10 Winter Work Strategies That NEVER FAIL!
Finding winter work. It is the bane of every painting contractor’s existence. You work hard all season long when the sun is shining and it’s a little warm to make money, and then here comes winter and it takes all your money away and it depletes your bank account. If you’re a smaller company, you’ve just hired two or three guys and you’re like, “Good grief, I’d like to keep these guys busy. I don’t want to have to start all over again in the spring.” If you’re a large company, you’re like, “Good grief, I’ve got this overhead. I got to pay my estimators, I got to pay my office staff, I’ve got to pay my ops staff.”
All during the winter, there are three to four months out of the year that either I go broke, don’t make any money at all, or even lose some. It need not be that way. So we’re going to talk about some strategies for getting winter work, things that I know are effective every single time they’re tried. Now, this isn’t just Brandon Lewis some talking head on YouTube. It is rather Brandon Lewis, the dude that’s worked with 450 different painting contractors in six different countries. If you did that for a living, do you think you might pick up a few things that your average painter doesn’t know? Yes, absolutely.
So we’re going to run through these today, and if you have yet to subscribe to the YouTube channel, click the subscribe button. Share this in the painters groups that you’re in on Facebook for those who are complaining about the inability to find winter work. This is as good as you’re going to get on strategies anywhere on the intertube. Let’s get right into it.
First things first, I need you to get your mind right. You can’t just sit on your hands and expect the phone to ring. You can’t just sit on your hands and expect the email to ding. You got to get out there and do something. There’s not one way to get 10 jobs this winter. There isn’t. But you know what? There are 10 ways to get one job. You better believe it. There are 10 ways to get one job. So many things in painting, and in fact not just painting and marketing and recruitment and encouraging and equipping your guys to do what they need to do in the field. It’s about not relying on a one trick pony. It’s about multiple little strategies coming together to create a win.
A river is not made up of just a river, right? I just went camping recently out in the Cohutta Wilderness. Had a beautiful campsite. Yeah, there’s the main river that was going by, but guess what? As I hiked up the river, stream after stream came into it and it got bigger and bigger at the end. Without those small streams, the river wouldn’t even be there. With your lead flow, if you don’t have lots of little things that you’re doing pretty well, then you’re not going to have the lead flow you need this winter.
Don’t be mentally lazy. Everybody wants to swipe a credit card and solve their problems. Oh, I’m going to buy this lead from this new widget and this thing. I’m going to do this. I’m going to spend this big pile of money. Swiping the credit card’s great and there’s a time to do it, and on certain things you should, and we’ll talk about some of those things today. But it should not be the only thing you go to and it certainly shouldn’t be the first, okay? So don’t be mentally lazy. Mentally lazy people are always broke in this industry and the majority of people are broke in this industry. You need not be one of them.
First things first, customer reactivation. Many of you have client lists, hundreds of thousands of people that either A, you have never even typed into a centralized database. Now remember, you are owning a painting business now. You’re no longer a painter or crew leader. The skills are completely different for ownership of a painting business and being wealthy versus drawing a paycheck or working for someone else as a crew leader. Some of the stuff we’re going to talk about today, you probably don’t want to hear, but it is necessary because you’re a business owner now. You’re not a trades person, not anymore.
Customer reactivation is when you reach out to this list of clients by mail, email, text and phone multiple times in a compressed period of time, usually 30 to 45 days in a campaign where there is a theme. This is outbound marketing. This is what we call multi-step, multi-media marketing. Your past clients are worth usually 1,200 to 1,500, in some markets $2,000 in repeat and referral revenue. To make it very simple, if you got a list of a 1,000 people, you’ve probably got $1.5 million in repeat and recurring revenue.
In the winter months, about 4.7 to 4.8% of demand is in December, January, and February. October it’s higher. In November it’s higher then it drops down. So really the time to do this stuff is October and November if you can to build up your work for the winter. So you got to go after your work harder when the demand is lower if you’re going to keep your guys busy and it’s best to do this early in the season.
Now is the time to start your commercial prospecting. Put your list together of property managers, commercial property managers. I don’t think you should go after the apartments. I don’t think you should go after the residential, but commercial property managers. Start with online searches. Now is the perfect time to go after assisted living facilities, private schools, community colleges, healthcare systems, places that you can get in, find a facility manager, a maintenance manager or a property manager and get the relationship going.
