3 Smart Ways to Keep Your Company Strong through a Down Economy

The COVID-19 emergency is presenting numerous challenges for painting contracting companies. In this article, we explore three ways you can mitigate your risk and build for the future during these challenging economic times.

1. Shift to exterior work

Some customers may be uncomfortable with having painters and other tradespeople in their homes right now. One way to practice social distancing while still booking jobs is to focus on exteriors. Since they don’t require as much social contact, customers may be more open to exterior projects.

Further, use this as an opportunity to offer potential new customers a “touchless” exterior repaint experience, by discussing the project over the phone, walking the property by yourself and e-mailing your proposal.

Also, consider moving up some of the future exterior work you have already scheduled.

2. Expand into different markets

In times like these, the work opportunities can often shift dramatically. The most successful painting companies are those that are capable of pivoting quickly to find work where demand is highest.

As noted above, interior specialists may find success by opening up to exterior work during events like the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, if you currently only do residential painting, you might consider making some bids on light commercial projects. Smaller-scale jobs like restaurants and retail stores are a good starting point, and utilize many of the skills and systems you’ve already mastered in your residential work.

Shutdown work is another segment worth exploring. This term refers to projects related to a plant or manufacturing facility shutdown for upgrades, closing, maintenance, etc. With many plants in shutdown mode due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this could be a good time to offer your services to these kind of facilities.

Multi-family properties are another good opportunity to expand your business. Apartment construction has been growing each year for the past decade, with more people from every age group choosing the convenience of multi-family living than ever before. And since every building – new or existing – has ongoing painting needs, now is a good time to consider taking advantage of this opportunity with coatings and expert advice and support from Sherwin-Williams.

No matter how you adjust, it pays to be creative, regardless of the market conditions or economic climate.

“Our success in the painting and coating industry is based on looking ahead to see what is coming up and seeing where we can apply this to remain competitive,” says Joe Ferrera, owner of Consolidated Painting LLC in Kapolei, Hawaii. For example, a few years ago, they decided after much research to expand into speciality products like waterproofing coatings, special lining coatings and exotic deck coatings.

“This gave us the competitive edge in the industry,” Ferrera says. Other specialty products like microbicidal paints and coatings for floors and concrete and masonry offer additional opportunities for expanding your business.

3. Connect with past customers

How are you currently promoting your business to get work? Owners of many small businesses are focused on attracting new customers. But past customers are just as important, and marketing to your existing customer base is a good way to drum up new business. Also, research has shown it costs about six times more to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing customer.

The key is to keep your company “top of mind” so past customers continue to think of hiring you for new projects, and that refer your company to their family, friends and colleagues. One way to do this is to find ways to make them feel special. A customer’s birthday, wedding anniversary or the anniversary of the first time they did business with you are all natural times to reach out. Along with a card or an email note, consider including a coupon or savings offer that is substantial enough to be meaningful.

Sherwin-Williams has also developed a new marketing tool for pro painters called the Home-Owner Project Guide, available to contractors with a mySW account in the Customized Marketing Tools section. With this free resource, you can go back to a previous job you have done for your customer, and create a professional archive document for them. You can include coatings, color names/numbers, swatches and sheens for every surface you painted. Plus, the document will be branded with your company logo and contact information.

This kind of personalized, professional presentation will help to set your company apart, increase customer satisfaction and generate leads for new business.

“By making them feel special, you’ll build a loyal customer base,” says Rieva Lesonsky, CEO and President of GrowBiz Media.

A final note on social media

Finally, if you use social media as a way to promote your business, you can promote your services by sharing relevant YouTube content. You will find a wealth of videos you can share at places like the Sherwin-Williams YouTube channel.

Sherwin-Williams also offers a free Build Your Business Social Media Marketing guide for pro painters. It offers the latest advice on talking to your customers on key platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Houzz, including what to share and the best content to publish.

Keep in mind: What might usually be considered appropriate social media content might not be best suited to post now – or the tone may need to change. It’s a good idea to assess your social posts to ensure they’re suitable for the current situation.

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