How’s the first week of lockdown been for everyone? Much of the installer community in U.K. fenestration has downed tools and gone home as part of a national effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. It’s going to be a challenging time for many of us. Indeed, this will be the single event that changes life as we know it for all of us. Like the second world war for our previous generations. Nothing will be the same.
Whilst we are all at home though, there are things that can be done to help keep your company in the spotlight and keep people interested in windows and doors. Winning orders is perfectly possible as well, even though installation is unlikely to take place for a number of months.
These are my ten tips for installers, and anyone else who might find them useful, during this crisis.
1. Get yourself up to date
Many installers will have been sitting on quotations as we all went into lockdown. And in the past week it will have been easy to have been consumed by the gravity of the news and the shock of what was happening.
As we are starting a new week, hopefully some clarity of mind has returned. Make sure to get all remaining quotations out to customers. Remember, this is not a recession. This is not a credit crunch. At least not for the time being. Assuming their job hasn’t been lost to companies shedding due to the virus, demand for home improvement work will not have totally disappeared. Indeed, just as our place was shutting down, we had a number of customers contact us to say that they wish to go ahead once things return to some kind of normality.
2. Be active on social media
Digital marketing is the only marketing that exists right now. It’s a very good time to up your social media marketing. It’s free, it’s quick, it’s easy to do and you literally have all your captive audience right where you want them.
If it’s B2B activity you’re after, LinkedIn is your best bet. B2C and it’s Facebook. Twitter, I have found to be a mix of both. Make sure to use imagery and GIFS as well. There is a brilliant free graphic design site called canva.com that I use every day. I recommend you use it!
3. Use tech
You can’t see people right now, and probably not for a while. But that does not mean you cannot quote. There are a whole host of tools you can use to help communicate with home-owners about their new window and door options. Solidor has their online door builder and quote request system. TruFrame have their online window and door builder and pricing software. Zoom is a brilliant tool to video-conference with others. The share price in Zoom has more than doubled since January, by the way.
Create a page on your website to host PDF versions of your brochures for people to download. You can’t fit right now, but you can do as much as you can to build up interest and future orders.
4. Take pre-orders
Some out there will still be willing to spend money on new windows and doors. Perhaps not as many as we’d like, but there will be a portion out there financially secure enough to do so. Start taking pre-orders. Offer a special low deposit and obtain either a digital signature or email confirmation of order and secure that commitment, then, when you can return to installing, you have even more work on your order books than when you stopped.
5. Make plans for reopening
If you listened to the Government’s press conference yesterday, it was suggested that lockdown conditions could last until early June. What needs to be made clear, is that even after we hit the peak, which is now being touted as a couple of weeks away, it doesn’t mean that lockdown will be lifted after a couple of days of declines from that peak.
But, what that does give you is time. Time to make plans for reopening. Time to plan to make it a big deal as well. When work resumes, this is a chance to be as loud about as you can be to encourage home owners to start buying your products again. Social distancing will still very much be in force, so restrictions will need to remain in place at work. However, taking business will be allowed again, so use this time to make the most of what we hope will be a bounce.
6. Take a break
Most small installers work flat out, most days of the year to run their business. While there isn’t much work to do, take this time to have a break. If you’re own your own or are a couple, spend as much time together as you can. If you have a family with young kids, do the same. It will be all guns blazing when we get to reopen again, and you’ll miss that time at home with loved ones when you do. Recharge the batteries, take stock of what is important in life, and go back to work with a refreshed and happier perspective.
7. Review your product portfolio
Use this time at home to reflect on what you’re offering to home-owners. You rarely get chance to carry out a big review of your products and services, now seems like a very good time to do that. You could decide to expand what you offer to home-owners, in which case you can start speaking to new suppliers right now. You could decide to thin out what you offer and focus more on what you sell the most of.
8. Plan to revamp your showroom
If you have one, perhaps now is the time to give your showroom a breath of fresh air. We did ours a couple of years ago. Not the easiest thing to do when you’re still trying to use it to sell to customers, but it has to be done at some point.
You can look to put new products in there, decorate, or even just a lick of paint to brighten the place up. You can install TV screens to play videos, ask for pop-up banners and posters from suppliers to display more product information. Your showroom is still one of the strongest sales tools you have, so the better it is, the better the chance you have of winning new business.
9. Don’t become media obsessed
I appreciate that is going to be difficult to do, considering we’re all at home and there are screens everywhere. But watching the news channels on TV and online is not healthy. It’s easy to become consumed by stats, figures, new cases, new deaths. It is right to be informed on the situation as well.
You should, though, allow yourself some time away from your screens. Whether that’s going out locally for a walk or being in your garden. You could cook, clean or do other tasks in the house that need doing. It’s something I am learning to try and do myself.
You’ll drive yourself mad though, so make sure you have some non-screen time in your day.
10. Invest in IT and tech
If this crisis has shown us anything, it’s that our daily life and how we conduct business can very quickly become disrupted. In this case, by something we can’t even see. We do not know where the next major problem is going to come from, or if another pandemic might cause us problems again in the future. So, it would be wise to use this experience as a lesson. All installers should invest as much as they can in up to date IT systems and technology that allows them to work smarter, quicker and remotely. There will be questions when all this is done as to how many of us really need an office to work in. Some of you might find working from home more suitable in the future.
Either way, technology and digital platforms are going to be the future and this crisis will only cement that further. Use this to your advantage now.