When you go after commercial, it’s great in the winter because people have shut work. People are off for the holidays. You can go in and work. The other thing is you have fiscal year budgets that end, right? Fiscal year budgets end. That means that they got money to spend from 2022, as this video’s being recorded, and they’re getting their new budget for 2023. Get in there and get some of that.
Number three, reach out personally. Just calling to see how you’re doing to all your referral sources. That means if you got realtors, interior decorators that send you a handful of jobs throughout the years, call through them and check them. “How you doing? Just want to see if there’s anything you need. Blah, blah, blah. I hope you’re doing all right.” Mail them a letter. Send them a gift. Stop by their office.
Tradespeople, if you don’t have several roofers, several plumbers, several gutter people, several floor layers, several cabinet people on your list, and we’ll talk about newsletters a little bit later, which are completely different than reactivation campaigns, although painters think they’re the same, but they aren’t. You should have this network of tradespeople that see the same type of clients that you do and you all should have a relationship with one another, and rather preferably a formalized relationship that’s driven by trade survey.
Past commercial accounts, dig into them. Lots of you have one or two commercial accounts. I work for this property management company, and then I’ll ask, “Well, how many property managers are there?” About five or six, I guess. But you just work with one, right? Yeah, go get the other four or five. Well, I work with this auto automotive parts manufacturer and we do a work for them occasionally. Well, call them and check in and see is there going to be any winter work? I’m telling you just by reaching out, reminding, asking and putting together my winter work schedule, you got anything that’s going on. I promise you every time I recommend this to people, they get a few jobs. Remember, there’s not one way to get 10 jobs this week, but there are 10 ways to get one.
Diversify the lead flow. Are you using your operational marketing? What is operational marketing? It is things like using your 40 door steady work program. That’s every time you paint a house, you need to be hanging with very specific door hangers 40 doors all around the properties where you are. You need to have a sign in the yard that you leave and then I’d put two more out. If you get leads from one yard sign, doesn’t it stand a reason you get more from three? Sure does. Absolutely. Sure does.
You need to be teaching your painters how to do upselling. If you don’t have a program for that, you need one. You need to be collecting reviews. You need to be collecting reviews every time you go out and do a job, for Google My Business, Facebook, et cetera. If you haven’t trained your crews how to do that, you need to because that leads to all kinds of stuff. That’s what you call operational marketing. Every job should lead to about a quarter of another job. That’s what I call the operational marketing tailwind. You don’t want a headwind in marketing. You want a tailwind.
Big companies that consistently do this, we had one last year at the Painting Profit Summit, which is the last weekend in January, by the way, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 2023. You need to be there. I think they got like 140 some odd jobs from doing this. Not all the other stuff, but just the 40 door program. Now, they’re a $3 million company, but I’m telling you, this stuff adds up. 140 something jobs out of thin air for no money hardly is really good.
Month number five. Month number five. Item number five, I’m sorry, it’s Friday and it’s 4:05. I got to get home. I got a 25 minute drive. I’m just mailing it in here. You’re just kind of getting the half-ass presentation, but the information is what you’re after, not my wit and wisdom. Make sure your website is optimized. People build these beautiful websites that don’t get leads. They don’t have the content. The backend is not properly done. Their Google My Business is not set up properly. They’re not even going after the area that they’re actually located in. They’ve got their domicile stuff all wacky doodle, doesn’t work.
John in our online leads department builds painting contractor websites. You can go to paintersacademy.com, request that free report on SEO and generating leads organically. Your e-newsletter, review campaigns. When you got fewer leads coming in, meaning lower demand, you got to make sure that everything is optimized.
Six, continue to use your at-home monthly newsletter. This is something that we produce, but you should have your own. That is different from reactivation. Reactivation is taking from the list, “Hey, give me work, give me work, give me work.” Your newsletter is building a personal relationship and entertaining, delighting and staying top of mind, giving to the list. It’s like when you farm, there’s a time when you plant, there’s a time when you harvest and there’s a time when you let the soil go fallow and you fertilize it and you till it under and you let it rest. You can’t treat your clients like human ATM machines. There’s a time and a place to go after the list with reckless abandon, within reason, but then you can’t do that all the time. I see people that do that and nobody wants to hear from them.
