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The 2 Best Ways to Market & Grow a Painting Company or Business – Free Audio Training and Transcripts
The two best ways to market a painting company or business are overlooked by over 95% of owners. Chances are, even if your painting business is grossing over $1,000,000.o0 in revenue, you’re missing out on them too – or at least not combining or implementing the strategies correctly. (article and full transcript continues below audio files…)
How Mike Use the Two Best Ways to Market His Painting Company and Grossed $232,000 in 45 Days – Part One
How Mike Use the Two Best Ways to Market His Painting Company and Grossed $232,000 in 45 Days – Part Two
Here’s how I know… In conducting over 250 in-depth marketing and business-growth surveys and assessments a year, I rarely find an owner who has made use of these two strategies (and those who have do not implement them fully):
Strategy #1: Customer Reactivation & Retention
Strategy #2: Optimizing the Sales Process (Not the Estimating Process)
In the audio above and the transcripts below, you’ll discover exactly how Mike was able to use the two best ways to market a painting company in order to generate an extra $232,000.00 in revenue in only 45-days. Listen closely and apply these strategies to your painting business.
Brandon: Hello, it’s Brandon Lewis. I wanted to introduce this call a little bit differently for one simple reason. In the past, we’ve always had an industry expert typically specializing in a niche, like human resources or online lead generation or hiring or any other number of things like sales or a broader view of the industry from above. However, I thought it was time that we heard from one of our own and we are going to listen to Mike Ausherman who’s been in our program for quite some time, initially joined up, ran the customer reactivation campaign slightly under duress when he was understaffed and not quite able to focus as intently as he did this time. Well, he recently ran his Spring Customer Reactivation Campaign, the second one that he’s done and had some remarkable results about fine tuning the process. He found $232,000 in sales.
Now that number is still climbing and he did some things that were slightly different that he’s going to share with you and I thought it was important for you to hear this, that the Core 5 process is something that you don’t do one time it’s something that you can continually do and that there is organic spending going on in your list and we have to harvest that. He also had some commentary on the Power Presentation Process bringing family into the business, reconnecting with customers, balancing work and life and I think these are things that you need to hear because it can be an encouragement to you. So let’s hear from one of our own so we can glean a little bit of information peer-to-peer. I hope you enjoy the interview. Thanks.
Interview with Mike Ausherman
Brandon: Hello, I’m Brandon Lewis with the Academy for Professional Painting Contractors and I have Mike Ausherman on the line with me. Mike owns a thriving established painting business in York, Pennsylvania and has been able to accomplish some remarkable feats as of late.
I wanted to bring Mike on the program so he could share his insight and provide inspiration for other established painting contractors who want to reinvigorate their businesses. Mike, thank you so much for joining me.
Mike: Well, I appreciate Brandon you having me. And I also appreciate that you could teach this old dog some new tricks.
Brandon: Well, I’ve learned a lot from you too. It’s been exciting working with you. You’ve taken all this with a lot of gusto and learning new things and doing new things and thinking in different ways is painful and aggravating, but you have weathered it quite well and come out on the other end not much worse for wear. So why don’t you share just a little bit about your story. You’ve been in the painting industry for quite some time. Sketch in your background history, maybe a little bit about the size of your business, things that owners can relate to.
Mike: Sure. Well, my business kind of started because of a catastrophe or almost a catastrophe. In 1979 I had just gotten out of college and I had a degree in recreation and parks and it wasn’t getting me anywhere at the time. So I started painting. And I live in York, Pennsylvania and we have Three Mile Island very close to us and in 1979 we had nearly a meltdown of one of the nuclear reactors and the painter I was working for didn’t have any work so what happened was he said, “Go home, go home, go home.” So I said, “Well, I’ll get a van and do this myself.”
So that’s where it started. I worked by myself for a number of years. Always felt that I wanted to be top of the line somehow more professional than your average person not looking at the business as just a part-time kind of issue, but wanting to make it a real business and seeking wherever the information I could get to do that is what I’ve done through the years, through PDCA and my connections with other painting contractors.
Right now as of this year, the last several years our sales have been approximately between $800,000 and $1 million. And employ between 7 and 10 painters in the field, we work in teams of two, a crew leader and a painter. We have no subcontractors. We’re sort of old school in that we believe in having the control and the family feeling of having employees. So that works pretty well for us.
