Getting “bang for your buck” when hiring a marketing agency is important. But working toward marketing ROI is valuable, too.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Optimizing for safety and stability
  • Optimizing for growth
  • Addressing your needs clearly when talking with your marketing agency or team.

For more information about the tools and techniques discussed in this episode, please visit:

Episode Transcript

Below is the transcript for episode 28.

Introduction: Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades, and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from, the experts in digital marketing for the trades.

Chris Raines: All right. Welcome to episode 28 of Grow Your Painting Business, the podcast from My name is Chris Raines. I’m joined by Michael Epps Utley. How are you doing, Michael?

Michael Utley: Good. 28 episodes. Wow.

Chris Raines: 28. We’re 28 going on 280.

Michael Utley: Something keeps bringing us back. I hope somebody’s listening.

Chris Raines: I don’t know. I guess you like spending time with me.

Michael Utley: I know that’s what it is.

Chris Raines: Yeah. All right. Before we get started, if you’re looking to do an audit of your website, if you own a painting contracting business and you want to see how your website is, how it could be, what you’re doing wrong, what you could be doing better in terms of SEO, website placement, how you’re doing against your competitors. we have an offer for you. Michael, why don’t you tell them about the free audit that we have for painting contracting businesses?

Michael Utley: Yeah. One of the things we do before we start working with someone is check a couple of numbers. That’s generally kind of like part of the sales conversation for us and people find it very helpful. We’ll look at how their keywords are ranking and how they’re doing. We’ll generally kind of stack them up against a competitor and sort of compare A to B, this domain versus this domain, and just see who’s ranking for those keywords, and if they’re on page one or they’re page five, kind of what their weighted score is. Something lately that we’re also looking at is page speed score. There were some updates at Google in October of last year that were kind of executed over the following months.

Michael Utley: Looking at page speed score and sort of understanding their website architecture and how that’s affecting their traffic, that’s another big thing that we’re doing these days in those introductory phone calls. But yeah, get on a and send us a message and then I’ll send you a Calendly link to get on my calendar, and then we generally will schedule a Zoom conference. You want to be at your computer so you can see your screen and look at some of these numbers. It’s sort of like a free physical for your digital marketing.

Chris Raines: I was going to say it’s like a doctor checkup. A lot of people maybe think they’re doing good on SEO, but it really takes going in there granularly, looking at every keyword, looking at your competitors to see how you’re actually doing. You might be surprised either positively or negatively how good you’re actually doing, but it’s worth it to go check and do that audit and see where you stand and see where you can improve. Head onto There’s a big button on the homepage, get my free audit. Fill it out. It’s a quick form. It takes about five seconds, and we’ll get that started for you.

Michael Utley: Yup.

Chris Raines: All right, cool. Michael, what we’re going to talk about here is ROI versus bang for the buck. Now…

Michael Utley: Wait, wait, wait. You said wrong, bang for the buck versus marketing ROI. We switched it.

Chris Raines: Bang for the buck… I switched them up.

Michael Utley: Yeah, that’s right.

Chris Raines: Bang for the buck versus marketing ROI. A lot of times, sure, if you’ve bought anything, right, if you’re a consumer of any product-

Michael Utley: Ever.

Chris Raines: … you’ve used these terms, “I just want some more bang… I’m going to go with whoever gives me the most bang for the buck.”

Michael Utley: Yeah, if you have boys, like you and I do, six between us, you’ve literally decided how do I get the most bang for the buck because you purchased fireworks at some point.

Chris Raines: Right, right, right.

Michael Utley: We’re just coming out of July. Yeah.

Chris Raines: What furniture can take the most beating?

Michael Utley: Which one do I get the most trampoline value? Which is the bounciest?

Chris Raines: Then some things you purchase you’re thinking more in terms of, “I know I’m going to spend this money and I want to make sure that the money that returns to me or the savings that return to me are greater than the…” Those are two different conversations.

Michael Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: Michael, we’re just going to talk about those two phrases if you’re using those two phrases, whether you’re using it to buy a pair of shoes or to to buy SEO services or marketing, advertising services, what those mean and where your head space is and what that says about where you are in your business.

Michael Utley: Yeah. During a lot of early conversations we have with companies that are starting to invest in how they appear on the internet or how well their website’s working or how search engines are indexing their website and how they’re being treated, whether or not they’re doing content marketing, I can generally divide everyone into two categories. None of this is good or bad. None of this is a judgment. I just want to say that as a caveat. But I mean, we work with companies that are like $1 million a year all the way up to hundreds of million dollars a year. We have a lot of experience across a lot of different industries. Sometimes what I’ll hear from someone who is at the beginning of understanding how to select and hire for marketing services, I’ll hear the phrase bang for the buck.

