It’s already December again, and you’ve probably been stressed about your decreasing sales leads for the last month or so.
Do you find yourself losing sleep? Laying off staff? Ready to change careers altogether?
The painting industry is a predictably seasonal business. Spring and summer are generally very busy but come mid-October, job leads almost always slow down. This isn’t 2020 anymore, and because of that, you’re probably feeling the mounting pressure of booking work.
There’s always painting work that needs to get done, no matter the time of the year! But where to do you find it?
If you’re like most painting business owners or sales representatives, you’re feeling the stress that comes from a perceived lack of control about bringing in work. Taking concrete action to get back in the driver’s seat will not only alleviate some of that stress, but will also start to generate leads for your business—today.
Here are nine key things we’ve learned about generating leads in the slow season, based on a combined 30+ years of experience in the painting industry.
1. Follow Up on Past Bids
Are you doing everything you can with the leads that you already have?
Hopefully following up on all bids is something that happens year-round, but the reality of the busy summer months is that this often goes by the wayside. Remember, customers have reached out to you because they have a painting problem that they want you to solve. They have sought out your company, invited you into their home and asked you for a quote.
You gave them a quote and they owe you an answer.
Start with a friendly email and, if that doesn’t elicit a response, move to a more direct text and then a phone call (or several). Don’t be afraid to be persistent. It’s okay if a customer says “no”; it’s not okay to get no response.
You need to do all you can to move the sale forward, so take the responsibility of follow-up off of the customer’s plate. It’s your job to follow up and help them get the project done.
2. Reach Out to Past CustomersPast customers are people who you already have an established—and hopefully positive—relationship with. Chances are, they’ll hire you for their future painting needs when those needs arise. During the slower winter months, reach out to past customers to thank them for their business this year, and to ask them directly if they need your services again now. They key is: now. People often want to get home projects completed before the holidays, so creating a sense of urgency about completing those projects now will motive them to take quick action.
Turn idleness into opportunity
In your communication with these customers, it’s okay to be honest about it being a slower time of year for your business. If you’re usually booked out months in advance in the busy season, let customers know that they can now get their project completed in mere weeks.
You can say, “We have a few openings in our schedule in the coming three weeks. Do you have a project you need to get completed right now (or before the holidays)? We’d love to help you out!”
Turn your idleness into an opportunity that customers can take advantage of.
Ask for ReferralsYou can also ask your past customers for referrals. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get a response. Asking past customers if they have a new neighbor who has recently moved in who might need painting work done will cause them to wrack their brain. Asking if they have a “family member whose home could use a refresh before hosting for the holidays” will more-likely elicit a response than asking them if they know someone who needs painting work done in general.
Bonus TipAnother idea for getting work from past customers is to offer a free hour of touch ups in their home, as a part of your warrantee. These small (and yes, often annoying) jobs will more often than not lead to additional work as customers realize they actually do have another space they’d like to refresh.
3. Reach Out to Referral Partners
Hopefully throughout the year you’ve been building your relationships with your referral partners: flooring companies, drywallers, real estate agents, etc. These kinds of relationships are meant to be reciprocal; they help you and you help them.
If these are the kinds of working relationship you’ve built, then you can lean on these partners in harder times.
Again, be honest about this being a slow time for your business; don’t let your pride get in the way. Ask for help by asking directly for referrals. Remember, the more specific your ask, the more likely you are to get work referred.
If you haven’t done a great job of showing your appreciation to your referral partners up to this point, it’s not too late to start now!
A personal thank-you, combined with a thoughtful holiday gift, goes a long way towards maintaining and building these relationships. Stop by their offices with baked goods or a gift card to a local restaurant. Give them a reason to think about you later.
4. Direct Response Marketing
Marketing that is focused on making your brand known and recognizable is great (and necessary), but not at this time of year.
‘Tis the season to focus your marketing efforts on what will get your phone to ring as soon as possible. Your marketing during the slower months should be a direct call-to-action for your audience.
The first place that people go to find a painting company is Google. Therefore, the first place to focus your winter marketing campaign is your Google Ads.
The most beneficial way for American painting companies to use Google Ads right now is with Local Service Ads. Painting companies sign up under the “Handyman” category, which includes a lengthy list of home services, but can then select just interior and exterior painting services.
Google My Business
Also make sure your Google My Business account is updated and complete in order to best help you covert search results into requests for work.