I’ve had some changes in the business. A few staff have left. And my son who recently, he’s 32 years old and I let him do his thing for a number of years until I didn’t want to have to force him into the business and we started speaking after a position that he would fill became open and we started talking and he’s working into the business slowly, learning to paint and then eventually will come into the staff. He’s got a college degree in business administration and then half of this is marketing. So he’s a smart kid and I think he’ll do well. I’m 65 and he’s 32 so you can do the math.
Brandon: Well, I’m glad that you’re getting to bring that into the business. You know, my father passed away when I was real young and cherish the time you get to spend with your old man. I tell people that all the time and the fact that you’re going to get to spend some time with him in your business is important because it’s not like it used to be where a family was this tight and there weren’t as many options and communities were smaller. So I’m glad that you’ve done that.
Mike: Let me add some insight to that because growing up I was in the field for the first ten years when my son was little, 10-15 years. So I’d come home and do the phone calls and schedule estimates and do the whole deal. So I was kind of taken away from him and I think he always kind of — also, I always saw that side of the painting business as away from his dad. Well, the irony is now him coming back into the business is drawing us back together. So the thing that stopped this originally is now bringing us back together.
Brandon: That is a cool story. What I’d like to do is do a little informal case study where you can impart some wisdom to some people, talk about what you’ve done in particular with your Spring Customer Reactivation Campaign. And I’d like to start with a few key metrics so listeners can kind of relate to what you’ve been able to achieve relative to their own painting business.
And so first tell us a little bit about, you know, you’ve been in the painting business for 37 years, what your in-house database looked like, how many past customers and how many unconverted estimates did you put through this process.
Mike: Well, I think we started out with about 1,500 customer base that we have in our record. Unfortunately they don’t go back before 2000 because everything was paper and not in our QuickBooks, so we didn’t have records of that, and we’ve purged probably 150 names for people who have moved or deceased or for one reason or another are no longer customers. So there’s a good solid base of 1,200-1,300 and we’re finding we were not sufficient in keeping records because we only have phone numbers unfortunately for like half of those people and as we’ll speak the phoning component in the customer reactivation plan is a very important component. And the more phone numbers you can have to actually contact the people the more beneficial it is. So if we had more phone numbers I think our results would even be better.
And of course we’re trying to capture emails. I don’t have a full-time marketing person so we’re like doing this in-house the best we can and we recognize the fact that we are insufficient when it comes to doing monthly newsletters and making more contact. But we definitely see the value and benefit of it just from what we’ve experienced so we intend to do that. So that’s the database, probably 1,250 people roughly that we’ve mailed to and used in the campaign. And I can tell you that from that mailing and from the three mailing process with the follow-up phone calls we had a young lady, a college student who was very diligent. We brought her in and she used the branded script and helped lasso a bunch of our past customers.
The whole program triggered 78 replies for proposals. I’ve done about 70 of those. I probably have eight or ten. And they keep dribbling in here or there. It’s slowed down since we did it. We inaugurated it about March 15th and it went through April 15th, April 20th, the campaign did on the three mailings. And so we’re still getting a response from it. It’s a remarkable thing. People really, really enjoyed it, thought it was clever, thought it was very interesting, and loved being considered VIPs. They love that. I mean to the point where I was having trouble getting them scheduled and getting their job schedules when they went ahead and signed up to do the work. They were saying, “No, you said we would be on the VIP schedule.” I’d go, “Well yeah, but there’s 20 other VIPs ahead of you. Sorry!” That’s a good problem to have though is too many proposals.
I did between March and April through all of my business, through these calls and calls through the internet which aren’t related I did over 128 sales calls in March and in April.
Brandon: Wow! That’s huge.
Mike: Last year at this time I was kind of an overseer in the business not doing as active, I think maybe four a month or something like that, but going from four a month to 128 that’s like 56 or something in one month. It’s a bit of a stressful situation, but I have enjoyed it. I’ve liked getting back in the feeling of connecting with the customers and I think that’s an important thing and I think your whole plan where you wrap your arms around your customer base basically and keep in contact with them, make offers to them, is a wonderful plan. I mean you could go out there and try to cold call your life away but if you’ve built a customer base like we have just use it. I mean it’s an amazing thing. I don’t think I’ve ever had in all the years, and we’ve done our share of mailings and newsletters from one organization or another, I’ve never had a result as amazing as this result.
Brandon: Well you’re very kind. Let’s dig even a little bit deeper into the numbers. You had 78 requests, you’ve written 70 of them, or you’ve got 78 requests for estimate, you’ve written 70, how many of the 70 have booked? Do you know that?
