What Should You Do While the Phone Isn’t Ringing?

Posted by David Chism | Fri, Mar 27, 2020

 What Should You Do While the Phone Isn’t Ringing?

Many of the paint­ing con­trac­tors I work with have had to shut down oper­a­tions across the coun­try. It seems each day I hear of anoth­er client who has had to lay off employ­ees and go dark for a while.

Even in cer­tain cities where paint­ing is con­sid­ered essen­tial” busi­ness, the phones have stopped ring­ing. The first half of March showed amaz­ing lead counts with our mar­ket­ing efforts, so we know the sud­den drop is 100% relat­ed to con­sumers hun­ker­ing down and wait­ing on paint­ing projects.

Until our gov­ern­ment and health offi­cials let the gen­er­al pub­lic light­en up a lit­tle on the lock­downs (flat­ten that curve!), my clients are won­der­ing what things they can do NOW to best pre­pare for when they are free to work again.

First, there are plen­ty of cre­ative ways you can keep pro­duc­tion run­ning, even if it’s just a mat­ter of effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing with clients. Check that out right here!

I’ve also been think­ing through all the pos­i­tive things that can hap­pen dur­ing this manda­to­ry shut­down. Here is a list that I am start­ing, and I’d love for you all to add to it. Share it with a con­trac­tor you know and let’s make the best use of our time to make our busi­ness­es bet­ter. I’m doing the same thing for my mar­ket­ing com­pa­ny, using this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to clean up sys­tems and operations. 

7 Ways To Make the Most of a Qui­eter Time

#1: Orga­nize (and uti­lize!) Your Email List

Let’s get real: when things are busy it’s easy to let your com­pa­ny email list turn into a mess. Every­one gets thrown into the same hop­per, right? Now is the time to review your list, label con­tacts, see who opens most, the least, and nev­er. Clean up old con­tacts, cre­at­ing a lean­er, mean­er, more orga­nized list. Don’t for­get to update that CRM too!

Also, con­sid­er send­ing indi­vid­ual emails, calls, texts, or even let­ters to the top peo­ple who open up your emails the most.

#2: Learn How To Use Your CRM

You knew it was com­ing, right? Not to sound like a bro­ken record, but many of you have to admit that your CRM is like a junk draw­er. You toss a lead or con­tact into the sys­tem and close the file. 

This is a slow and time con­sum­ing project, but one of the most impor­tant things you can be work­ing on dur­ing this time. Your cus­tomer data is gold­en. The more you know about your cus­tomer the more you’ll know how best to com­mu­ni­cate and sell your services. 

If you have a well-orga­nized CRM, it will also make your busi­ness more mar­ketable to some­day sell, or more ready to pass on to a fam­i­ly mem­ber or employee. 

What should you focus on?

Go through and update things like: name, address, phone, email, type of work com­plet­ed, mar­ket­ing source, etc. You can even go a step fur­ther and start tag­ging Leads and Cus­tomers so you’ll build a bet­ter mar­ket­ing list! A tag is like a cat­e­go­ry. If you want to send a mail­er, for exam­ple, about exte­ri­or paint­ing ser­vices to all those who hired you for cab­i­net paint­ing, uti­lize the tag feature. 

Don’t have a good CRM? Check out Pipeline Deals or Zen­desk Sell (what I use).

#3: Review Your Vehi­cles and Yard Signs

What does the con­di­tion of your fleet say about your com­pa­ny? Wax on wax off, ensur­ing those vehi­cles look bet­ter than ever as they roll down the road. 

One of my first jobs when I worked at Chism Broth­ers Paint­ing was detail­ing the com­pa­ny vans each week. We had so many com­pli­ments from around town on how sharp our vehi­cles looked! 

While you’re at it, orga­nize your trucks and vans. It’s time to remove those 50 par­tial­ly-used rolls of tape, sweep out, and do a spring clean­ing. Are you as orga­nized as you could be? Maybe con­sid­er a bet­ter label­ing system? 

Make sure your vehi­cles are stocked with yard signs, too. One of the most com­mon things I hear from con­trac­tors when I ask them if they have a yard sign on a job site is, I’m not sure. My guys are sup­posed to have it up. I’ll go check!” Yard signs are cru­cial mar­ket­ing pieces! 

If they are too busy, con­sid­er a redesign. My sug­ges­tion is to keep yard signs sim­ple and easy to read. Let con­sumers know what you do and pro­vide just ONE way to con­tact you: easy phone or web address. 

