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Teach painting versus sell painting

Listed under Blog Posted Nov 27 2011

Matthew Evans at Welsh Heritage Decor put me on to a very inciteful post by Copy Collective called Why you should teach not sell! No surprise, I totally agree with that philosophy for promoting a business, whatever the field of endeavour.

Why teach when you are supposed to sell?

Nowadays people are bombarded with promotions, and reasons why they need to spend their hard earned money. The tried and tested tactic of ramming Buy, buy buy messages down consumers’ throats costs a lot of money, and is very hit and miss (verging on scandalous waste of time and money) for both parties.

As an idea, the advertising industry in UK is worth about £7bn a year at the moment. I believe the guy who set up Unilever once said that 75% of all advertising is a waste of money, and he never worked out which 75%. More recently, I was also told of someone who placed £10k ads in a country lifestyle upmarket type mag and didn’t even get a phone call. And Yellow pages, what is that all about, where the consumer and the advertisers are sold on the idea that the bigger the ad the better the company?

So, as a painter and decorator, why even go down the olde worlde mass marketing advertising sell sell sell route. There are smarter ways to appeal to potential customers in the internet age.

Tell consumers something they don’t know

Consumers of all ages are increasingly looking online for companies with pretty websites, minimal corporate sales blurb, and most importantly, some evidence that they actually know what they are doing.

To meet those criteria, I put this site together. Rather than blatantly sell, I decided to highlight as many decorating related problems as I could think of, if you like, to show that I have come across most issues in my trade. Equally important, I hope I demonstrate that I know how to solve those problems.

So the website is a teaching tool, illustrating how to solve a problem or do a task, exactly.

Other specialists put on talks and make videos and spill the beans in any number of creative ways.

It is stupid to give away trade secrets

Just because a homeowner learns something about painting doors from me, doesn’t mean they can do it, or even want to do it! Ditto with other trades reading how to do xyz. Is a painter in Blackpool really going to wreck my business just because they now know how I sand walls really fast and dust-free?

I am sure most people have no idea just how much thought goes into painting and decorating at the high end of the scale. And so my reward, if you like, for teaching, is that amongst the many who take my information for themselves, there are a few who want to do a good job, but no way are they capable of doing all the steps – or super busy folks who have the ability but don’t have time to do all that work. That small percentage take my number for when they need to employ a professional to solve their particular decorating problem.

Another helpful side effect of teaching versus selling, is the time saved at meetings. Every cooky cutter painter’s website says “Clean conscientious hard working high quality service”. I have gone into boring detail in posts about what that really means, so when they have read a little deeper, potential clients get the message and don’t need to ask me all the boring questions at the first meeting about how I am going to do a job, do I know how to do that job, do I run off between jobs, will I finish it, am I tidy etc etc.

Giving away trade secrets loses you work

I don’t think so! The opposite may well be more accurate in this era of mass information.

1 – I heard a builder tell my father once, “If I told you how to dig up that floor, listed what materials to use and how to relay the floor, I would be out of a job.”

My father could barely wield a pick axe for one swipe, let alone create 2 ton of rubble and wheel it all out. The builder didn’t get the job, for reasons too obvious and long to list.

2 – I know that 3000 people every month spend nearly 4 minutes reading my explanation about different ways of painting pine furniture. Nearly every single person takes the info and never even acknowledges my work or trips off an email saying thanks. That would be demoralising, except, in amongst those thousands, I do get nice emails which prompt a few thoughts for me, and I get real work enquiries from a few too.

3 – Just because a painter in the next town has read about how I paint kitchens, doesn’t mean they will take all my customers. I have lost work, plenty of work in fact to a “competitor” who undercuts me by 20% – if he gets the chance. But that has nothing to do with me being on the internet spilling the beans. He doesn’t even have an email address let alone an inkling what is on my site. (And nothing lasts forever. He will be retired soon and will have no opportunity to keep spreading misinformation that all posh paints are retail rubbish!)

If everyone kept secrets there would be no skills to keep secret!

I would go as far as to say that anyone who thinks that a philosophy of guarding trade secrets is the correct one, must, in the words of Lewis Black be either:

or secretly laughing at all idiotic college lecturers, teachers, masters, writers and exponents who spilled their secrets to them?

If you hadn’t guessed, I believe that specialists should be disseminating everything they know, for their own benefit and for the benefit of their trade.

ie the bottom line is that teaching people via an online platform is a really cost-effective route to differentiating yourself from the masses, and attracting clients in the 21st century.

And the more specialists explain the intricacies of the painting trade, the more likely the standing of the painting trade will improve in the eyes of the consumer. Because when I still get asked if I am going to fill this dirty great hole right at eye level, you know there is a lot of skepticism in the public domain about the skills and professionalism of people in white overalls wielding a brush.

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