With the rainy season setting in, it may not be the favorite time of the year for most painting contractors in Bothell, WA. But, is certainly my favorite month to kick some butt! And here’s why…
I love October! Not just because everyone gets to over-decorate their house, play dress-up as an adult, and eat way too much candy without judgment. I love it because, just like National Kick Butt Day (Oct. 9th) would recommend, it’s the time of year when we have to shift gears, make some important changes, and prepare to kick butt to survive!
I do love this time of year because here in the Northwest, it is Mother Nature’s last hurrah before winter sets in, where we usually get a few Indian Summer days with cold nights and breezes that nip at our noses. But, I also love this time because competitive sports are in their full glory. College and pro football are back on every weekend, the MLB playoffs are in full swing, and the kiddos are also out on the field suited up with their pee-wee teammates learning about sportsmanship and camaraderie.
For painters, similar to Major League baseball players, this is time for a run at the World Series. This is the time when the weaker teams (those that didn’t “make hay” during the Summer months and didn’t invest in sound marketing) will get eliminated and the stronger teams (who build up excellent workforces and can rely on good customer relations) have the opportunity to emerge on the other side victorious. For us, that means being able to grow as a profitable company and maintain year-round work so that our team can live happily and stick around for another go at it next year.
For years, when I first started out in the painting industry here in Washington, I was on the losing side of this competition. I’d gotten more than enough work throughout the exterior season due to good “word of mouth”. I made connections with realtors and contractors that I had been working for on large jobs throughout the year. Everything would be going great… until… about mid-December. Then, the phone lines would go dead. And this would last until about March!
I’d get a few small interior jobs but would only have work for maybe 2-3 days out of every week. Some weeks, especially around the Holidays, I wouldn’t work at all. So, I’d have to lay off my helpers and go back to just working by myself and living frugally during the lean months. It’s something I got used to doing when I was younger (and single.) But, it’s simply not an option when you also have a family to take care of!
So, I’d contact property management companies, apartment complexes, schools, and nursing homes - basically anything that can provide consistent work. However, most places I would contact either already had in-house painters or would want the work done for ridiculously low prices. The few that did allow me to give estimates would basically laugh at my prices and tell me that I’d have to do it for about half of what I wanted. Most of the time that would mean that I’d be doing the job for free (after paying for my help, materials, overhead, and Uncle Sam.)
Unfortunately, this is a similar story for most of the painting companies around here. It’s a tough business to be in due to its seasonality. This is the main reason why about 90% of the painting contractors in this area are small (2 employees or less) and struggle to stay in business for more than a few years. It’s also, by the way, why most painters don’t offer warranties for more than a few years - because they can’t guarantee that they will even be in business for that long!
Nowadays, I prefer to look at this as an opportunity instead. Because, IF we can figure out the “secret sauce” to making it through these hard times, it opens the door to being able to hire an abundance of talented craftsmen to join our team, and it also allows us to truly deliver “above and beyond” service to our customers because we would have the expertise and administrative support that wouldn’t be available from a smaller company.
I won’t get into the full details of what I believe the recipe for success is, because that would probably turn into a whole book. But, I can say that one of the key ingredients is social proof. It’s nothing new, but it’s something that few painters have really been able to figure out how to apply to their businesses.
Social proof really is just an expansion of the old “word of mouth” marketing strategy. Unfortunately, for most painters, “word of mouth” really just means that they are going to hope that their customers will tell their friends about the great work they do while they sit around and wait for the phone to ring. In other words, it’s not really a marketing strategy at all - it’s just doing nothing.
Generating social proof on the other hand is an active process of not just doing good work, but gathering the “good words” of our customers about that work, and then broadly publicizing it. Because, at the end of the day, the most powerful advertising is not what I say, but the testimony of other similar people who have used our services and can attest that we will indeed deliver what we promise.
We also try to keep in touch with our clients and potential clients, as well as our job applicants and potential employees through newsletters and these blogs. We like to think of these people as our “family” because that puts us in the right frame of mind regarding the overall purpose. To us, it’s not just about fulfilling contracts and the exchanging of goods and services for money. We wish to create a close and mutually beneficial, long-term relationship with every member of our family!
I ultimately believe that if we work hard every day spreading the “good words” and building this family, we will continue to rise above the competition. At least that is what I am thinking about right now as the cooler weather begins to prevail and our efforts are internalized.
Thank you to everyone who is a part of the Arclight family! Now, let’s kick some butt!