Number seven. Are there any home shows? Are there any gatherings of people in your area in the winter, leading up to it, immediately after it that could make a big difference to your business or help you jumpstart your spring? In most cases, the answer is yes, and they were back on the rebound after the government shut down everybody’s lives unnecessarily. You can go there and you can make a lot of hay. We have $100,000 trade show toolkit with one of the first modules I ever made when I got into the academy for professional painting contractors business because I made so much money off trade shows. I love them.
Not only do you get a bunch of leads, not only did they close at higher rates, or at least they did for us, you get to see your past clients there when you work those shows annually. You see people that you actually do work for and you get to remind them and they will refer you and then you get to see other tradespeople and build relationships while you’re there so that you can generate referral work. If you’re smart and if you’re proactive and if you use your time wisely and if you’ve got a good process for working trade shows, you can end up with 60, 70, 100 estimates to run immediately in a time of year when you probably need it the most.
Join a local BNI or start your own trades association like I did, the Chattanooga Trades Association, and optimize it. What does optimize it mean? A lot of BNIs are full of people that can’t refer you hardly. Massage therapists, people that sell copiers, I must say accountants, attorneys maybe, might be able to get you a lead or two, but the people that really, really can make a big difference for your folks that are other trades people, right? Other trades professionals.
I recommend that you survey every client that you meet for any services they may need 60 days from now. Don’t put the company name there. Keep the survey open. I did this and what I discovered is that every time I visited a client, 70% of them would fill out that form and they’d check about 2.1 boxes. We got together every two weeks and we swapped referrals and we had one person from every group. Now, you probably don’t want to build your own group from scratch like I did. That’s a lot of work. It takes a very specific type of person and talent and desire to do that.
However, what you can do is you can take your existing BNI group, recruit more people into it that are actually trade oriented, and then you can teach them how to be better lead generators during their estimating process if you have the desire to do it.
Number nine, pick a series of neighborhoods and live with them. One of the biggest issues I see in the painting industry is that people want to go an inch deep and a mile wide with their marketing dollars and it doesn’t produce an ROI because it’s just not enough. It’s not long enough. The mediums aren’t mixed enough. So number one, target these neighborhoods. Everybody’s got affluent neighborhoods, three or four of them, subdivisions that are very easy to work, very easy to market into. Target them on the next door.
That’s one thing I’d recommend. If you’re going to spend your digital dollars, spend it specifically where there’s little waste, where people have money and where the houses that you’re targeting are of the type that you want to paint. By that I mean you don’t want to probably target a neighborhood full of brick houses. Why? because they don’t need the exteriors painted. So you want a certain age. You want a certain construction makeup to really get the maximum transaction size for your investment.
Facebook ads. Easy to run. You can set them right on top of a neighborhood. The targeting is pretty darn close. EDDM on the right route. EDDM stands for every door direct mail. Type in EDDM map tool into Google. For 17 cents, you can put like an 11 by 17 postcard into everybody’s box. If you print it yourself on colored paper, heck, it’s like 5 cents. You can live in those neighborhoods. Canvas the entire neighborhood. Use clip flyers. These are little things that you put together. They’re similar to door hangers. You put a little binder clip on it. You go down the road. You toss it in the driveway. You can door hang them.
You can actually do true canvassing where you knock on the door and ask people if they need something. Depending on your situation, you may have to do that. You got a day that your painters aren’t busy, put jackets on them. Train them. Go out there, work the neighborhoods. There’s other things you can do. Community newsletters, all kinds of stuff. Put the signs going in and out of the entrances. Just pick a neighborhood and market to them until they buy or die.
Here’s the beauty when you do that, if you’re intentional. When you do that type of marketing, guess what happens? You get jobs. Yes, you get jobs. You get jobs in these neighborhoods. Then the next thing you know because you’re doing your 40 door steady work campaign, you get what? More jobs and then more jobs. Then guess what? You’re sending your newsletter every month. Guess what those people do in their neighborhood? They refer you, which means you get more jobs. The next thing you know, you own that little neighborhood because of your deliberate efforts to market. You will not go broke doing this. Focus. Focus your budget.
Number 10, we’re wrapping it up here. It’s not just about being busy, it’s about being profitable. Don’t give away your work during the winter. You need to be doing job costing. You need to be tracking those labor hours daily as do your crew leaders and your material budget. If you’re not making 50% gross profit on your projects, you’ll never make 30% cash flow to owner. No gross profits, no net profits. Production rates, if you’re not using them, your variance on your jobs is going to be like this. You’ll win some and you’ll lose some. It’s ridiculous.
