5 Marketing Strategies, Ideas, & Tips Painters Can Steal from Politics

Marketing Strategies for Painting Contractors

Click Here to Read the Original APC Magazine Article

Painting is just like politics… you’re always trying to cover something up.” This is a light-hearted joke I often tell while speaking to audiences of painting contractors in an attempt to explain the unusual transition I made in my career.

I know this will diminish my standing with most readers, but I’ve worked as a political consultant for much of my professional career – before, during, and after running my painting business. I worked at the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, State, and Caucus level, even authoring a book called How to Raise Money for Political Office that’s widely available and used at prestigious universities.

While there’s plenty to be disgusted about in politics, there is also a lot to learn about marketing and sales for painting contractors.

When it comes to discovering marketing strategies that work, political campaigns are cutting edge. Because so many marketing dollars are raised and spent in such a short period of time, and because the winner-take-all election guarantees a second place finish is a political death sentence, there is zero room for fancy-sounding marketing theories that don’t work.

Here are five effective political marketing strategies I teach to members of the Painters Academy. You can implement them in your painting business right away:

Stop Throwing Away Your “Incumbent” Status

Do you know why bad politicians are reelected again and again even though there are better alternatives available? It’s simple: People tend to stick with who they know, even if a better alternative presents itself… as long as the politician does not allow the voters to forget him.

A good politician is always campaigning. He knows that if he waits until the election to begin the marketing process, it’s too late. He knows that once he collects the contact information of a voter, donor, or volunteer, that he must communicate with them in a calendared and consistent fashion. If he doesn’t do this, another candidate will steal his job during the next election cycle.

Voters and donors are very, very expensive to acquire. When a candidate builds a valuable list and maintains them over the years, he places a huge, protective financial barrier in front any challenger who wants his office. Guess what? Painting customers are very, very expensive to acquire as well…

Sadly, most owners never communicate with customers after the painting project is over, or they communicate so poorly and infrequently that they give up the tremendous financial advantage of being the “incumbent” in the business relationship.

Recently, at PDCA’s national conference, I sat down with 20+ owners for a brief, one-on-one marketing diagnostic assessment. Of these owners, only three had contacted their customers in the last twelve months and two of those had done so during the worst time of year with a poor message and medium.

The statistics are even worse for the hundreds of owners I interview and assess each year. If you haven’t communicated with your customers at least thirty-six times in the last calendar year using three different marketing mediums, rest assured you’re leaving thousands on the table.

Abandon Traditional Branding B.S.

Painting contractors have been sold a lie about traditional branding. Here’s the truth: I know from experience in media buying that it costs roughly $100,000 in multi-media spending in a mid-sized county over 30 days to generate 10% name identification among congressional primary voters. This means that in order to get one out of ten people to be able to recognize the candidate’s name in polling, you have to spend mammoth sums of money in a compressed period of time.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the hard-bought name I.D. all but disappears when voters are professionally polled 90 days after the spending stops.

What does this benchmark mean for painters who have a “community branding” budget of only a few thousand or a few hundred dollars per month? It means you’ll run out of money long before you ever see the estimate requests start rolling in.

The two-step solution to this problem it to do what a well-ran, local political campaigns does, because a painting business is very similar to a local political campaign in size and budgeting.

Number one: Pick a small, targeted list of prospects for your lead-generating marketing. You can select a manageable list of residential, commercial, or referral prospects and approach them directly, or you can pick a handful of marketing mediums that target and overlap with your ideal customers.

Number two: Instead of going an inch deep and a mile wide with your marketing budget, go a mile deep and an inch wide. Successful political campaigns do not talk to “everyone,” instead they focus exclusively on prospects who have voted 100% or 75% of the time in previous, identical elections so they know their marketing dollars will not be wasted.

Your Personality Is More Magnetic Than Your “Brand”

It puzzles me when owners throw away the unique, competitive advantage of personal connection that is distinct to a small business in a misguided effort to create a faceless, impersonal corporate brand. This is a mistake that a good politician never makes – especially a local one.

You see, a voter does not have an emotional attachment to the campaign logo, the well-designed website, or the clever yard signs used by the local campaign. Instead, what they remember and personally connect with is what they know about the candidate, his family, and his values.

They remember the conversations they had with him, how he helped them personally with a problem a few years ago, and the fact that they share a love for a certain hobby, interest, or local sports team. When another candidate challenges this incumbent, even though the opposing candidate may be better qualified, they stick with the individual that that personally know.

Let your personality show in your painting business; don’t foolishly hide it. Tell customers about your personal story and background. Keep them informed about what’s going on in your life, your family’s life, and personally connect them to your staff using profiles, updates, and stories. These bonds, unlike branding bonds, are easier to establish and harder to break.

Educational Selling Is About Compression and Repetition

Have you ever been frustrated when a politician keeps saying the same things over and over again? Does it annoy you when a candidate tells the same stories repeatedly?

It may be aggravating to a handful of political junkies, but there is a well-researched reason effective campaigners do this: Voters do not listen and when they listen they do not remember, unless they are told the same things again and again over a compressed period of time.

When a customer calls you for a painting estimate, you would do well to remember they behave just like voters. In fact, unlike a 30, 60, or 90 day election for local office, you only have 48 to 96 hours to build trust and communicate a distinctive message about your painting business when selling.

That’s why I teach owners to use pre-positioning, presenting, post-positioning, and follow-up strategies that communicate the essential differences in people, processes, and products in their painting businesses compared to low-bid competitors. We do this with multiple touches, tools, techniques, and mediums in a compressed period of time.

However, we do not deviate from the central message, but instead present variations on a theme so we can rest assured that the customer understands the most critical elements of our educational and diagnostic selling process. In your selling, don’t try to say it all. Just make sure the most important things are well understood by your prospects.

Focus on Strategic Alliances

A good politician does retail, door-to-door campaigning because it is a must. However, he also works very hard to build and maintain relationships with civic groups, political action committees, associations, political parties, churches, and the press.

He knows that one vote is good, but if a similar amount of effort can give you hundreds of votes because of a well-placed article, endorsement, or speaking opportunity, that’s even better.

In the same manner, I teach owners to build a network of referral sources and to maintain them diligently through programs, newsletters, and personal communication. Owners should focus on large, commercial repaint accounts because they can represent tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year in recurring revenue.

Often, it takes the same amount of effort to go after strategic alliances as it does to approach individual homeowners, but the payoff is larger. You should follow the professional candidate’s lead in this regard.

Summary: Political & Painting Power Comes from List Building & Management

What makes an established politician powerful? Is it his wisdom, character, or knowledge of government? Nope. His power comes from his in-house list of voters, donors, volunteers, and strategic alliances. His power comes from the calendared and consistent way he communicates and interacts with this list to grow his political influence.

What makes a painting contractor financially successful? Is it his love of the trade, technical competence, or ability to calculate an estimate? Nope. His income and equity comes from his in-house list of past customers, unconverted leads, referral sources, and commercial contacts – and the way he communicates with his list to generate leads, encourage referrals, and close sales.

While the world of politics may seem an unlikely place to find a model for marketing your painting business, rest assured these campaign strategies and tactics translate into wealth in any industry. They’ve worked for hundreds of APPC members and allowed me to build and sell my own $1,000,000.00 painting business for over $440,000 in five short years. They’ll work for you too.

Need help in your painting business? Call 423-800-0520 or request the FREE Report & CD on this page in the right-hand column!

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