Mike: It’s about 70% of those and there are some pending. There is probably like I’m going to say probably 50 and probably at least 50 and probably another 10 will come in which are pending, you know, haven’t made up their mind or they’re going to call us or call us in a month. Everybody’s so doggone busy that sometimes it takes a little nudging to remind them that hey we’re here. We’re ready to help you out with your painting goals.
Brandon: Of those people that booked knowing that about 10 more will probably close, and that’s the one thing I always tell people that are in the middle of their reactivation campaign, you can count on about 70-75% of past customers booking. Some people do a little bit better, some people do a little bit worse, but when you look at your numbers and if you’re sitting at 35% out of a customer reactivation campaign keep in touch, give it another month and that number slowly raises itself from somewhere around 30% initially and it just keeps climbing and ultimately it kind of peters out around 75%. How much total revenue was generated?
Mike: It’s about $232,000 in jobs.
Brandon: That’s amazing. You know, you and other —
Mike: About 3,000 man hours.
Brandon: That’s amazing. There’s one other gentleman who’s done about as well as you who may be in your neighborhood now who didn’t do it all at once, but has done it in 500 block increments of his 2,000 person list and Ken was $100,000 into his when he was halfway through the process, so he may be getting up there in the two. You have managed this professionally. Talk a little bit about managing the process as you see it for maximum impact. Some people may run through this process and either they’re not as careful as they need to be or they’re not as thorough. You’ve got such a good return here. Are there any tips or tricks on monitoring the process or tracking the process that you would pass along to other people?
Mike: I would say just make sure that you go there and you can meet with the people, connect with the people, reconnect. That’s an important part of reminding them that you’re there and the job that you did for them in the past.
As far as the process goes, we try to keep it as organized as we can. I try to stay to no more than three-four sales calls a day at most because I like to visit the jobs and there is other things I have to do, breaking in a new office manager, but she takes the calls basically and schedules me out. And we usually try to during this time keep everybody as close as we can. We get out maybe two weeks and people get a little antsy but most of them who are past customers are willing to wait. And most of them if they’re exterior say as long as it’s done this year we’re fine. So I then to go out and do the sales call I will try if possible to do the figuring and sell it at that moment so that I can basically what I say, put it behind me, because if I’m doing some big ones and I don’t have the time to do them at the moment I move on and all of a sudden three evenings later I’ve got six big exteriors that I’m trying to work up. So my tip would be as much as you can try to do your calculations and sell it right then on the spot. That helps with the stress.
And then we have a CRM program where everything is entered into and then we will do, and this is for new customers and/or re-established repeat customers, we will like in two weeks have a schedule, a task in that CRM program for us to call them. And we’ll call them. When I’m on a proposal if the person isn’t able to decide then I try to make something of a contract for them, you know, I’d like a decision. Can you give me a decision if I call you at a certain time? A little bit more of a commitment. We like to get a commitment if we can.
It’s not as big an issue with your repeat customers because, you know, like I say, most of them are (inaudible 00:16:33), but with new customer you’ve got to be a little bit more formal and a little bit more regimented. But that’s kind of what we do.
And then we have a schedule board once the job is gotten we put them on the schedule board. The office manager, who once again has only been with us three months, is learning the system and she’s going to be doing the scheduling that we kind of hammered out together, and that’s probably the most difficult task she’ll have especially when you have three weeks of rain like we’ve had now. And that’s pushing all of our exterior customers back. So that’s kind of our process. I do want to start, and I’m just really fascinated by your prepositioning and post-positioning process and I think that’s going to be a part of something that we implement in our company in the next six months. I think just reading through the process it could be really beneficial.
Brandon: The good thing about that is it can all be handled from the main office. The prepositioning and the follow-up process can all be handled at the main office. And then everything else that’s in that process is really up to Mike in the field. The way I always look at it is to do a top drawer best of the best testament it takes x-amount of time and to do a really mundane one it takes x-amount of time. It’s about the same. And as more and more I guess sophisticated players move into the market we have to start making our sales processes look more and feel more like white collar processes to our customers. But again, I think you hit one nail on the head that people need to be aware of, a lot of people are always trying to sharpen their sales skills but they’re sourcing them from the internet or other places, which is you’ve got to have that mix so it keeps new blood into your company, but if your lead source is not very good your closing rates are never going to be a (inaudible 00:19:00) they’re always going to be a challenge. You could send Zig Ziglar out there to close the sale. Well, if they’re not sourced from a good place, if they’re not a repeat or a referral customer even he’s going to struggle.
