Marketing With Moxie

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Three … they say it’s the magic number. But triangles, tricycles and tables (well, some) are not the only things relying on that mystical number. What’s something else that comes in threes? Estimates. Experts say that the average customer looking for a paint job goes for three estimates. But Florida painting contractor Steve Burnett says his networking and marketing strategy has gotten that number down to only one … his.

Burnett wasn’t always king of the marketing mountain. Like many in the painting trade, he started out very young. After working for his father and learning the trade, he started his own painting business in Michigan. But after years fighting low-priced competitors and not knowing his numbers, things went south with the business and then he did too … literally. He picked up his things and moved to Florida for a fresh start.

He opened Burnett Painting in a new area with no contacts, so he started by going door to door, competing on price. “That kept me poor for a long time,” said Burnett. A few years later he stumbled on a blog by Seth Godin that helped him look at his business in a whole new light. “If the marketplace isn’t talking about you, there’s a reason. The reason is you’re boring, and you're boring on purpose because it's safe,” Godin said. Burnett asked himself if the marketplace was talking about his business, and the answer was an earsplitting no. He asked himself what he could do about that, and the many answers have led him to success.

Check out video by Steve Burnett

The first time I witnessed the marketing antics of Steve Burnett, it was in a video he submitted to APC’s 2012 Contractor Video Contest. It was a no-holds-barred competition. We wanted to see what was out there, so we were taking anything that contractors would throw at us: project profiles, contractor commercials, how-to videos, product reviews, you name it. Burnett’s video pretty much created a category of its own. I call it the Marketing With Moxie category. He landed at the top of our list with a video of him singing a Sinatra song to a room full of chamber members … well, a revised painting version of a Sinatra song.

“The biggest thing is getting over the fear. Once you start putting yourself out there and you see the results, it pushes you to keep going,” Burnett says. Though his marketing plan includes plenty of comical networking videos; there is much more involved in the grand plan. Three key things help him keep his company in the local spotlight and let everyone know that they are good at what they do.

Local Businesses

Burnett stays very active and visible in the local chamber of commerce; in fact, chamber meetings often set the stage for his networking videos. He also seeks out opportunities around town and with other local businesses that help him get a little face time in the local newspaper. Most recently, Burnett bought 50 pounds of coffee at a local Starbucks – a store record. That purchase combined with some creative photos landed him on the front page of the local newspaper. He starred in a local TV commercial for a car dealership and was master of ceremonies of an event for local professionals and the town chili cook-off. To add a little color to the mix, this year he helped organize the first of what will be an annual charity paintball match. C&B Charity Paintball Championship, created with another local business owner, allows local businesses to enter for a $500 donation and face off on the paintball field for a little PR and a good cause.


Burnett is sure to schedule time and resources to give back to the community that has embraced him. Burnett Painting had already completed five Paint It Forward projects by March of this year. This program, created by California painting contractor Josh Abramson and adopted by painting companies all over the country, donates a painting project to a local family in need.

Another community program created by Burnett has exploded in popularity over the months. An iClass at the local library is designed to help locals learn to use their various iDevices. The first class had 15-18 people and before they knew it, it had increased to 80-100 attendees. The library had to start taking reservations for the free bimonthly class. All the attendees happily give their email addresses and are added to the Burnett Painting email list. They are now expanding the iClass to other libraries.


Now that he has everyone’s attention, it’s time to tell them why Burnett Painting is the right company for the job. Burnett knows that the No. 1 ally in the world is a happy customer, and he has an entire video library of testimonials to prove his customers are happy. “You have to give an outstanding customer experience,” says Burnett. “If it’s remarkable, they are going to remark about it.” Being remarkable starts with hiring remarkable painters. “They are sensitive to the customers’ unique needs, and once they feel like they truly understand them, they make sure that they exceed them.” During the final walk-through Burnett asks about the experience, the final job, how it looks and how they feel about it. “I wait for that peak moment when they are extremely grateful then we ask for a 10-to-15-second video testimonial.” He takes the video right then, right there. “You have to wait to capture it at their peak emotional state.”

These video testimonials do wonders for potential clients perusing their web-site. “Many of our customers find [a testimonial] that is in their town or neighborhood or one in their gated community, and if they find one that meets their demographic – male, female, single, kids – a lot of times that can close the sale.”

Burnett will be the first to tell you that it’s a ton of hard work, but it is all worth it. All of this activity in and around the community has earned Burnett Painting a strong name in the community. “We’re getting calls and they’re not calling anyone else for estimates.” APC

Tidbits from Steve Burnett

1. Cancel your TV – “TV made me believe that there was no hope out there so I wasn’t really trying. There is plenty of hope out there.”

2. Take ownership of your situation – “Once you take ownership of your situation, you have the power to change it. As long as you believe it’s someone else’s fault, you’re stuck.”

3. The secret – “It’s convergence. It’s not one thing; it’s a lot of little things.”

That wasn’t the only video we received and posted from Burnett. It turned out he had been taping these things all over town: songs, impressions, comedic monologues, you name it. The zany ideas for the videos were coming from none other than dinner conversations with his brain trust, wife April Burnett and their two daughters.


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