Reflecting on this year, it’s not difficult to ponder and ask, “What the bloody hell happened?” Think back! Decorators transitioned from the challenging Covid years, where the struggle ‘just’ to get permission to work was real.
Moving on to 2022, the workload increased for everyone. If you were well-versed in your field and had your marketing strategies in place, business opportunities were abundant.
Fast forward to 2023, and we witnessed an influx of newcomers to the industry, undercutting those with years of experience. Now, newcomers are a good thing; we encourage it, as long as they help to boost the professionalism our industry needs to show. But 2023 showed a real mixed bag. Plus, the job market contracted due to the escalating cost of living crisis. Even when tradespeople did find work, they faced challenges such as customers attempting to disrupt schedules by last-minute date changes, as if it were acceptable to forego work and income for the week.
Your struggles in 2023
Every week, we get dozens of messages across all our social, text and email platforms discussing the difficulties that tradespeople are having. So, we break it down with them. We discuss the problems they’re having and what we, together, can do about it. Usually, it’s not skill because most people can come on a course with us and get the skills they need to start making a profit. We know from years of experience that just one course with us can turn someone’s business around.
So, if it’s not skill, it must be the other thing: marketing.
Most people we speak to need more time or need to put more effort into their marketing. Like a car needs fuel, being a tradesperson with skills needs the ability to market those skills. You may feel like you’re putting in enough, but if the leads aren’t coming in, then I’m going to be the bearer of bad news and probably say you’re not. We recently ran a poll in the Decorators Growth Club and found that those doing the best had a conversation rate of between 20% and 30%. It may seem low compared to what your used to. But those in that margin were sending out 15+ quotes every month.
We’re still standing.
Even the best of us struggle at times, be it outside factors out of our control or those which were our fault. For most, struggles are down to marketing. For others, it’s business decisions. Honestly, we all have them, and we all need to be able to get past them. Those that fail do so because they’re unable to see a way past the issues that arise.
Look, if you’re still here after a horrid 2023, then well done. It doesn’t matter what happened because you’re still working hard and, in a position to grow. You need to learn from it and ensure that 2024 is even better. And if you’re still unsure, if you still feel like you’re failing, remember this… You just being here, still running a business at the end of 2023, makes you better than Blockbuster, who, as we know, forgot to transition with the rise of the internet. You’re better than Kodak, who thought digital cameras were a phase. And even Xerox, the printer manufacturer, who were so fixed on ‘Just Printers’ that they gave away anything they developed outside of their scope to Apple and Microsoft, who made billions from those ideas.
Having your competitors steal your ideas is one thing, but to be willing to give them away is insane.
Our focus in 2023
PaintTech’s goal at the start of 2023 was to continue being the UK’s leading training academy in the painting & decorating sector, and to make sure no one overtook us. Thankfully, we managed to stay the biggest and best and maintain our market share in an ever-growing market. But we also had plans to grow the number of people we took on with CITB funding, and to do that, we needed to work even closer with CITB. Now, because we achieved that this year, we can now offer even more companies up to £5000 of funding to come on even more of our courses this year and next, and in certain areas, we have even more funding opportunities above the £5000 that most companies can already receive. Not many of our competitors knew that, because we wanted to ensure that our goals didn’t just increase our profit but that of our customers. Our 2023 goal has positively impacted hundreds more businesses because our goals have made us a customer-first focused academy.
Falling off the Wagon
Just like for some of you, it wasn’t plain sailing. We had some issues. The team changed and we closed both our Exeter and Scotland academies, which was hard. Reducing the number of centres we have for training can, if considered by itself, be a loss or a step backwards. But it’s not. And should you be in the same situation, we encourage you to see yourself as the same. If you lose work or a staff member leaves, think about the positives there. For us, it was a new direction. Working with a core team of trainers allowed us to focus not just the courses we had but the half dozen more we’ve trained for and brought on. With our two main trainers, we could now bring on other experts when needed and serve our customers better. We upped our time with students, plus the support and guidance we give to help grow their businesses. All from two central points, Edenbridge and Preston.
We learnt a valuable skill this year. Seeing an issue is good, but ignoring it and doing nothing is dangerous. You have to adapt. I bring you back to Blockbuster. Or even Nokia. Yes, remember them. Nokia turned down Android for Microsoft, and refused to change until it was too late.
Market better in 2024.
I want to leave most of the information on what to do in 2024 until the next blog, going out before Christmas. But we’re going to quickly cover how to market better going forward as that was my original thought when writing this blog, and so you have something to think about over the next two weeks.
As I mentioned initially, most people just don’t market well. We see the odd Facebook or Instagram post. Maybe a boosted post here and there. Almost everyone has a website of some sort. You may be advertising in the local paper, at the supermarket, or handing a few flyers out, but the mistake most people make is thinking they are doing enough with bits and bobs here and there. It’s like partially spraying each wall. You are doing the job well, but the end result will be lacking with gaps everywhere.
So, where’s the plan, both the business plan and marketing plan? What are your marketing routes for people to see you and get in touch? How do you know what’s working and what’s not? Are you using video? And before you say it, we all have a face for radio, but trust me, your face sells, and that’s the most important thing.
Blockbuster, Kodak, Nokia all had a business and marketing plan that they were unwilling to adapt. They were marketing incorrect services at the wrong time. When the market forces changed, they relied on doing and selling the same. They refused to think ahead and plan how to survive if things didn’t work out the way they hoped.
We know that for the next few years, access to CITB funding for businesses will grow, and we need to be marketing that; particularly the additional funding above the £5000 for access to more of our courses. But should that change, we’re ready to adapt. We have options.
We can also see that Google is changing how people search, and we need to be on our toes with that. Facebook ads are going to get even more expensive to run, but thankfully knowing this, we’ve been able to grow our audience for future organic social marketing. We’ve been telling decorators to do it for several years now. And finally, we can see that people want better access to us and our team to discuss how they can spend the bulk of their CITB money on everything from our new 3 day Worktops course with both resin and the Hawk StoneFlecks™ to our Project Management and Estimating Courses. 70% of people prefer to speak to us instead of booking online, and we need to maintain and grow the structure for that to happen.
Coming to the end of 2023.
There’s a famous saying.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing day in day out and expecting a different result.
Make sure 2024 doesn’t repeat the same mistakes of 2023. Be better!
If this blog has resonated with you and learning more around how to run a business and marketing effectively is something of interest, please add your email below. We’re in the process of creating a whole new mentoring programme with CITB funding for 2024. So, watch this space!
This year, we’ll have one more blog focusing on ‘how to hit the ground hard in 2024’. We’ll get some top tips from our trainers and other industry professionals. It’s going to be an amazing blog.