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It’s Spring, When a Contractor’s Fancy Turns to Thoughts of…Marketing


By Burt Olhiser

How are you generating new businessby word of mouth? By online advertising? By listings in business directories? By all of these, or by other means?

Lord Tennyson famously penned that “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Judging by my own experience, this is true; however, love isn’t what this blog’s all about, as once upon a time this young man’s fancy evolved into the necessity of…work! That’s because the babies who followed shortly after thoughts of love needed new shoes, among other essentials.

So with the frustration and poverty visited on us by winter finally giving way to spring in those early days, my energies as a painting contractor could turn to the sowing of seeds in the hope and pursuit of yields, a.k.a. projects, and the reaping of harvests known as profits.

But like the farmer in the field I needed to consider how to best sow those seeds. Those of us who have been at this awhile know that our best advertisement is our work. I can't recall how many times my crews and I have painted entire neighborhoods...not because my work was cheaper or that much better than my competition. It was simply because we showed up every day on time in whites so we looked professional, and were able to demonstrate our commitment to quality by the product we turned out.

But this would never occur if we did not get the first project. So for years I puzzled over how to best start this ball rolling, trying direct mailings with moderate but costly success, and listing in the yellow pages and other directories, also with moderate but relatively costly success. We tried doing direct calling to folks (boy, was that a mistake, as people can really be rude).

Finally, I struck on the most successful and cost-effective way of marketing for our particular demographics—using door hangers—cost effective because they were cheap to print; effective because my message could be targeted and oft repeated (we would zero in on neighborhoods and hang them two weeks apart); and cheap to distribute as with all those springtimes and the children who followed, I had five kids to help do the work.

So the question is: How are you generating new business—by word of mouth? By online advertising? By listings in business directories? By all of these approaches? Or by other means?

By the way, the comments to the initial blog entry were over-the-top excellent. Brian's suggestion to use the manufacturer’s technical data sheets was spot on in my view, as this practice removes any ambiguity because, as he stated, it defines the work in lieu of having a good specification. That way, if changes are requested they can be quantified.

Nancy from Myrtle Beach gave us an excellent way to deal with ambiguous specs as well. She essentially writes the specs by offering options to her clients. They then select which ones suit their budgets and desires and the work progresses.

Good stuff. Thanks!


Burt Olhiser

Burt Olhiser founded Vantage Point Consulting in 1991 after a 15-year stint as a successful Northern California painting contractor. He initially provided safety, training and business consulting services to fellow contractors. He was an instructor at UC Davis’ EPA Western Regional Lead Training Center until the program’s closure, at which time he moved to UC Berkeley's Center for Occupational & Environmental Health program where he still serves today. Burt also served as Environmental Health & Safety Director and Quality Control Manager for one of California's largest industrial painting contractors. A member of SSPC, CSI, PDCA, and NACE, Burt is a CDPH Lead Related Construction Professional, Certified Asbestos Consultant, Certified Professional Estimator, and NACE Certified Coatings Inspector. Burt is a contributing editor to D+D.



Tagged categories: Brushes and rollers; Paint application; Purdy; Good Technical Practice

Comment from Barbara Jacobs, (4/10/2011, 3:39 PM)

Thanks for the timely subject, tips and questions! I could even add: it's Spring...and a color consultants thoughts turn to Networking!

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