A Story About Creating Price Elasticity, Up-Selling, and List Building for Painting Contractors … If You Can “Bear” It!

Building Value for Painting Contractors

My daughter, Sylvia, AKA Spanky-Doodle, smiles as my wife Kristin helps her put the “heart” in her My Little Pony stuffed animal named HaHa.


Last Christmas, my sister Casey bought Sylvia a gift card to Build-a-Bear. Needless to say, we were a touch slow in getting around to using it – waiting until a few weeks before Christmas this year to go on our bear-building adventure to the local mall.

Kristin and I had a blast watching Sylvia go through the process of “building” her bear. She was very interested and engaged throughout the majority of the process, which is no small feat for a child who is not yet three years old.

She has continually carried her pony “HaHa” everywhere with her since that fateful day.

As we waited in the line, walked through the process, and were directed from station to station, I could not help but be struck by what the Build-a-Bear franchise was able to accomplish. Let me explain…

So often, I hear painting contractors complain about price competition, finding new leads, and generating additional sources of revenue. Here are a few lessons I learned from my Build-a-Bear experience that any painting contractor could adapt

for their painting business. I would ask as you read that you do not dismiss these strategies out of hand. With a little ingenuity, you could make many of them work for you:

Don’t Do What Your Competitors Do – How is every other company selling a stuffed animal? They manufacture them in a central location and then look for distribution channels to sell them. Build-a-Bear completely reinvented what it means to “own and purchase” a stuffed animal. This allows them to charge $55 for a “commodity” that would otherwise retail for $15 or $20.

How do clients consume your services? How are your competitors offering their painting services? What can you do to differentiate yourself in a way that builds value and allows you to charge a premium price for a “commodity” service?

Start with Higher Prices – At Build-a-Bear, they walk you down the aisle with the highest priced “bears” first. It isn’t until you make it down the line – 15 minutes later – that you then realize you had lower-priced options. However, by then, your child is “attached” her selection and you’re unlikely to switch lest a scene be created.

When you quote your painting services, don’t be afraid to give a price for what the customer truly needs first irrespective of price. If your recommendations do not work within their budget, then consider lower-priced alternatives as a fallback position. It is easier to “sell-down” than “sell-up.” Quote confidently.

Up-Sell As You Go – Build-a-Bear is one giant up-sell after the next. First, you buy the bear. Then you buy the electronic “voice” for the stuffed

animal that you can record in a customized fashion. From there, you move on to the accessories and apparel section for your bear and are encouraged by helpful attendants at each station to make certain you do not miss an opportunity to buy.

As professional painters, we can often under-sell and under-provide solutions for our customers. We develop a narrow, myopic view of our service offerings and limit our average transaction size because of it. What could you offer other than your current services that would be welcomed by your customers and easy on your operational setup?

Make An Emotional Connection – There is something cold and transactional about buying a teddy bear from a bin or “cage” in a department store. Something sterile. Not at Build-a-Bear.

There, you are able to give your bear a voice, insert a plush heart, wash your bear, and even name your bear with a genuine birth-certificate. Ask yourself this question: How can you make a stronger, more emotional connection with your painting customers?

Intentionally Set Out to Market to Past Customers – Even before your transaction is complete, before you even pay for your stuffed animal, Build-a-Bear has your name, address, phone number, email address, and the birthday of your child on the “birth-certificate.”

Now, why might that be? It is because the company understands there is a finite window of time in a child’s life when the activity of building your own stuffed animal is a marketable service. They must make the most of this opportunity while it lasts.

As painters, we often do a very, very poor job of marketing to our past customers for repeat business and referrals. So many painting contractors insist they live on “word of mouth,” but when asked what they do to generate it, they haven’t an answer.

Now, “bear-a-hand,” “bear-up,” and use these marketing strategies to “stuff” your business with happy customers throughout 2015!

Brandon Lewis, B.S., M.B.A.
Director of the Marketing Department
The Academy for Professional Painting Contractors
Department: 423-800-0520


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Jimmy Canabe
a year ago
Due to Brandon and his amazing guidance, we have been able to grow as a business and as individuals. His unique marketing strategies make our...
Art Snarzyk
10 months ago
I've had the pleasure of attending APPC conferences and events. The contractors in attendance are high-caliber people and strong business owners willing to hone...
Matthew Rathgeb
a year ago
I had contacted the APP sometime in April of 2018. After 7 years in business I got tired of always running into the same issues...
Stephen Blauert
a year ago
Brandon definitely does A+ work! We met Brandon at a conference where he held a workshop on marketing for painting companies. We signed up for...
Jonathan Webb
a year ago
The APPC is a fantastic source of information, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will prove invaluable to any paint company owner who is interested in...

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Jim and Lorraine

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“This year has been the biggest year of growth for us. We're double where we were last year. I realized the real money in this business is in the marketing of the services - not the doing of the services.”

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