Mike: Right. And I think one of the really good parts of that system is it establishes expectations between you and the customer as to what’s going to happen when you go there. So often, you know, we just go and we maybe don’t connect enough, we’re a little tired or something and the customer wants to take you immediately to the work. If you tell them ahead of time your expectation is that you’re going to sit down and have a conversation about what your goals and needs are which is part of that prepositioning. When the person calls in you tell them that’s the expectation so that you don’t necessarily go —
Brandon: Mike I think we lost the connection for just a second but you’re back on.
Mike: Yeah. So I like the idea that you’re telling the customer ahead of time what they can expect of you and it’s kind of like a little mutual contract that you go in and that way the people aren’t going to be so alarmed when you start asking them questions and trying to find out what it is they’re trying to achieve or what goals they have about their painting and all of that. I think those are some of the most important components in winning a job is really finding out what the people’s expectations are and solving them.
Brandon: Yeah. We had a great conversation here. I think you probably got to listen to the interview with Brian Brock, one of the I guess most recognized replacement contractors in the nation, and just happens to be a good friend of mine and has done a great job in the sales and marketing leadership of a local construction company here just happens to be in Chattanooga. They went from $4-$8 million in a very short period of time. It’s a small elite group of painters and believe it or not remodelers that are over a million dollars done. It’s funny, you would think because their tickets are bigger that you’d think everybody would be bigger but they’re not they still just do less and most people have a sales ceiling that they can’t seem to get over even no matter what the trade is for some reason.
Brandon: Or the transaction size. But they’re the most expensive people in the town and they close 40% of, you know, they close in the 60s and they close 40% of the jobs they see on the spot and their average ticket size is $9,000 and something. And it just goes to show you that when you build trust effectively and when you answer questions and you’re consultative and you deliver all the information that people need to make a good decision they can make one. If you don’t they’re looking at the conversations they’ve had with three painters all of which has given them no information and so now they’re making decisions not based on adequate information, but they’re making decisions based on well who did the least crappy job? I kind of liked old so and so. Well, that one guy had dirty pants. And they may end up making decisions really based on things that don’t matter because he’s left them in the dark and that’s all they have to make a decision on. And so when we preposition, post-position, talk about our company differences or differences in our processes people and products compared to typical painting contractors they can say yes. But if you leave all that stuff out and you still expect them to make a $8,000-$9,000-$12,000 decision with basically a little more than a receipt from Walmart which says here’s what we’re going to do and here’s how much it cost it’s just not enough information. So spending time with them building that trust, giving them the information they need to select you at a higher price than low price competitors —
Mike: And we have a presentation folder which has references and has information about the process of an interior job and an exterior job. We also are a lead safe certified company so we have a little lead booklet in there that we give if the home is a pre-78. And we have a little warranty sheet in there and other information and of course that gives you a little bit of an edge in that you appear more professional that way. I think a lot of folks are using that system now.
Brandon: Yeah. But they’re not. You may think they are. Believe me, I talk to painters every day and nobody’s using any system for the most part. I wish you could be a fly on the wall Mike and hear. It’s amazing. I mean for the most part everybody’s using the set the estimate, show up, email something and not follow up system. That’s what we’re using right now. So it takes very little in this industry to be head and shoulders above everyone else. And then you get into the top 10% well it doesn’t really take much to pull away from them either. And so you’re pulling away week after week with the stuff that you’re implementing here.
Talk to me a little bit about, well we talked about customer reactivation, but share kind of any nuggets of wisdom that you’ve learned through your APPC experience, not necessarily tactics and strategies, but have any of your opinions changed or any previously held beliefs that challenged or overturned? I find that getting our owners to think differently about their business is my first challenge and often the hardest one.
Mike: And I think when you look at the mailing pieces for the first time you go, “Oh this is crazy. These people are not going to — people aren’t going to read all this and they’re not going to bite on this.” And you know, we’re not marketers, you are, so you know the system. And the great part of this is you provide the information to utilize the system and there are a lot of folks who sell systems but they don’t give the hard material to fulfill the system. And the fact that you do really gives you a step up.