Chris Raines: Yeah. Pretty common.

Michael Utley: Yeah. It’s like a pretty easy way to say like, “What am I going to get out of this? Hey, you know, I’m shaking your hand, and I’m going to do this stuff, and I’m going to give you this money, but what are you going to do?” Then other conversations we’ll have typically from our healthcare clients or our other clients that are in more institutionalized marketing scenarios, sometimes companies have been around for decades, they’re saying, “Hey, how are we going to measure our ROI? How are we going to know our marketing ROI?” What I want to point out is that those are not just two different points on a spectrum. They’re actually two different types of conversation.

Michael Utley: Yeah, what I want to dig into today is just distinguishing between those two and knowing which you are and not feeling good or bad about either one, but just putting a name on it and knowing what the expectations are of each one and essentially how to make decisions with this new vocabulary of knowing which category you’re in.

Chris Raines: Right. Let’s take the first one.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: You know? We’ll take somebody who’s engaging for SEO services just as an example because that’s what we’ve been working.

Michael Utley: Yeah. They’re trying to show up higher in search engines to get more leads as simple as possible.

Chris Raines: If you go into that conversation and you’re saying, “I just want the most bang for the buck,” what do you think that actually means and what do you think that person would be expecting?

Michael Utley: Yup. I’ll say right off the bat there are three things that I know about that situation when I hear that phrase. It’s not like I hear that phrase and I haven’t already gotten to know the company. But when I hear that thing, here’s something I know right off the bat, not only are they looking to make sure that their marketing dollars are being well spent, but they probably also have some operational issues that need to be covered. Just areas of responsibility that don’t have any one else to do them and maybe their previous web person took care of those things. This might be occasional updates on the website. It might be advising when there’s a big shift at Google, and it might be being aware of things like website hosting and whether or not hosting has been paid and domains are set to auto-renew.

Michael Utley: Those are really not marketing ROI questions. Those are more foundations. Those are foundational to operations. Sometimes when I hear a bang for the buck, what I know is if somebody’s saying, “Hey, wait a second, do I have my bases covered?” It’s a subtle distinction and it really… Honestly, this distinction might have more to do with my set of experiences and my set of conversations because it may be a little bit arbitrary, but even if it is, let’s just say that there are two categories. One is the bang for the buck category. One is the marketing ROI. In the first category, the bang for the buck category, you’re really saying, “I’ve got this set of problems and I just need these boxes checked.”

Michael Utley: “I just need to know somebody’s got their eyes on this. Somebody’s got their eyes on website hosting. Somebody’s got their eyes on did our website break, did our website go down today?” That tends to be the bang for the buck end of the conversation.

Chris Raines: Can I put it another way?

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: One, the first one is optimizing for safety, and the second one, marketing ROI, is optimizing for growth.

Michael Utley: Yup. I think so and I think those are natural stages.

Chris Raines: If you’re early stage, you’re trying to serve… Now, I think you should always be optimizing for growth, but you can’t do that until you have proper foundations in place. At a certain point, you have to be optimizing for safety and survival.

Michael Utley: When I was a kid, I saw this… Now that I’m a father of four boys, I laugh at this. I thought it was kind of crass when I first saw it, but it was a picture of two college boys back to back on the Continental Divide and their joke was one of them was peeing into the Mississippi River and the other one was peeing into the Colorado River. It’s true. They’re standing on the highest point in State of Colorado and they’re back to back and they’re both peeing in opposite directions. It really is. It’s a subtlety without a difference, but it has… Once you kind of back up and get the full scope of what’s going on, there are massive implications to whether or not you’re in an operational mode versus a growth mode. I think that’s the dividing line.

Michael Utley: I think what you just said is the absolute line that determines which ocean we’re facing, and it is operations versus growth.

Chris Raines: Okay. Let’s talk about marketing ROI. I think if you’re… Like I said, this isn’t a judgment call if you’re in either bucket.

Michael Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: But I do think you should always be aiming to get to the second bucket-

Michael Utley: Yup.

Chris Raines: …marketing ROI because that’s where you’re optimizing for growth, not just optimizing for survival, safety or-

Michael Utley: And trust. And Trust. Am I going to get what I’m buying?

Chris Raines: Or something like I know I should be doing these four things and I just need someone to check these actions off of the list.

