Why “Word-of-Mouth Advertising” Is a Big, Fat Lie: Part I of II

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By Brandon Lewis

When you talk to other painting contractors, most will tell you “word-of-mouth is my best advertising.”

It sounds believable at first, but if you scratch the surface of this statement you’ll quickly discover it’s a BIG … FAT … LIE.

After conducting almost 500 in-depth marketing and sales assessments, let me tell you what I’ve discovered “word-of-mouth advertising” actually means for 95% of owners: “I sit in a dark closet and pray to God that the phone rings from someone who randomly mentioned my name to someone else without ever being contacted, encouraged, or rewarded by my company.”

Does this sound like your “word-of-mouth advertising” program? If so, read on. You’re about to learn how to finally break free from the feast-and-famine rollercoaster most painters suffer through year-after-year.

Warning: This article is not for lazy owners who are perfectly ok with the referral results they are currently getting. If you are content with whatever opportunities land in your lap and are not interested in generating higher profits, skip this article and reach for a nearby excuse for mediocrity.

For those of you still reading, the following strategies will have you swimming in a sea of referrals—if you implement them. I routinely see owners who use these tactics achieve repeat and referral percentages at 50%, 60%, and even 70% of overall sales.

Referral and repeat percentages like these mean you can charge higher prices, close sales at higher rates, and reduce wasted marketing expense (not to mention time). This is a good thing…

2 Realities for Creating Referrals in Abundance

1. If they do not remember you, they cannot refer you. At this year’s and last year’s PDCA Expo, I met with 39 painting business owners for marketing and sales diagnostic sessions. Do you know how many of these owners, arguably some of the most elite in the country, had contacted their past customers in the last 12 months? Five. And three of those used the lowest return on investment strategy ever during the worst time of year by opting to send a wimpy Christmas card.

The majority of your referrals come from past customers. When I survey most women with children under the age of three, they cannot remember the name of the nurse who delivered their child—likely the most important, personal service provider they’ll ever interact with in their life. Do you think because you “did a good job” staining Mrs. Jones’ deck that she will remember you forever? You couldn’t be more wrong.

The first step in our Core 5 System at the APPC is to teach owners how to effectively execute a customer reactivation campaign. This is a multi-step, multi-medium campaign that reintroduces hundreds and often thousands of past customers to a painting company that has neglected them for years.

We combine email, phone, mail, text and Facebook custom audience campaigns to assertively generate repeat and referral business over a 30 to 45 day period. This routinely results in a surge of sales ranging from as high as $250,000 for larger lists, or as low as $15,000 in revenue for companies with less than 100 customers.

When you need a surge of referrals, your past customers should be your first resort.

2. If they are not asked, they will not refer. When you are re-marketing to your past customers, make sure you turn every conversation into an opportunity for a referral. Just because Mrs. Jones says, “No, we don’t need anything painted right now,” doesn’t mean all is lost.

After you thank her for her time, say this: “One last thing, I know you would refer us anyway, but referrals are a big deal here at ABC Painting. If you’ll send your friends and family our way, we’ll make a $50 donation to your charity of choice or give you a gift card to your favorite restaurant. It’s just our way of saying we appreciate you.”

You should use this canned response to all replies whether they come though phone, email, text, or social media. Trust me: When you reach out to hundreds or thousands of people for referrals consistently, you will get them.

These strategies just scratch the surface. Next week, we’ll present two more strategies for turning customers in strong source of referrals.

Brandon Lewis is the founder and mentor-in-chief at the Academy for Professional Painting Contractors, where he teaches owners how to generate an abundance of repeat and referral sales. For a free CD, report, and video training series on generating word-of-mouth referrals, visit www.PaintersAcademy.com or call 423-800-0520.

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word-of-mouth, referrals, PDCA Expo

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