Why doesn’t my marketing work?... The detailed answer

Posted 04/07/2015

Every day, I speak with three or four painters about their marketing and advertising problems. Day-in, day-out.

Most painting contractors struggle greatly with predictable lead generation, estimate closing percentages, and selling services at higher profit margins.

Why is that? There are three primary reasons:

  1. First, most painters have never given much serious thought to marketing at all. So they never even had a chance to reach their true potential.
  2. Second, those that have made a brief study of marketing have often stumbled across once-and-done “solutions” that were doomed to fail. They made decisions based on faulty assumptions.
  3. Third, once bad marketing strategies are implemented, a painting contractor is disappointed by the results and exclaims, “Marketing is for the birds! I’ll never do this again!”
Sadly, because of a bad experience, the painting contractor walks away from the most profitable and transformative opportunity in his business – actively marketing his services.

Is this YOU? If so, I’m about to reveal a handful of actionable steps you can take to change all that. 

CAUTION: If you are “too busy” to read anything longer 
than the back of a cereal box, this is not the article for you. 
We’re doing a “deep dig” here. You’ve been warned… Let’s proceed…


There are four elements to marketing a painting business that are important: Market, Message, Medium, and Timing. Before we go further, let me unpack these for you…

Market: Not everyone is a good painting customer. Not even all homeowners. Not even all WEALTHY homeowners. Not even all highly-profitable businesses on the commercial side. As painters, there is only a tiny portion of the population that consumes our services. That’s why we must focus our marketing dollars EXCLUSIVELY on an even smaller, segmented portion of this small audience.

Message: Most painting contractors are talking constantly about things that do not matter or hold little meaning for potential clients. Clichés like “in business in 1913,” “commercial and residential painting,” “free estimates,” “licensed and insured” and “quality service” mean nothing these days. 

If this is what you are saying on your website, in your emails, in the mailbox, or anywhere else – STOP!

Medium: Many painters ask me, “Brandon, does ________ work for marketing a painting business?” In that “blank” they include social media, direct mail, radio, email marketing, telemarketing, vehicle signage, canvassing – you name it. When I get this question, I immediately know that I’m speaking with someone who lacks the knowledge of the two fundamental principles above: Market and Message.

Do the above-mentioned marketing mediums work? The answer is YES – to ALL of them. If executed properly with the right message to the right market.

Timing: I’m repeatedly shocked at how many painters ONLY market their business in the DEPTHS of winter. I understand from experience you need the work, but you cannot make the market buy your services when it is not interested in buying them. 

There are a few safe harbors here: Past customers and commercial shut-down/year-end work for a start. However, even these markets will respond at diminished rates compared to an IDENTICAL marketing campaign conducted in spring, summer, and fall. We ARE in a seasonal business. No amount of marketing, no matter how clever or deftly executed, can change aggregate market demand as it relates to timing.


From this moment forward, whenever you are making a marketing decision in your painting business, I want you to ask these questions: 
  1. Is the market as “perfect” as I can get it? Are the customers on my list or in my audience as “ideal” as I can possible have? If the answer is NO, start again.
  2. Is my message REALLY about what matters to the market I’m targeting? What are they worried about? What are they trying to accomplish by using my services? Have I clearly communicated that MY COMPANY is the one to solve their problems for them compared to EVERY alternative?
  3. Does the medium allow me to reach these people at a cost-of-lead and cost-of-sale I can live with? Is there marketing waste in this medium and if so how much?
  4. Is the timing right for people to buy? Is it too cold to paint? Did school just let out or start back and will that affect my response rates?
This is where you START with every marketing decision. If you have not answered these questions, do not pull the trigger on any marketing expenditure.


Once you are CERTAIN that you are reaching out to the right market, and that your message is compelling, then you have to determine exactly HOW you will generate leads for your painting services. 

Here are two marketing methods that always produce a higher ROI compared to alternative approaches.

Multi-Step Marketing – Most painting contractors do a “one-shot-blast” approach with their marketing. This means that they’ll reach out to a very large, un-segmented audience one single time and then experience disappoint at meager returns.

Let me give you some advice: Whenever you must choose between reaching 5,000 people one time vs. reaching 1,666 people three times, chose the smaller audience and you’ll get better results, plus you’re more likely to see a return before you run out of marketing resources.

Multi-Channel Marketing – There isn’t a “silver-bullet” in marketing your painting business. There isn’t “one way to get ten customers this week.” There is usually only “ten ways to get one customer this week.” Diversity in your marketing mix leads to strength and stability.

When you are running a marketing campaign to a specific, targeted audience, you’ll get better results from reaching the same prospects through alternative mediums verses using the same medium over and over again. Instead of using the “email, email, email,” approach, target your audience with mail, phone, email, social media, and then start the process all over again.

You’ll get more mileage out of your marketing budget by providing your audiences with alternatives for response instead of “forcing” them to consume your messages in a medium that does not suit them.


Right now, you may be saying, “Thanks for the fundamentals Brandon, but how does this translate to “real-life.” I need leads TODAY!

When new members join The Academy for Professional Painting Contractors, we always start by going after the most neglected marketing resource ANY painter has: Their past customer list.

Most painters never mail, email, call or otherwise communicate with their past customer list. Somehow, painting contractors think repeat business and referrals are generated from the strategy of “doing nothing.”

Guess what – that’s not a strategy. That’s old-fashioned laziness. Let’s try something different…

Customer Reactivation Campaign

How long has it been since your past customers have heard from you in a BIG way? Don’t tell me: You sent out a Christmas card six months ago! That doesn’t count…

Whenever you need a quick-cash surge, consider doing a multi-step, multi-channel marketing campaign directed at your past customers. Getting these customers to do business with you again can cost 80% less than acquiring a new lead from scratch.

Create an irresistible service offering, set a deadline, then work backward with as much communication as you can put together to “wake up” neglected customers.

Part of your customer list is always in the market for your services. If they aren’t using you, they are using your competition because they forgot about you two months after you painted their house. It happens.

Neighborhood Blitz Campaign

If you are just starting out in painting or if you want to acquire NEW customers, one of the easiest ways to segment a list with very little waste and high impact for minimal investment is in a neighborhood blitz campaign.

This campaign combines EDDM, canvasing, signage, flyers, and old-fashioned networking to become a select neighborhood’s painter-of-choice.

Because you have narrowed down your list to a manageable size, you can give it the time and attention it deserves without breaking the bank. If a neighborhood is truly worth “owning” for your painting services, don’t be afraid to market in a sequential, alternating fashion until the prospects “buy or die.”

This requires thinking more like a “farmer” and less like a “hunter-gatherer,” remember: Your marketing MUST evolve if you are to see different results. Doing the same old things just produces the same old results – every time.

In Summary

Now that you have your “mind right” about the foundations of marketing, commit to becoming as skilled in this discipline as you ever did in the technical aspects of painting. As your painting company grows, there is a limit to what you can achieve by neglecting this critical aspect of your business.

The truth is this: The REAL money in the painting business is not made in the “painting.” It is made in the MARKETING of painting services.

This “change in viewpoint,” if taken to heart, WILL change your business. It might even change your life.

Brandon Lewis is the Director of the Marketing Department at The Academy for Professional Painting Contractors, America’s only academy exclusively devoted to increasing profitability for owners of repaint-focused painting companies. To learn more, or request your free copy of The Secret Systems for Easy Repaint Profits, visit http://www.paintersacademy.com/