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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Before becoming a marketer, I wrote business research reports for large companies.  I interviewed some very smart people along the way.  Some of the best bits of wisdom I received were the ones that seemed the most obvious.

At one point, I interviewed an executive who helped smaller companies that were being acquired by larger ones.  One of her quotes has stuck with me over all of these years.

“When you want something, just ask,” she said.  “The worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.”

The truth is that it can be uncomfortable to ask someone for something they might not want to give you.  People miss opportunities for first dates, salary increases and lower car and home purchase prices because they’re too scared of rejection to ask for them.

And it happens to people who own painting companies, too.

Here are three things painting contractors want (or should want) but often don’t ask for.

#1 Online Reviews

People rely on online reviews to decide where to buy local services including house painting.  And customers are far more likely to leave a review if they’re asked.  Despite this, many painting contractors don’t ask for reviews from happy customers.

There are plenty of reasons people don’t ask.  It’s easy to forget to ask, especially if you’re having a good conversation with the customer.  And nobody wants a customer to feel like they were unfairly pressured to post a positive review.  But one of the biggest reasons painting contractors don’t ask for reviews is that it feels awkward to ask a customer for a favor right after they paid for service.

It shouldn’t. Most happy customers won’t be annoyed as long as they think the person making the request actually cares about the review.  So don’t ask them for a review using that sad, monotone voice you hear from the person at the grocery store register.

If you feel like a customer had a good experience, take the extra ten seconds to explain that great reviews help bring you business. Tell them it would help you out if they could post a review about the specific painting services you provided and what the experience was like.  If nothing else, tell them it helps you grow your business without spending more on annoying postcard mailers.

We’ve even put together this quick guide on how to ask!  And we provide a tool to our customers that makes it really easy to email their happy customers to ask for a review.  If just 10% of your customers give you positive reviews, there’s a good chance you’ll be the most-reviewed (and best-reviewed) painting contractor in your area within six months. That will have a major impact on your search results. 

#2 New Employees

There are some places where it makes sense to be careful advertising your need for additional employees.  If a Help Wanted sign is the first thing on your website, customers might assume you’re too busy to handle their job and take their business elsewhere.  Competitors could also try and use your staff shortage against you when talking with potential customers.

With that said, you shouldn’t miss any opportunities to let people know you’re hiring new painters.  As you are probably well aware, it’s a tough hiring market right now – if someone can get the word out to an interested painter that you’re hiring, it’s probably worth the risk you’re taking to advertise that information. So be sure to let friends, family, and anybody else who might be able to help know that you are looking for somebody.

Don’t be afraid to ask your employees for referrals, either!  If your employees are having to work extra hours to get all of the work done, they’re probably not going to be upset that you’re trying to fix the problem.  In fact, offering a referral bonus to any employee who helps you find a painter is a great way to show them that you’re willing to put money towards solving the problem.  Over-worked employees will appreciate that fact – even if they don’t have anyone to refer at the time you ask.

#3 Additional Service Sales

Nobody enjoys the dreaded upsell.

When you buy an electronic device at the store and the employee at the checkout has to offer you a three-year “replacement plan”, you can tell they hate asking if you want it.  You can tell they know your answer, too; they already have their finger above the button to take them to the next screen.

If you’ve got a service that you hate selling this much, stop selling it!

But you probably don’t.  If you offer a service other than painting, it’s because you’re happy to have the business (at least in the off-season!).

Your customers might need someone to do exactly what you do “on the side” – in fact, they might already be asking for quotes!  But if they learned about your business when they were looking for a painter, they may have no idea that you would do it for them.

So make sure to let them know what other services you provide!  If you’re just making them aware of your services and not “pushing” them, that’s not going to reflect poorly on you.  You’re just doing your job, which is telling customers what problems you can help them solve.  Even if they don’t take you up on the offer today, they could always ask for it later when the need becomes more significant.

If you really want to avoid the perception of an upsell, there are laid-back ways to let them know about a service.  You can tell them about the service after you’ve given them a receipt for the job you just completed for them, which makes it a nearly pressure-free interaction.  You can staple printed material about the service on their invoice, which lets customers read about it when they aren’t face-to-face with you.  But don’t be shy about letting customers know about all of your services – that’s the best way to earn a return on any investments you’ve made in your other service offerings.

Call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com to learn more about how ProPainter Websites can bring you more painting business!


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

If you’re a painting contractor, it’s always better to have too much work than to have too little. But “catching up” by scheduling 55-hour weeks isn’t much fun either.  This is the third of three articles providing techniques to balance your workload and make every job worth the effort you put into it. The first was Exceeding Customers’ Expectations (without Exceeding their Needs). The second was How to Pass on Work (Without Saying No).