You won’t see immediate results, but once you’ve taken this step, it will set you up for success in the coming weeks!
This is an action item for you to do if today, if you haven’t done so already. (Seriously, don’t sleep on your Google My Business profile!)
5. Door-to-Door Marketing
Whether you live in Calgary, AB, Cleveland, OH, or somewhere balmy in the southern United States, think long and hard about how to make the most of door-to-door marketing in the winter.
Before exposing yourself or your staff to icy winds and blowing snow for hours on end, think through how to most effectively go about your door-to-door campaign—so it isn’t a waste of time (or fingers).
When you’re already on a job site, it’s a great idea to go door-to-door to the surrounding twenty or so houses. Introduce yourself and your company and ask if the neighbors have any painting needs you can meet.
These interactions might be uncomfortable at first, but if it means the difference between laying off staff or having a full week of work, it’s always worth it to make this kind of effort.
The more you and your staff do this kind of door-to-door marketing, the more comfortable it will become and the more success you’ll have. All year round, your painters can (and should!) be reaching out to the houses around where they’re working to generate more leads.
It’s also important to have a strong visual presence in the neighborhood, so make sure staff bring along flyers to distribute to neighbors, along with yard signs to display on-site.
6. Dial in the Free Stuff
While Google Ads are going to be a worthwhile financial investment for your business, there are also free things that you can do online to generate leads. One of the best free ways to get your name out there is through Facebook community groups.
People use these community groups for a variety of purposes, but one of the most common is to ask for local recommendations. People don’t want to spend their time scouring through Google search results when they can just ask their neighbors for personal recommendations.
If you and your staff are actively involved in these groups, you can respond directly and enthusiastically when someone asks for a recommendation of a great painting company. That was easy.
7. Ask Your Paint Suppliers for Referrals
If you’re slow, then your paint suppliers are also losing out on business. Therefore, it benefits both of you if they refer their customers to your services.
Paint suppliers interact with hundreds of contractors, so you need to give them a reason to think of your business and pass your name (and recommendation) along. Don’t overlook your local paint suppliers when passing out end-of-year thank you gifts. A box of donuts for the paint store employees could go a long way in their recommending your business, if for no other reason than you now stand out in a sea of contractors.
Again, be upfront and honest with them about your downturn in leads at this time of year.
If they know you have room in your schedule, they’ll be more apt to recommend your business to the naive guy who just bought four gallons of paint to cover his 4,000 sqft home and is now feeling like he bit off more than he can chew.
8. Reach Out to People Who Need Work Done Immediately
You need a job now, so where do you go? Real estate agents and maintenance managers.
A key to the success of your year-round painting business is your relationship with referring real estate agents. When sales are slow, reach out directly to them to see what their immediate needs are. Although the market in the U.S. and Canada is hot, there are still some houses that sit unsold for weeks and months, often for cosmetic reasons.
Could one or more of those listings use a fresh coat of paint to encourage more offers? How will you know unless you reach out? It’s easy enough to search their listings and come to them with the properties that you know would benefit from painting.
Maintenance managers usually have a year-end of December 31, meaning that in order to get the tax write-offs they want, they need jobs completed now. They may not always think to reach out to you, so take the initiative and contact them.
Again, let them know that things are slow and that you can get the job done right away—meeting your sales needs and their deadlines.
9. Spend More on Marketing
As sales decrease, it can be hard to spend money on marketing, trusting that it will pay off in the future. But what would it look like for you to spend 90% of your marketing budget in the fall/winter, and only 10% in the summer? What would the payoff be, especially in these slow months that feel so daunting?
In this industry, it can be too easy to get tunnel vision and focus only on the immediate problems in front of us. In the busy summer months, those challenges are usually around staffing and production. In the slower months, they’re almost always around sales.
The key is to always be a few months ahead of the issue, meaning that in the middle of summer you need to already be thinking about generating your fall and winter leads.
The takeaway here is: remember this for next year!
Take Action Now. See Results Soon!
Demand is down this year and it is always down this time of year, making this fall and winter one of the most challenging we’ve seen recently.
These nine actionable items can help ensure you stay afloat this winter, while hopefully relieving some stress and putting you confidently back in the driver’s seat of your business.
Watch the Full Converstaion
Jon Bryant & Michael Murray have been in the painting industry for more than 30+ years combined. Their knowledge and experience will help you reduce your stress and be confident that you’re doing all that you can to help your painting business thrive (even when things are slow!).