And I think the other thing I learned is that you can’t reconnect with your people enough. You just can’t. And this was a question I was going to have for you. I have a local baseball team here in our town, a semi-pro team and I have access to a box for three games over July 4th and I’m going to have it be a customer appreciation several days. And I was going to ask you how best to approach contacting my customers for that.
Brandon: And that is a wonderful thing. I have usually sometime along the winter I try to recommend that people do once a year some sort of customer appreciation event. Here’s the thing as you mentioned, you can’t connect with your customers enough and because the customers don’t change and your services don’t change we’ve got to find some way to communicate with our customers that’s not just please buy our crap, here’s $50 off. That’s about the sum of most people’s marketing message. It takes a little creativity to say that in a different way that gets response and doesn’t make your customers feel put upon and that is entertaining and whimsical or whatever you’re going for with them.
So my advice to you with that process Mike would be similar, it’s like a mini-customer reactivation campaign, but you make it look and feel like the thing that fills an event or puts butts in seats, which is really what you’re trying to do here, it’s primarily mail and phone and you can do email but it’s weak. What I mean by that is it should be supporting but not primary. If one of your distant cousins, your third or fourth cousin is graduating from high school and they invite you to the graduation with an email maybe you’d go maybe you don’t. But if you get the little A2 envelope with the gold foil on the back and it shows them a picture of their cap and gown and they’ve scrolled on there you know, Uncle Mike I want you to come, you’re going to go then. You feel obligated and it’s just if they picked up the phone and said, Hey, Cousin Mike, just didn’t want you to forget about graduation next weekend. Are you going to be there? I wouldn’t miss it. I mean it’s human nature. And so the big deal to me in a highly impersonal world is if you’re going to invite somebody to an event like that is that you make it feel genuine and real and like an event. I mean just make it be what it is.
And the other thing that I would say about customer appreciation events or live events of any sort it’s not a success or not a success based on whether or not a whole bunch of people show. That’s something that people get downhearted about. And depending on how big your list is and what you think the turnout is you may want to make your customer appreciation event not just all three nights, you might just want to make it one, because sometimes it’s hard enough to fill a room as it is.
Mike: Well, the room is only 16 seats at each game. It’s a skybox.
Brandon: Okay. Well then you probably do have to spread it out. Not to get into the logistical weeds with it right here, but the big value is, and people completely missed this with events for customers in anything else, is to take pictures of everybody that’s there and to thank everybody who came and then to mail a letter out that says, “Hey, we just wanted to tell you that we appreciate you. Here’s some pictures from the customer appreciation event.” This was a genuine real thing. Look at our happy customers. Look how much we care about our customers. It’s just as much about the promotion you may send them after the event, “Hey I know you couldn’t make it to the event, but we gave this thing out, or we gave this free painting service with purchase offer out. I know you weren’t there. You couldn’t make it. But look at all these happy people and we appreciate you just as much as the people that didn’t come.” That’s the one big thing that people miss out on if they don’t leverage the social proof that the event provides to go back to the people who didn’t come because most people will not come and so you get extra bonus credit and mileage out of the event above and beyond who actually shows.
Mike: Gotcha. Yeah. All right. You’re the man.
Brandon: We solved some problems and heard some good news on the call today. So what I’d like to do now I guess is just if you’re knee deep in estimates, you’ve been kind enough to take some time on the phone with me and I appreciate it very much, if you had any parting wisdom to share with in particular people that have been at it for ten years or more, what would you tell them? If you had some advice for folks that have kind of maybe fallen out of love with their painting business or they’ve gotten stuck or stalled, what would you tell them to help them if it were you and them and you were sharing a cup of coffee at the paint store?
Mike: Well, like I said I’m an old dog who doesn’t easily learn new tricks but I am here, so. I’m 65 years old. I’m enthused more about my business right now than I’ve been for a few years. And if you are whatever age, 45, 55, 65, and you have a good viable business or you have the potential for a good viable business go for it. Do something to improve it. Get in this program and let it help you move to the next level. You can do it.
And in general, I would just say for your customers I would say connect with your customers, communicate with your customers and serve your customers. Do those three, do the marketing, do the embrace of your customer base and you’ll have a happier business.
Brandon: Well I don’t want to ask any more questions because I don’t think we could finish it any better than that. So I’m going to go ahead and wrap up now and thank you so much Mike for sharing so much with us today. So I’m Brandon Lewis with the APPC. Stay tuned as we bring more financial success stories to you from owners who are taking control of their customer list to bring greater profits, predictability and stability to their painting business. Thanks for listening.
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