Most of the work painting contractors do is physically demanding.  But that doesn’t mean it’s all equal. Some jobs are just worse than others.  An indoor residential repaint is better than a 3-story exterior job in 90 degree heat.  You’ll probably earn more profit from a big job near your home or office than a small job forty-five minutes away.  And who wants to “discover” the inside of a foreclosed house or remove a popcorn ceiling?

In the off-season, it’s great to have all kinds of work coming in the door. Some of those jobs might not be the most fun, or the most profitable, but they help you (and your crew) keep busy and pay the bills.


But when you’ve got more work than you can handle, you’ve got choices.  Why choose bad work?

When you’ve got choices, do the work you most enjoy

When you’re booked out for weeks or months, it makes more sense to choose the jobs that are more pleasant and more profitable – and try to push out work that isn’t either of those things. Don’t feel like you have to automatically take a first come, first serve approach.  When a customer calls you with a less-than-stellar opportunity, make sure that you emphasize how much you appreciate the opportunity, but don’t put that work in the express line. Instead, try to push it out.

If the customer is okay with delaying the work a few weeks, you can celebrate filling a less busy slot on your calendar.  If they choose someone else, you can at least rest easy knowing that you aren’t sending your competitors the easy stuff.

Filling a busy week with the best work you’ve been offered is a lot harder than just saying “yes” until you have to start saying “no”.  You have to know what work is most profitable. You have to know what type of work is already on the calendar.

You also need a good idea of how many other requests you’ll probably get each week. To estimate this, it helps to know how many quote requests you received last week, and how many you received during that week in the prior year.

Of course, you don’t get to respond to all of your customers at once.  When you let a less pleasant job slip through the cracks, there’s always a chance that a good one won’t come through to replace it.  But if you’ve been painting for a while, you probably have a pretty good idea when it’s looking like a work week is going to fill up completely. Don’t let the last job you schedule for a busy week be the worst one!

To learn how ProPainter Websites helps painting contractors attract their ideal customers, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.


Sunday, May 23, 2021

If you’re a painting contractor, it’s always better to have too much work than to have too little. But “catching up” by scheduling 55-hour weeks isn’t much fun either.  This is the second of three articles providing techniques to balance your workload and make every job worth the effort you put into it. The first was Exceeding Customers’ Expectations (without Exceeding their Needs).

When a customer calls and they’re ready to pay for your services, it’s hard to say no.  That’s especially true if you’ve been short of work recently.  What if you end up needing that money?

It’s also hard because saying “no” too often can impact your reputation.  If you become known as the “always-busy” painter, you’ll lose referrals and jobs.  That means spending less time painting and more time on marketing and sales efforts.

Saying No without Saying “No”

But you don’t have to say “no”.  You don’t even have to say it when you really don’t need (or want) the work.

When someone calls you, it’s probably because they need their house painted.  But even if you can’t paint it, you can still help them!  You’ll look like more of a hero if you help them fix the problem without charging anything for it.

The first thing you can do is to let them know that, while you’re busy right now, you’d be happy to help them out later.  Provide a specific window of availability both for the quote and the service.  There’s always a chance they’ll take you up on that offer, especially if they appreciate your honesty about how busy you are and think you sound eager to do things the right way.

If they need the work done sooner than you can get to it, the best thing to do is to refer customers to another painter who does good work.  

The type of company it makes the most sense to “offload” jobs to depends on painting competition in your area and what types of services you offer. But whoever you choose, make sure you trust them!  If they mess up, you’ll get some of the blame.

For some painting contractors, it makes sense to refer overflow work to a relatively new painting business in the area.  The owner will be happy to get the small, lower-margin jobs that are your least attractive opportunities.

If there aren’t any newer painters in the area, it might make sense to pick a “friendly competitor” you can trust and cross-refer work to each other when the load gets too heavy.  Ideally, whoever you choose will also refer good work to you when you have space on the calendar to take it.

The one thing you don’t want to do is ignore phone calls when you’re booked and delete the voicemails without responding to them.  You’ll never know what opportunities you’re letting go until you listen to them.  And customers do review businesses that they’ve never hired!  A surprising number of one-star online reviews are for service providers who angered a customer by screening their call and never returning it.

To learn how ProPainter Websites helps painting contractors attract their ideal customers, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

If you’re a painting contractor, it’s always better to have too much work than to have too little. But “catching up” by scheduling 55-hour weeks isn’t much fun either.  This is the first of three articles providing techniques to balance your workload and make every job worth the effort you put into it.

Customers can be pretty vague when they call. Many calls start out with some version of “Hey, I wanted to get a painting quote for my house.”  It’s easy to be frustrated by that, because they’re just making you ask for information that they already know you need.  What’s the address?  What do you need painted? What’s your timeframe?

Don’t be frustrated: they’re giving you a gift!  When they give you control of the conversation, they’re giving you the opportunity to ask what you need to ask so you can make an offer that’s great for both of you.

