – Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a website for communicating with other members of your neighborhood.  In less than 10 years, this site has gone from its first user to a major source of local business referrals across the country.  (It’s also a great place to hear people complain about loud dogs, fast drivers and anything else that irritates them.)

Each Nextdoor member can only view posts made by people in their own community.  It’s not really one social network – it’s more than 270,000 private social networks across 11 countries including the United States.  So you won’t be able to use a Nextdoor profile to reach anyone outside of your own neighborhood (although you can buy advertising outside of your community).

What you can do is to encourage happy customers to recommend you on Nextdoor if anyone is looking for a painter.  Just make sure that you also have great reviews on Google.  That’s because people don’t trust a referral from a “neighbor” they haven’t met as much as they’d trust a referral from a family member or even a Facebook friend, and they’re likely to check out your website and your online reviews before calling you.

#5 – Frenemies

There are plenty of sites that connect painters with customers – HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, Thumbtack, Porch, Houzz and more.  Each of them connect thousands of customers to service providers every day.  But they don’t always do things in the best interests of painting contractors or of painting customers.

Like any company, they’re trying to make a profit. The way they do that is to “vacuum up” as many leads as possible, and to sell them to painters.  They spend millions of dollars building world-class websites and buying Google ads to attract home services customers, taking some of the top search spots in Google results that would otherwise go to local painters.  Then they make even more money by selling those leads to contractors like yourself.

Most of these matching services don’t guarantee that the leads they sell are good leads – nor do they guarantee that their leads will turn into customers.  Some contractors find ways to use these sites as a major source of profitable company growth, but a much higher percentage of contractors end up spending thousands of dollars on leads that don’t go anywhere.  Just make sure you know what you’re getting into before diving into these sites!

To learn how ProPainter Websites can help your painting contracting business earn more customers, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Some painting contractors have enough business in their area to stick exclusively to painting. Others  find that additional services help to fill up their calendar, especially during the winter months.

Click here to learn how to maximize your marketing dollars and make a new service really matter to your existing  customers.

 

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