#4: Video Marketing:

But I don’t have time to cre­ate videos!”

Guess what? Now you do! The first few might be ter­ri­ble, but you’ve got time to prac­tice, and you don’t need to pub­lish them or go live unless you want to.

Need some ideas for what to talk about?

  • Get your guys who aren’t cur­rent­ly work­ing to share a paint­ing tip for a home­own­er. Maybe they are doing some paint­ing around their own prop­er­ty and can record their work. 
  • Tell your sto­ry. A lot of you have a great sto­ry to tell, and now is the time to begin cap­tur­ing and shar­ing it. You can try edit­ing the videos your­self or look for some­one you can out­source the task to when rev­enue starts flow­ing again.
  • You don’t have to use expen­sive equip­ment. Many of you can just use your mobile devices, an inex­pen­sive micro­phone, and so forth. If the weath­er is nice, record outdoors! 
  • Some of you paint in your spray shop. This is a good time to start record­ing your process­es and show­cas­ing your craft. 
  • If you real­ly aren’t set up to do any videos, then just make a list of the video mar­ket­ing you’ll be doing once things turn around. 
  • I know a few con­trac­tors hav­ing suc­cess run­ning TV com­mer­cials this time of the year. There are more peo­ple sit­ting and watch­ing the TV or spend­ing time on their devices, and they aren’t in a hur­ry right now! If you’ve con­served cash, con­sid­er a few weeks of show­cas­ing a cer­tain service. 

#5: Social Media and Blogging:

  • Face­book, Insta­gram, LinkedIn — these are hot right now. Most of the news is full of doom and gloom, so this is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to give your prospects and cus­tomers some good news. It’s a time to con­nect. You don’t need to push your prod­ucts or ser­vices. Just be available! 
  • I know one con­trac­tor who cre­ates help­ful videos on arts and crafts that par­ents could do with their chil­dren while they’re at home dur­ing major hol­i­days. Why not do that sort of thing again? Use pic­tures and videos to give con­sumers tips on being cre­ative with col­or and paint! If they screw up, your team can fix it in a few weeks. 

#6: Vir­tu­al Estimating

Some of you are stuck with an old esti­mat­ing sys­tem. Now is the time to review your esti­mat­ing tools, make changes, and learn new tools. Two pop­u­lar, easy-to-use esti­mat­ing pro­grams for painters right now are Esti­mate Rock­et and PaintScout. I’ve worked with both of them. Esti­mate Rock­et has a lot of fea­tures and was not built strict­ly for the paint­ing con­trac­tor like PaintScout was, but it offers a lot of tools to help run your paint­ing com­pa­ny. My per­son­al favorite for esti­mates only is PaintScout. It’s slick and easy to use — per­fect for begin­ning to do more vir­tu­al estimates.

For a few more tips on vir­tu­al esti­mates, check out this blog! And, while you’re at it, learn and become a mas­ter at using Com­pa­ny­Cam. Essen­tial for every paint­ing contractor!

#7: Gear Up for Marketing

Some of you have dialed back on your mar­ket­ing, and some have com­plete­ly stopped. Regard­less of where you’re at, make sure you are ready to hit the ground run­ning as soon as things turn around. Review your mar­ket­ing plan and make changes as necessary. 

Keep these pri­or­i­ties in mind:

  • Watch your web­site traf­fic. This will give you a good pulse on when things are pick­ing back up. 
  • Make sure you’re avail­able to han­dle any email, call, or mes­sage that comes to you. 
  • This is a good time to write blogs, make videos, cre­ate social media posts, and have them all ready to go out! 
  • Review what dis­counts and spe­cials (if any) you will offer prospects.
  • Prospect­ing: nev­er stop prospect­ing, and stay in touch like nev­er before. 
  • Stay con­nect­ed with oth­er con­trac­tors via Zoom, LinkedIn Groups, or Face­book Groups. If you are a com­mer­cial con­trac­tor, con­sid­er join­ing the CPIA, or if you’re a res­i­den­tial painter, the PCA.

I hope I got you think­ing about how to stay busy and pro­duc­tive dur­ing the COVID-19 cri­sis. Let’s com­mit to stay strong and make our busi­ness­es bet­ter. I just scratched the sur­face with my list above — let’s keep this going and share! 

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


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