Almost every week I am contacted by companies like HiPages, Yellow Pages, OneFlare and True Local asking me if I would like to list my painting business on their directory.
"Would you like more leads in your area?" they say, "we have lots of enquiries from customers looking for painters". Sound familar? These websites are springing up everywhere and they are called 'job aggregator websites'.
Well, who doesn't want more leads, right? It sounds great! And even if you tell them you wont pay for advertising they will still ask you for your business details and tell you it's free to list on their website. It sounds irresistible to many painters. Many painters claim that they get work from these websites.
But like most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. So lets look a little bit closer at what is actually going on.
First of all, I always ask them if I need to be licensed or qualified to list on their website. The answer is always 'no'. So why would I support a website that helps people break licensing laws? In NSW, QLD, SA and WA there are strict laws governing who can advertise painting services and how. The aggregator websites ignore all these laws because they don't care.
Recently, the WA Building Commission published a warning to consumers about aggregator web-sites, saying "while these websites are a convenient way to connect with a builder, building surveyor, painter or plumber the websites do not guarantee the person you connect with is appropriately qualified to do the work"
Whenever I have tried to take up the matter with the web-site's management Im told 'we will look into it and get back to you'. But they never do. So why would any qualified or licensed painter pay to advertise on a website that will allow completely unqualified and unlicensed people to compete with them? Its bad for customers, dangerous to the community, and bad for contractors who do the right thing and get licensed. Just like apps like UBER have destroyed the taxi industry, these websites are ruining our industry. I recently saw a ServicesCentral ad advertising painters for $25 per hour. No professional painting contractor can make any money on such a low hourly rate, so we can only assume they are promoting unqualified cowboy handymen.
In my conversations with the managers of these websites I ask them how they can guarantee that a customer who has asbestos walls or lead paint will engage a painter that has been trained to deal with these hazards. They always reply that they didnt even know about these hazards, and most of their staff are not even aware of licensing laws! In the end they always say its not their problem, but thats a cop out. Contrary to what they claim, they just want to make money off the suckers that use their website, and are completely irresponsible about who they allow to advertise.
Another reason not to support aggregator websites is because they dont act when a customer has a bad experience. I recently used a prominent website to find some tradies to do some remodeling work on my home. Of the 7 tradies who came to do quotes only one of them was licensed to do the work he quoted on. One of the tradies who I ended up contracting completely failed to deliver on time and couldn't be contacted for days at a time. After 6 weeks of harassing them to do the job I had already paid 50% deposit for, I rang the job services website to lodge a formal complaint. I put it all in writing and expected that they would either remove the listing or help me sort out the mess. Instead, they did nothing and the last time I checked the dodgy operator was still advertising, ready for the next sucker!
'Ok", I hear you say, "its not perfect but surely it doesnt hurt to list myself if I dont pay anything, right?"
Well, you are paying for it, but you just might not realise it. Every time you list your business on a job aggregator website you are helping their search engine rankings. Thats why they offer you a free listing! Its actually helping their business, not yours! The more painters they list on their website the higher their Google ranking goes for the search term 'painters'. So they are driving customers in your area to their website, not yours.
If you dont believe me try searching on Google for a painter in your suburb. I almost guarantee that one of the job search websites will occupy top spot.
So, what should we as professional painters do?
We need to boycott them, en masse. The next time they call you, ask them if your listing appears with unlicensed painters. Ask them why they are not following the state licensing laws and requiring painters to display their license number, as required by the law. If they can't answer you, ask to speak to the manager. Explain that you are a qualified painter concerned about the customer experience, and wondering why they allow unlicensed painters to endanger the community.
Secondly, when you are deciding where to put your advertising dollar, decide not to give it to these leeches. Instead, spend it on your business. Invest into your Google rankings and web-site, not their's. Spend money on your Facebook page. If you don't know how to market effectively complete our on-line marketing course with the National Painting and Decorating Institute, and we'll show you how to market your business.
If aggregator web-sites call you, ask to be taken off their web-site and explain why you don't support what they are doing. If all of us take a stand, maybe we can start taking back our industry.
What works? What doesn't. Let us know
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