Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"when people get paid to do a thing...

... you should pay them to do it." it's become a favorite motto of mine, having made all kinds of home improvement mistakes over the years.

there was the time i tried to fix the slow leak in the pipe under the kitchen sink, which resulted in water collecting in the crawl space underneath the house. of course, i didn't find that out until about 2 years later, when it was far too late to do anything other than call the guy i should have called the first time, and pay him about 10x what it would have cost if i HAD called him the first time.

then there was the other time when i sat on my sofa in the living room with a glass of wine after dinner and thought, "hey, i could paint this place in about 3 hours." it seemed like a good evening activity. three weeks later, after 3 - 4 hours of painting virtually every night, i was no longer removing hardware from the walls, deciding that i would just stick my finger in the paint can and draw around lighting fixtures, hinges, pictures, etc. that house also had a vaulted ceiling and i had only my god-given 5'0 of height and a 6'0" ladder. when i sold the place, i had to take the cost of repainting it out of the proceeds.

i mention all this as background to my latest excuse for ignoring you, dear readers, as my husband mike and i decided that we would stain and seal our 10' x 50' deck ourselves. it should be noted that the 50' length includes a post-and-rail fence, and that each of those silly rails has 4 sides. it also turns out, which i did not know in advance, that one has to apply stain/sealant in a certain way (i.e., with a brush ... or if you use a roller and or sprayer, you STILL have to use a brush, which is ridiculous but true).

after what seems like an eternity, we're about half-done, having managed to apply the stain to the deck and the insides of the rails and the stairs. unfortunately, like most objects in real life, the deck exists in 3 dimensions, and that means that the entire rear of the thing, including the back sides of the stupid aforementioned rails, is still bare-assed ugly pine. to be fair, i should point out that willy and hoover, from the beginning, knew this was an ill-conceived venture, and studiously avoided my attempts to attach brushes to their tails.

the quality of our work is ... um ... crappy. there are blotches, little circle marks where small drops of stain fell and solidified, places where we stopped and then started again that are darker than the rest of the boards, uneven finishes, etc. we're thinking about starting a new business, tentatively called "distance decking." our slogan would be: "it looks ok from far away." our target market would be people who don't really care what their decks look like up close -- so for example, sitcom characters, movie prop people, and the folks making brochures and videos for google earth. i realize it's a pretty niche market ... but i bet it's a niche that's somewhat under-served.

the point -- and as is sometimes the case, i do have one -- is that marketing, advertising and communications are fields in which professional people grow and develop their expertise. i've noted that often small businesses (and even large ones, on occasion) try to do this work themselves rather than paying people who know what they're doing. what they get in return is similar to our deck -- it looks ok from far away -- but upon closer inspection, doesn't have the impact or quality or effectiveness or ANYTHING, really, that the end product is supposed to have. it's just ... there, kind of like our deck, waiting for us to come out and look at it and wish we'd had the sense to hire a professional.

but the consequences for those businesses are somewhat more severe. why? because in the end, we'll sell this place (i hope!) and we might have to pay the new buyer something to get the deck fixed. the deck, by itself, is not serving as an attractant to potential buyers. but the business that relies on cheap, shoddy marketing to attract new customers or reinforce its value to existing ones does itself a disservice that can ultimately result in people ignoring it, or staying away, or taking advantage of a well-presented offer by a competitor. net net: do it right the first time!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought this was really good. Having done many home-improvement tasks ourselves, especially in the J1K or J2K phases of marriage(just one kid; just two) out of economic necessity, I would add that if you go slow enough, you can get somewhat professional results, but it truly does take about 8 times as long as a profession. This could be true for marketing, as well, that if a business gave it 8 times the time of a professional, they could get good results, but my guess is they don't err on the 1/8th the time rather than the 8 times.


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