Michael Utley: Yeah, and am I going to get my money’s worth? Typically they’re looking to us to be sort of a trusted advisor. We actually work with a lot of consultants who bring us in, and they’re looking to that consultant to be the trusted advisor. Yes. For marketing ROI, I think that anyone who’s talking marketing ROI for us generally, they’re definitely not in year one. In any business, they’re not in year one. They’ve had metrics running for 12 months or more that are telling them, “I took action A. I got result A. I made a change. I did action B. I got result B. I made a change.” They’ve gone through at least 12 months of that sort of reflect, determine and change course cycle to really be in a marketing ROI scenario.

Michael Utley: In that case, that second bucket, I know we’re not saying we’re judging, but this is really the more advanced level. What we’re saying is that’s where you’re asking questions like, well, how many pages of content are best, or what type of video content is best? Is it best that it’s informal social media content, 15 second clips of job sites, or would it be better if it’s two minute videos embedded on our services pages?

Chris Raines: Looking in terms of buckets like what are we doing for reputation management versus organic versus paid search versus social? What are we getting in each of those categories, and how should we shift the budget based on what we’re getting in those categories? That’s the kind of conversations you want to be having because then you’re looking at what the outcomes are versus what the activities are or how many posts you’re getting or how many social media posts you’re getting or something like that.

Michael Utley: That’s right. Yeah, and I think this episode is really sort of us cluing in our clients to what the conversation feels like from our side. If someone comes in and says, “How do I know what I’m getting,” well, that’s a bang for the buck question, and what I’ll say is every month we’re going to look at these numbers. We’re going to talk about the activities that are active, and we’re going to decide if we think things are working better. Typically they do, so that’s good, but that’s a certain type of conversation where trust is very low. Now, where trust is very high is, “Hey, we’ve been doing this. We think we want these types of activities. We trust you. What do you think about these types of activities?”

Michael Utley: We say, “Yeah, that looks pretty good.” Typically we have our two cents to throw in and say, We’d like to do a little bit more on Facebook instead of Google. LinkedIn’s pretty expensive for us these days.” Those would be like a typical push back on that. In those conversations, it’s just a really different trust dynamic and it reflects at different stage of development in terms of marketing savvy and using marketing as a tool for growth rather than a liability.

Chris Raines: Right. Yeah. It’s just different stages of a company. I look at it as it’s like the stage of growth of a child. No one gets mad. There’s nothing wrong with being a two year old and there’s nothing wrong with a two year old not being able to ride a bicycle. I have a two year old. He can’t ride a bicycle.

Michael Utley: He’s horrible at cycling.

Chris Raines: He’s the worst cycler I know.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: Right?

Michael Utley: Cyclist. Yeah.

Chris Raines: Cyclist. I know. That’s not his fault. He’s two. Now, what would be bad is if he forever remained a two year old, right? I mean, this goes back to the growth thing.

Michael Utley: Yeah, that’s right. Previous episode. This is part of a two-part series. The first one is Failure is Not an Option is Not an Option. Check that out.

Chris Raines: It’s not bad to be in the bang for the buck category, but it probably is bad to stay there indefinitely because that inevitably means you’re not growing.

Michael Utley: Yeah. Yeah. At the end of the day, the bang for the buck bucket is do I trust you? What am I going to get? What are the deliverables am I going to get?

Chris Raines: It’s physical deliverables versus business results.

Michael Utley: Yeah, and then marketing ROI is really about trust and flexibility. It’s, “Hey, we did this this month, but what if we try this this month?” Yeah, we did and it did better or worse.” That’s a trust and that’s a more dynamic relationship. I think what I’m trying to say with this episode is in my 20 years of digital marketing experience, I’ve gotten a lot of expertise about the tools, the dynamics of how these digital platforms work. But what I’ve only learned recently in the last eight years as an owner of a company is how to empathize with the fact that some people are trying to get operational things up and running and other people have already done that and they’re trying to optimize. For me, this is sort of an articulation of those two stages.

Michael Utley: I just want everyone to know that we’re here to serve regardless of which of those two buckets they are. Frankly, we love both of them because they’re both interesting and different, but we’re not afraid to sort of identify and put our finger on the fact that they are… One of them is very operational and one of them is very much about efficiency.

Chris Raines: Right.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: Both are good and appropriate phases, but always optimize for growth. Always optimize towards going to the ROI because that’s where your growth is going to happen, that’s where your impact is going to happen.

Michael Utley: Yeah. A throw throwback to something you said in our previous episode that we recorded also today at the first part of the series, if you have to decide whether to stay in place or to take a risk, bias for action is always the better default and take the chance.

Chris Raines: Absolutely. All right. That’s all the time we have.

Michael Utley: Excellent. Thanks, Chris. Love working with you and great episode. Thank you.

Chris Raines: Yeah, I’ll see you next time.

Outro: The Grow Your Painting Business Podcast is a free service of Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools and digital marketing.