In an unpredictable construction market, it’s no surprise that now, more than ever, professionals in the painting business need to think outside the box – combining strategy with expertise to increase profitability. Especially in times of economic uncertainty, customers are demanding to see value out of every dollar spent on a paint job; therefore, pros must think of unique ways to showcase and extend the return on investment they bring to customers. While there are a variety of ways to illustrate the benefits of your service as a professional, I’d like to review the importance of an offering that may be familiar but overlooked by most readers – a maintenance package.
Most homeowners are familiar with the idea of extended maintenance packages when purchasing goods such as electronics or appliances, and it’s no different with painting projects. Accordingly, it is advised to build maintenance incentives into a paint job, as that will create a dual advantage – an additional revenue source for the pro and extended customer satisfaction. The below information will serve as a guide to help professionals leverage the advantages of a maintenance package.
Before offering extended services, ask customers what they want, and get a sense of their plans for property upkeep once the paint job is complete. During this conversation, be prepared to outline your offered maintenance package services and layer in the advantages of ongoing inspections. Maintenance packages can take many forms, but one of the most basic packages is to return at periodic intervals – once or twice per year – to inspect how a paint job is enduring through weather conditions and the test of time. Knowledge of your local weather conditions should help define what frequency of maintenance offering may be most desired by your customers. For example, homes that are routinely threatened with hurricane force winds and heavy rain may need more regular inspections for water damage, whereas homes located in desert areas may require special attention due to extreme sun exposure.
During an inspection, professionals should conduct a project reassessment for not only the area that was painted during the initial job, but also for adjoining walls and surfaces throughout the home. This makes the homeowners aware of the painted area’s current conditions, and it also ensures they are alerted to newly identified imperfections and abnormalities that may need to be addressed. Recognizing potential surface threats demonstrates your expert eye and shows customers you’re dedicated to helping them avoid potentially costly setbacks. It also opens up the potential to secure more projects from a single customer.
When launching a full inspection of a home’s exterior and interior surface, know that you may find multiple areas in need of attention. In these instances, a painting contractor should categorize each area of the home and create a checklist prioritizing existing issues. This list will include areas that need immediate attention, such as lead paint abatement; areas that need attention but are not a critical issue, such as peeling paint in a bathroom; and recommendations on paint work that, while not required, will improve the home’s appearance.
Other checkup services to offer include:
In addition to these services, certain guarantees should be promised. For example, a guarantee might involve repainting, free of charge or at a discount, exterior trim that is found to peel after one year. You may also promise to paint porch floors and railings every year. Providing these “guarantees” and other value-added services to the homeowner builds trust in a pro’s business and gives customers confidence that the pro will stand behind his or her work.
Painting contractors can attract new customers by combining special incentives with maintenance packages, as cost-saving promotions often motivate homeowners to purchase services. For example, weaving in a 10 percent maintenance-package discount for jobs that exceed $1,000 may be just the ticket needed to secure a project.
Additional special offers and promotions to consider when working that boost the appeal of maintenance packages may include:
When painting, rely on quality paints to make painting jobs and subsequent maintenance work easier, as coats of paint will frequently last longer than when performed with lesser-quality materials. Understandably, the homeowners may be reluctant to choose a more expensive, higher-quality brand at first, but once they’re familiar and properly educated on the many advantages of using high-quality paint, they can be persuaded to pay a little extra for it. In order to sell high-quality paint to homeowners, the painting contractor is advised to prepare an information sheet that lists the many benefits from using premium paints. The sheet should include the following points:
Another selling point that pros can stress is that they use products that support healthier living environments. Contractors can set up a checklist of jobs that can especially benefit the homeowner if they were completed using products that meet strict chemical emission limits to help improve indoor air quality. In addition, if pros serve areas where there are older homes, a special package to check yearly for deteriorating lead-based paint should be offered. It’s important that contractors stay educated on current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lead-Safe Certification Programs. Readers can learn more about lead-safe work practices and requirements by visiting www.EPA.gov.
Seeing competitors’ maintenance packages can sometimes get a contractor’s creative juices flowing. Observe what competitors aren’t offering and fill in the gaps with services that customers need. It’s important to look at packages from the customers’ point of view and add in ideas that complement your painting skills, such as design consultation and wallpaper removal services.
Keep an open mind when developing new and unique maintenance packages. There’s a famous story about Desi Arnaz, years before he built his Desilu empire, when he worked with his father installing pavement tiles. One day a shipment of tiles arrived and they were all broken. Instead of despairing, Arnaz used his business ingenuity to sell the broken colored tiles as mosaic tiles that his customers were delighted to purchase. Painting contractors who are ingenious can find ways to delight their customers and get more business.
Promoting maintenance packages online – via Web page, Facebook and more – can get pros the exposure they need for their newly offered services. Painting contractors can create an FAQ section on their websites that discusses maintenance packages and addresses common questions. Pros should also consider mentioning maintenance package options in email signature lines. For pros who don’t have a large online presence, consider creating a printed mailer that highlights value-added services.
Once a maintenance package is secured, don’t leave out the importance of obtaining feedback and keeping communication lines open to ensure your performance meets expectations. While you may be required to make adjustments, addressing feedback demonstrates better customer service and can help maximize project revenue.
Before taking on their next painting project, I encourage APC readers to brainstorm possible maintenance packages to sell as part of painting services. Even basic maintenance checks can provide the foundation needed to upsell services, retain clients and win more business. APC
Joe Richardson is senior vice president of professional products and services at Behr Process Corporation.