Partnership program

Sometimes marketing a painting company can be very easy. For example, several years ago we launched a partnership program with a local flooring company. It isn’t anything formal, but we regularly pass along one another’s name to customers inquiring about the services offered by the other.

There are lots of other trades that a natural fit for this type of program. It can be mutually beneficial and doesn’t require a big upfront investment. Of course, for it to work each party must promote the other.

Expanding retention marketing

Most business owners think of retention marketing as being aimed at past customers. But they should be marketing to the “losers” as well. They should also be marketing to those customers who called them for an estimate, but didn’t hire them.

If someone was in the market for a professional painting contractor in the past, the chances are good that they will be in the market for professional painting contractor in the future. If you continue to market to them, there is a good chance that they will call you. This is even more true if they hired the low-baller and weren’t happy.

For years I have sent our quarterly newsletter to the losers. And every year several of them call for another estimate and wind up hiring me. It costs me about $10 a year to market to them.

My favorite success story involves a loser who eventually hired us for 2 jobs totaling about $50K. It cost me about $50 to market to her in between estimates. While this is the best story, there are many more.

Earlier this year another loser hired us for a $5.5K interior job. He then referred us to his brother, who hired us for a $4K job. And I just looked at his exterior yesterday.

My point is this: When marketing to past customers, also include those who didn’t hire you. You might be surprised at the results.

Growing grass and building a business

When I purchased my home the yard had been neglected for years. The yard consisted of piles of debris, a few splotches of grass, and bare dirt. I had never owned a home previously and knew virtually nothing about grass.

One thing I did know is that grass grows slowly. Watching grass grow is about as exciting as watching paint dry. On occasion I would sit in the middle of the yard with a cooler of beer, just to confirm my suspicions. And I was right.

I tried many things to get the grass to fill in my yard—sod, seeds, compost, top soil, playing Mozart, and more. Gradually the patches of green spread, but in some areas the grass would die as quickly as I could plant it.

I finally concluded that grass is stupid. So I built a large deck to cover many of the areas where grass refused to grow. I also concluded that the 11 oak trees on my lot did not allow enough sunshine into certain areas, and that was a large part of my problem. And this is the real point.

Grass needs certain things to grow. If the grass doesn’t have those things, it won’t grow, no matter how much water, fertilizer, or cussing you throw at it. The same is true of our paint contracting business—it needs certain things to grow and thrive. It needs marketing, financial stability, systems, and more. Without those things the business will shrivel up and die.

Creating a lawn of lush, green grass takes patience. So does building a business.

Email marketing for painting contractors

Marketing is one of the trickier aspects of owning a business. There is no shortage of opportunities for spending our money, and it seems that everyone has the greatest marketing idea since the invention of marketing.

I have certainly tried a lot of different marketing methods over the years. I have done yellow pages, door hangers, retention marketing, coupon books, postcards, signage (bandit and yard), newspapers, HOA newsletters, magazines, school calendars, home shows, canvassing, and a bunch of things I can’t begin to remember. I have tried the traditional and the unconventional.

From my experience, contractors are generally too conservative when it comes to marketing. They want to rely on the tried and true, and seldom want to think “out of the bucket.” (Of course I am generalizing–there are many exceptions to this.)

One example is email marketing. Many contractors view this as spam and fear that they will alienate customers. I think that they are wrong on both counts.

Definitions of spam vary. Some consider any unwanted email to be spam. This is absurd, as I receive tons of email from good friends and family that I don’t want.

I have been sending a monthly email to my customers (and non-customers) for about 18 months. I have yet to receive a complaint, and only a handful have opted out.

The key to successful email marketing is to offer value. An email that is full of junk won’t be read. An email that offers useful information will be. I use Constant Contact, which allows recipients to easily opt out, provides forms that I use on my web site, and offers a variety of templates for the emails.

Retention marketing is one of the most effective means of generating leads known to man. Email marketing offers a very inexpensive means of retention marketing. If you aren’t using it, you are wasting a great opportunity.

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