Of course, they’re expecting you to confirm that the job is in your service area and it’s work that you can do.  But once that’s out of the way, it’s up to you to ask whatever it is you need to know to make a great offer.

If you’re short of work

Offer to come over immediately if they’re available.  If they take you up on the offer, it might be a sign that the job is time-sensitive.  If you can get started tomorrow, you might cut their quoting and hiring process short – and earn the job without having to fight for it.

If you’re trying to be efficient

The worst thing you can do is exceed their expectations in ways that don’t matter to them.  There’s no need to offer paint pick-up if they’re already planning to pick it up while they’re at the big-box store for other projects.  There’s no point in rushing to finish the job if they aren’t in a hurry.  This is why it makes sense to get an idea of what their priorities are before you suggest next steps.


If you’re already slammed

You might not want the work right now.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an opportunity.  You don’t have to make that decision until you know a little more about the customer and the job.

First, who referred them?  If it’s a referral source that’s important to you, you might not want to indicate you’re really busy. If that information gets back to the referral source, they might stop sending jobs your way.

How quickly were they hoping to get it painted?  If they say they’re trying to get it knocked out right away, you might want to crowd an already busy week with another job. But when it comes time to price the job at least you know that availability matters to them.  If they don’t seem to be in any hurry, that’s an opportunity to let them know about the “fall discount” you offer after summer work starts drying up.

Figure out how to meet their needs without offering something they’ll say yes to even if they don’t care much about it.  Then you can put all your effort into outperforming where it really matters to them.

Finally, you’ll probably get an idea of how easy they’ll be to work with (and how likely they are to complain about perfectly good work) in the few minutes it takes you to ask a couple of questions.  If you’re busy, and they’re “prickly”, it might be a good idea to pass on that job, or at least to offer them a time far enough in the future that they’re not likely to accept it.

To learn how ProPainter Websites helps painting contractors attract their ideal customers, call us at 919-424-6121 or email us at Team_PPW@ProPainterWebsites.com.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Nobody wants drama between team members.  It’s bad for morale. It’s bad for productivity. And it will ultimately lead to lower customer satisfaction, especially when the customer’s home is your workplace.  Because conversations about an employee’s sub-par performance can absolutely create drama if they go south, even managers who consider themselves straight shooters will put off talking to an employee that suddenly has attendance or performance issues.


But once it’s clear that it’s not a one-time issue, it’s better to address the behavior earlier than later. Otherwise, an underperforming employee will cause problems that fall on other employees – or worse, on customers.

You can’t rush into conversations about employee performance, though. The fifteen to thirty minutes it takes to have that conversation can lead to improvement and continued growth, but can just as easily lead to resentment and termination.

Here are three tips to get a good outcome from a tough conversation.

Don’t Wait Too Long

Everybody has bad days.  If a high-performer gets to work a few minutes late one day and has a good explanation, there’s probably no need to make it a performance issue.

But when a pattern starts surfacing, it’s better to bring the issue up with the employee than to keep waiting for it to just go away.  This gives the employee an opportunity to recognize the issue and address it.  If you wait until their poor performance is creating more work for you or other co-workers, there’s a performance issue and there will likely be a relationship issue, and that can make the problem even harder to overcome.

Be Specific About What You Need

Don’t soften your criticism so much that it’s unclear what you want to change.  For example, avoid saying “It seems like you’re having trouble getting to work on time.” or “Your productivity rate is down a good bit from what it was.”

It might seem nicer to be vague than to include specific numbers when talking about performance.  But the employee will leave the conversation frustrated and stressed, knowing that they need to do better to keep their job but not knowing what ‘good enough’ looks like.

If you really want to be kind to an underperforming employee, make sure they know what success looks like and that they have a plan to get there.  That means ensuring they leave the conversation with success metrics that you can both measure easily and regularly.

Provide them with specific metrics where they’re underperforming.  Then tell them what level metrics need to reach before their performance is acceptable again.  And if it’s someone you really want to be successful, you can let them know that by asking them if there’s anything you can do to help them be successful and helping in the ways you can.

Revisit the Topic Frequently

If you’ve planned ahead for a conversation about performance, you probably know what you’re going to say and have thought about how the employee might respond to it.  You know how big of a problem their performance is, and how quickly it needs to get fixed.

Your employee hasn’t had time to think about any of this, and probably doesn’t know they’ll be discussing their performance at all.  So while you’re laying out your case and telling an employee where they need to improve, that employee is probably doing a terrible job of listening to you. Instead, they’re thinking: “Are these fair criticisms?  Why didn’t I notice myself falling short?  What do I need to say to keep my job?”

This makes repetition more important in performance discussions than it is in most other conversations.  Before ending the conversation, make sure that both of you agree on where they’re falling short, how far the metrics need to rise and how frequently they’ll be measured.

After that first conversation, discuss these metrics with the employee weekly if you can – each discussion is another opportunity to emphasize the importance (and the timeline) of improvement.

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

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