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

Posted by | March 27, 2020 | Marketing Advice | No Comments

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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