Branding a Painting Business without Going Broke

Almost every owner has heard it said that branding your painting company is important. You hear the subject of branding bantered about at conferences. You read about it in publications. And talking heads everywhere convince you that it’s really important.

That’s great, but what the hell is branding anyway? Really

Here’s what most people think branding amounts to: A cute slogan, logo, and color scheme that is plastered everywhere indiscriminately in the hopes that something positive happens because of it that cannot be measured.

If you’ve ever gone to great expense and trouble to “brand” your painting business, but been disappointed with the measurable results, trust me you are not alone. I’ve heard it from hundreds of painting contractors.

If you are still with me, let me explain how I define branding, specifically direct-response branding, and how it can be held accountable for a measurable return on investment.

Direct-Response Branding Defined in Real World Terms

Whenever you are marketing, always get a clear definition of your ideal outcome and work backwards.

For most owners, here’s what they hope branding will achieve: My branding will help me generate a steady stream of estimate requests and closed contracts from high-quality clients that will allow me to justify higher priced services.

Unfortunately, most owners never take the time to define this ideal outcome. So, generic branding becomes more of a superstitious, herd-mentality practice than a business function.

If you like the definition of direct-response branding above, let me tell you how to achieve it.

Step One: Get Real About Your Very Limited Budget

In my former life, I worked on federal political campaigns as a consultant. To get 10% of 20,000 primary voters in a mid-sized media market to recognize a candidate’s name (think branding), it cost about $115,000 in tv, mail, radio, and grassroots leg-work. So, if you wanted 30% of the market to know your name, it could cost $345,000 in that media market.

Guess what? In post-election polling conducted 90 days after the election, over 50% of that expensively purchased branding disappeared. So, what does that mean for your painting business?

Most owners have less than $10,000 per year in their budget to spend on marketing. Yet they have been convinced that they can “brand” their community. I’m here to tell you that cannot be done.

But here’s what can be done with a meager budget: You can be a painting celebrity in a small list of high-quality, hand-selected prospects. All you must do is pick the right ones to keep the phone ringing with estimate requests and referrals.

Step Two: Select The Small Audience You Are Going to Brand

Most owners design a logo, slogan, messaging, and color scheme before they ever think of who they are actually communicating with. This is a big mistake.

Since we have established you have a very limited budget, here’s who I recommend targeting:

1) Past Customers – Many contractors do not even have list of their past customers and most haven’t spoken with them in the last 12 months. Those that have send holiday greeting cards once a year or weak and wimpy emails – it’s not enough to cement a brand that generates repeat business and referrals.

2) Unconverted Leads – If you’ve written an estimate for someone but they haven’t closed, don’t write them off. You have identified a prospect for professional painting services and most often they just haven’t said yes yet – but they will. Plus, they are great sources of referrals.

3) Referral Sources – If the next best thing to a repeat customer is a referral, then you need to be branding the referral’s source. Branding audiences should include other home service business owners, paint store personnel, interior designers, and realtors to name a few.

4) Commercial Repaint Prospects – Everyone wants commercial repaint contracts, but no one actually targets them for branding. Add property managers (commercial realtors) and facility/maintenance managers (on-site employees) to your branding list.

Step Three: Brand in a Way That Resonates and Differentiates

Words… matter. Somehow, in the last ten years, a falsehood has been peddled and it is this: Show a customer a few large images with a trite, obscure slogan and they will instinctively know you are the painting contractors for them.

This is a load of B.S.

Additionally, most painters are branding with common-place messages that are so overused they no longer hold meaning in the minds of consumers. Here are a few branding messages based on specific attributes you could use to differentiate your painting business:

Don’t say “Quality Craftsmen with 20 Years’ Experience”… Do say “100% Background-Checked Technicians You Can Trust”

Don’t say “Your Project is Our Reputation”… Do say “Our Written Guarantee Says If You’re Not Happy, the Paint is FREE!”

Communicate your central branding message from every conceivable angle in your copywriting and make certain you back up your claims with third-party proof so potential clients can believe your claims.

Step Four: Select Your Mediums

Now that you have picked a market that you can reach with a limited budget and a branding message that resonates, it’s time to decide which mediums you will use to reach your prospects.

When you’ve compiled a specific list of prospects, your avenues for reaching them directly are limited. This means you only have to master a handful of mediums to be remarkably effective. Here are a few of my favorites to be used in your multi-medium, multi-step branding campaigns:

• Phone – I know, you probably find this odd. But next to in-person selling, the phone remains the most powerful tool for prospecting and branding. Very few owners know how to use it.

• Text – Text messages have a remarkably high open rate and click-through rate compared to email. Using broadcast text services can allow you to brand your prospects with simple message and even customized URL’s for specific multi-media branding messages.

• Mail – Yep. Mail works wonders to a targeted list, but not just any type of mail. Consider branding your prospect list with personal, information-rich monthly newsletters. For referral sources and commercial accounts, three-dimensional mail can cut through the clutter and help you secure your initial appointment better than almost any other medium.

• Facebook Custom Audiences – Using your email list, create targeted branding ads to your prospect list. With past customers, unconverted leads, realtors, and home-service referral sources, you’ll see a match rate in the 60% range. This medium, however, is not as effective for commercial targets.

• Email – This medium is getting more crowded by the day, but the low cost makes it a great method for delivering broad messages and getting responses from busy prospects who “live” in their email.

• Supporting Mediums – I hate to break it to you, but no one surfs the web looking at painting websites or pages for fun. However, when clients are ready to paint, they will use your website to decide if they will give you a shot at their business. Make sure your website and social media feed are messaging similarly to other mediums. Often, your direct branding efforts will drive people to specific online resources – make sure there is congruency.

In Closing on Branding Your Painting Business

Branding is quite simple: Select a budget-sensible market, craft a message, and use multiple mediums that allow you to reach them directly with unrelenting consistency. If you do this, you will be a painting celebrity in this audience in short order.

However, I caution you against three things:

1) Do not try to be all things to all prospects with your brand – pick a market and stick with it.

2) Do not try and brand your “community” – with your limited resources, it would be like trying to paint an entire house with one gallon of paint, so know your coverage rates when it comes to marketing.

3) Learn enough about direct-response branding to protect yourself – there’s a marketer on every corner looking to separate you from your hard-earned dollar.

If you do these things, I promise your painting business’ branding campaigns will lead to success!

Brandon Lewis is the founder of the Academy for Professional Painting Contractors and helps owners with online and offline branding of their painting businesses. For a free CD, report, and video training series on the fundamentals of direct-response branding, request your information packet by submitting your contact info on this page or call 423-800-0520.


  1. Joe Torgersen on July 1, 2018 at 1:48 am

    Thanks for the helpful tips.

    • Brandon Lewis on July 2, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      You are welcome Joe. If you ever need any help regarding solving touch painting business problems, just call or drop us a line!

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