Advertising for Decorators: Chapter 1. Leave your ego at the door

Advertising is about generating business.

More business, better quality business and more predictable business.

And any company worth its salt should be doing it. All. The. Time.

For some reason, a lot of tradesmen look down on other trade companies who advertise.

They think that if you’re truly good at what you do, you shouldn’t need to advertise.

In my humble opinion, this is a load of rubbish.

Apple are really good at making phones and laptops, yet they still advertise. McDonalds are pretty good at making burgers and they still advertise. Coca Cola, Samsung, Tesco, you name any big and successful company. They all advertise.

So why shouldn’t you?

The other thing to remember is that advertising is not about showing the world how clever you are.

All too often people over complicate their message and pretend to be something they are not.

Small companies always seem to pretend they are bigger than they really are.

You’ve seen the adverts before:

‘Our staff are all fully qualified and have an impeccable eye for detail’

Our staff?

You’re a sole trader. Give it a rest mate.

People tend to use long and over complicated words that they would never use in real life, because they want to seem intelligent and professional.

All these things simply distract from what your company is really about, and to be honest, probably do more harm than good.

A question I like to ask painters and decorators whenever I meet them is:

‘Why do your customers choose you over anyone else?’

Do you know what 99% of them answer?

They choose them because of who they are. Their personality. The rapport they built up when they first met.

That’s what makes them unique. The person behind the company.

Not the fact that they are time served and have 30 years’ experience in the trade.

And yet, when it comes to writing an advert about their business, people always seem to write the same boring and generic rubbish that everyone else writes.

Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

That’s what the big companies do. So that’s what you should do?


Big companies have big budgets. They can afford to run advertising campaigns to ‘increase brand awareness’.

You are a small company. You have a small budget. And there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t let your ego get in the way of what you are trying to do with your advertising.

You shouldn’t be trying to copy big companies.

They have very different objectives to you.

Big companies will spend millions on making adverts that look cool and improve their brand image.

This is not what you are trying to achieve as a small business.

You are trying to find your next job so that you can pay your mortgage.

Remember this whenever you are advertising.

If you let your ego get in the way and you pretend to be a bigger company that you really are, then all that will happen is you waste valuable time and money.

Listen, I’ll admit I have been just as bad as the next person for all of this stuff.

I’ve written adverts and sent emails to people that would suggest the company I worked for was an absolute giant.

When the reality was that I was sat in a tiny little office with two other people. And the ‘board room’ at our ‘Head quarters’ was more like a cupboard in a portacabin.

I’ve spent money on making flashy videos and brochures that made no impact on sales.

I’ve then tried convincing my boss that the campaign hadn’t failed, as it was all about improving ‘brand image’.

Let me tell you, as a small company, when someone says the advertising campaign was all about ‘getting the name out there’ or ‘improving brand awareness’, what they really mean is…the advertising campaign bombed, and they wasted a ton of money.

I’ll give you a more recent example of when I tried to make a ‘cool’ and ‘clever’ advert.

Whilst working for a paint manufacturing company, I was creating a poster style advert that could be used in stores and on social media.

The paint had been getting some good reviews from decorators and sales were growing. This was inflating my ego and I had the delusion that we were the ‘best kept secret’ in the paint industry.

I designed the advert as if I were launching the new iPhone.

Picture this: it was a plain white sheet of A4 paper with an image of the paint tin in the centre. Underneath was the caption:

‘When you know…’

Clever right? Sounds cool, yeah?

Well I basically took the afternoon off after that. I was so proud of myself. It was simple, elegant…beautiful.

It makes me cringe now.

There were several issues with this advert, but the main problem was the caption ‘When you know…’

It was supposed to be a nod to the decorators who already knew we had a good product, and it was supposed to intrigue other decorators about it.

However, the advert did absolutely nothing for sales.

I would guess that 99% of people that saw the advert probably read the caption ‘When you know…’ and then said to themselves…. ‘Know what?’ and just kept on scrolling through social media.

Not one person ever looked at that advert and said to me ‘What’s all this about then?’

So as cool and clever as I thought this advert was, it was a complete failure. As not only did it not produce any sales. It didn’t even trigger any conversations.

The point is, that one way or another, I’ve learned my lessons. Ego has no place in advertising.

I’ve found out that the key to successful advertising is to be authentic and to be yourself. Nothing more. Nothing less.


Understand what sort of business you are and make sure you are clear on your individual goals. Don’t let ego dictate your advertising tactics. Don’t be tempted to copy what larger companies are doing. They have different objectives to you, and much bigger budgets. Stay true to who you are, and you’ll be far more successful.

Advertising for decorators will be available on Amazon from March 1st 2021

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