Why decorators love word of mouth, and gamble with their business

Why do your customers recommend you

We sometimes tend to overthink things and shy away from asking our customers for a recommendation, hoping and relying upon it to happen organically. But why?

When we ask decorators on our painting and decorating courses why they avoid asking, the most common answer is, ‘why would our customers recommend anyone to us?’ Decorators are so consumed thinking that they won’t get recommendations that they never ask. Decorators are relying on it to happen organically, and they’re gambling on the growth of their own business. But simply put, you are great at what you do, and they love what you have done for them, but more importantly, how you have made them feel by the service & value you have delivered. For you and other decorators, decorating is a simple process because that’s what we do every day. We show up and do what we’re bloody good at! To us, it may seem simple, but for the customer, it is a lot more than that.

Regarding recommendations, the best part about an overly happy client is that they go and tell their friends, neighbours & family how pleased they are. Sometimes, them telling others is more about pure bragging rights, which is excellent for your business.

This is the power of word of mouth, and we live & die by it as decorators. If we are not getting constant recommendations and referrals, then we are doing something wrong. Or are we?

The circles of influence

We have a cool video here that explains exactly why word of mouth will choke your business:

We discuss on our painting and decorating courses how with word of mouth, the benefit is also the problem as all of your clients will gravitate around a single circle of influence, like an area of both geographic location and circles of friends, family & associates. This is great as you don’t have to do anything to keep getting job after job. You don’t have to travel far, and the best part is you don’t have to spend a penny on marketing or advertising because the friends of friends just want to keep using you.

Carol chats to Sue, Sue chats to Claire, Claire talks to Amanda, and they all sing your praise. They meet outside the kid’s school or during coffee mornings, even on that occasional night out. They love to tell each other about the new kitchen, hallway, bedroom or maybe an exterior. They were so impressed that Lynda and Jenny also wanted your details.

Life is good, no marketing, constant good clients, lovely people to work for; what could possibly go wrong?

Bad news travels fast

So now that we have a fantastic client pool generating self-referrals based on their love for what you have and can deliver, your name is being passed around like a???? You’re waiting for that next call, no need for a Facebook page, you think Instagram is for kids or the decorators that try too hard, TikTok’s a laugh, and even your website hasn’t been updated in years. The images still show the Ford Escort you brought second-hand in 2000 as a company car. But why would you bother (I bet you think it’s a waste of money)

So here’s the big question, why do you have such a good client base?
– Granted, you do great work and offer a fantastic service but so do a lot of other decorators around the area, and their social media is showing some fantastic projects. You maybe excuse them as having classy photos and professional videos because “they cost a fortune”. You’ve convinced yourself they aren’t the competition.
– Maybe you have a good client base because of the price. You know that other decorators change much more than you do, so undercutting works.

But we said there’s bad news so let’s fast forward to the current economic situation and the problems decorators are beginning to experience.
– Paint materials going up from 30-50%,
– Petrol is going up over 30%
– How the cost of living crisis doesn’t just affect you but also Sue, Claire, Carol, Amanda and friends.
– You have no choice but to look at your prices and realise they have to go up. Not by a lot, but they go up nonetheless.

You are no longer the cheapest, and your customers believe what you’ve done is an unreasonable price hike in troubling times, ‘can you believe he’s put his prices up by that much’ they say. Be under no illusion that no matter how good you think you are, what matters is what your clients think, and that will never change.

Attract better clients

I commonly hear on our painting and decorating courses and in our Facebook groups that better clients come with experience. But this attitude is like sitting on your sofa believing the phone would randomly ring with that mega customer on the other end. The truth is, you need better clients and more of them, and it doesn’t just happen. More importantly, you don’t want clients that can all talk to each other. Referring is good, but gossiping is terrible for business. You give Sue a discount, who tells Jane who wants a discount, she then tells Jenny, and before you know it, you’re working for peanuts. You need to build more circles of influence by constantly pushing for new circles in more affluent areas, which creates bigger jobs and better prices. By expanding, your new clients will see the value of what you offer and be happy to pay the increased cost that you have built into your business.

The importance of marketing

We see time and again how your competitors are always on Facebook & Instagram getting the cream jobs, and currently, you have no idea how to compete or even come close. You’ll need to get busy and start doing some much-needed marketing to compete in this new arena. But how do I do that?

The most common top 3 things to do are:
1. Learn how to get good at marketing
2. Outsource to a professional company
3. Work alongside decorators in the same place as you, like on our business development & painting and decorating courses.

Each has its pros & cons, but you don’t need to do them all; find the best one for you. The third option might seem to be the best choice, but it also comes with pros & cons, so you’re going to need to research the right fit for you, your business and the long game.

The best clients to work for

Everyone thinks the clients at the top are the ultimate dream job, expensive houses, big budgets, stunning photos and videos (marketing material), and you’re not wrong. But our experience over the years has taught us that although they seem to be the pinnacle of your career, there’s a chance that it may break you in the long term. The needs of those clients can be excessive and sometimes unreachable; you’ll soon be pulling your hair and gritting your teeth each day on site. But with years of experience and with a network of connected decorators, we found the best way to get the best from these premium jobs. A way to find the ultimate sweet spot for the right jobs that make you smile, make you proud, appreciate your efforts and pay very well OH and on time.

Summing up

So think carefully about your circles of influence and how word of mouth can lure you into the lion’s den; I’m not saying that word of mouth is wrong; it needs to be a structured part of your long-term marketing plan. Use the testimonials, place them across social media and find new circles of influence.

So, where do I go next?

What business, marketing or painting and decorating courses could I take?

The best thing to do is get involved with hundreds of like-minded decorators working through this problem and dozens more to find a better solution.

The Decorators Growth Club has a free Facebook page and group to get started. Try this before taking a leap into our marketing or business-based painting and decorating courses.

So jump in and get involved; it will probably be the best move you’ve made in years for one simple reason.

“Go at it Alone or go at it together” – change to the right one.

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