If you wanted to know how long it took you to run a mile, you wouldn’t look at a track and guess. You’d set a timer, you’d run the mile, you’d stop the timer. That would be how long it took you to run a mile. Same thing for the 20% of things that you paint 80% of the time. Siding, walls, doors, trim, posts, rails. Measure it, do it, come up with the number. Do your estimates based on production rates, not I educationally guess. That does not work. I’ve never seen it work. You may believe it works. You are wrong.
Upselling. Teach your crew leaders how to do it. Increases your transaction size, your sales process. If you’ve got to pet the dog, talk about the cracks, email a PDF, do a little bit of follow up maybe for a week and then leave it alone sales process, which is 95% of you because I’ve done 2,500 assessments and I know what you do during the sales process, this will not work. You need to have proof, you need to have processes, you need to have collateral. You need to be able to engage with people.
You need to be able to talk to them about what really matters and provide third party sources of proof that you actually meet those requirements that they’re looking for the painting contractor because you’re selling large transaction sizes in an industry that is not trusted and you can’t sell it through an email like it’s a can of beans on Amazon.
Overhead and cash flow management. If you’re not tracking your cash flow on a monthly basis, if you’re not using a cash flow projection sheet, how do you even know if you’re making money? You can’t just hope your bank account piles up because it rarely does. That’s all you do is hope.
So we just talked about a whole bunch of stuff you can do this winter to be very profitable. You may say to me, “Brandon, oh that all sounds good, but I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to start. I don’t know what to do. I’m just a painter. I started a painting business and this thing is eating my lunch and I’m not making the money I need to.” Well, you wouldn’t be the first person I ran into that fit that description. So there’s two things you can do that I would recommend highly and both of them are free.
The first one is to go to paintersacademy.com and request this report, the five keys for finding success in an uncertain economy. When I wrote it, the economy was uncertain and now it’s more uncertain than it was then, because all these chickens have come home to roost. The economy is not a wind-up toy. The government seemed to think that it was, but obviously it isn’t. The proof’s in the pudding. Five keys for finding success in an uncertain economy. We’ve got issues with demand and capacity now and inflation and everything else. If you think that you can just run it like you used to run it and have the same take home pay, you’re crazy.
So go there, get that free report. If you’ve not signed up for that, very easy. It’s on the very front page. Call the bat phone. You’re Commissioner Gordon. I’m Batman. I don’t know if I’d be Adam West. I don’t know. I actually like the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, probably liked Jack Nicholson better than Batman. Sorry, I’m a little bit of a comic book nerd. I got off on a tangent there. Call for help, email@example.com or just email me. Most people email me, but you can call 423-800-0520 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and someone will take your call because I know that you might need help.
All right guys, listen, winter need not be the time of year that your bank account shrivels up into nothing and you have to start all over in the spring with a brand new set of painters. If you do it right, there’s no reason that this upcoming winter can’t be the most profitable you’ve ever had. For some of you that can almost work all year and not make any money, it’s better to run a smaller crew, run it right, and actually make money through the winter months. I’ve seen it before where people didn’t make money all year, getting our program figure out how to run their business properly and actually make money in the winter when they didn’t make it in the spring when they should have, which is crazy, but I see it happen.
Very simple business. There are new problems in painting. There are only new owners or old owners that never discovered the solutions to the problems or didn’t even know the problems existed. If you’re in any of those categories, even if you’re a startup, even if you’ve been in business 30 years, if you’re 3 million, $5 million or if you’re 500,000, makes no difference. I help them all. Brandon@paintersacademy.com, 423-800-0520. Hopefully these tips have been helpful.
Now listen, if they have been leaving the comments section that you learned something. Share it in Facebook groups where painters are, or wherever you painters gather, if you think somebody could benefit from this. For those of you who are negative Nellies who hate the sound of my redneck voice, who think that I’m just after you for your money, you can leave your negative nasty condiments down there too and I will not respond to them, unless I am going to troll you, which I occasionally do, which is honestly a waste of my time, but I find it amusing.
Brandon Lewis with Painters Academy. I hope you’re doing all right. Hope you have a fantastic weekend and the rest of your week, whenever you watch this video. Subscribe to our channel, leave a few comments. I appreciate you very much and I hope to hear from you soon. Take care.
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