Residential painters and commercial painting companies are asking: are paid leads or generated leads better for your painting business marketing?

In this episode, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of lead aggregators vs. generating leads through marketing strategy, including:

  • Which channels can generate more leads for your painting business?
  • How and when should you use paid vs. generated leads in order to see results throughout the year?
  • What are the benefits of lead generators?
  • How do you measure success and plan next steps?

For more information on the tools and techniques discussed in this website, please visit:

Episode Transcript

Below is a transcript of this episode:

Speaker 1: 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, and welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, episode 26. Grow Your Painting Business is the podcast from My name is Chris Raines, and as every week, I’m joined by Michael Utley.

Michael Utley: Hey, Chris. Cheers, and happy Friday. I don’t know when this is going to be published, but we’re going into fourth of July. I hope you have a good fourth of July next week.

Chris Raines: I hope you do, too. You’re going out of town on the great Epps family reunion.

Michael Utley: Yep.

Chris Raines: How many? 3,000 Epps family members, right?

Michael Utley: Yeah. We’ll have about 150 people sit down for dinner on the third. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s in the middle of the week this year, so maybe not. But, yeah. This is our 56th annual. We’ll have people flying in, landing at the airport there on the property at the farm. The George Epps farm, and harvest from all over the country, and a variety of … Yeah. It’ll be great.

Chris Raines: So much fun.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: And so, happy fourth of July. If you’re in the United States and you’re listening to this, or very likely it’ll be after fourth of July, so happy fourth of July or Friday. Happy Monday, Sunday, Tuesday, whatever day it is. 

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: Where you are.

Michael Utley: Monday is Canada Day as well.

Chris Raines: Canada Day?

Michael Utley: Yeah. 

Chris Raines: That’s a Monday?

Michael Utley: Yeah. This coming Monday is Canada Day.

Chris Raines: Happy Canada Day if you’re listening from Canada?

Michael Utley: Yep.

Chris Raines: We probably have listeners in Canada.

Michael Utley: Yeah. Nothing against Canada, yeah.

Chris Raines: Okay. Great. Michael, we’re going to talk about something that’s probably hotly debated within the painting community, and that is paid leads versus … How did we describe it here?

Michael Utley: Well, our title today is Buying Leads versus Generating Leads.

Chris Raines: Buying Leads versus Generating Leads.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: What do we mean by buying leads versus generating leads?

Michael Utley: Yeah. It’s kind of hard to answer, but it’s easier to define in the extremes. So typically when companies start off, whether they’re residential or commercial, the key thing to do is just start getting some work in the door. And so, the most expedient thing to do is to use a variety of paid lead generation sources. The only downside to most of the popular ones that have been really big historically, none of them are doing exclusivity. 

They’re generally lead generation engines, and then they’re taking that lead and instantly distributing it to seven, all the way up to 12 service providers. And then, letting the sharks fight over the fish.

Chris Raines: Right.

Michael Utley: Letting the piranhas flop around in the water, trying to get that one chunk of meat that fell in.

Chris Raines: Yeah.

Michael Utley: And so, it’s kind of dirty. It’s expedient because the phone starts ringing, and you’re only paying when the phone rings. But, it’s not the phone ring. It’s a form coming in, and it can kind of put people into a trap of being quick on the draw. The reason this is a topic today is we’ve been really surprised at how many matures businesses that are established in their communities still have a lot of budget going to these platforms. We’re not trying to throw them under the bus, but we’re trying to contextualize them and give you a language and a way to think about where they fit into a larger picture, so that you can understand how to think about budget dollars for lead aggregators and other options.

Chris Raines: All right. So, we know that these websites like Home Advisor and others.

Michael Utley: Yep. Nothing against them. Nothing against them.

Chris Raines: They’re legit businesses. If you’re early to mid-stage, they’re probably a big part of your business.

Michael Utley: Yeah. Absolutely. I think Angie’s List has been critical to the success of tons of companies out there.

Chris Raines: Yeah. So, how should we look at them in relation to the other channels? In other words, how do we know when it’s time to pull back, budget from Angie’s List or another aggregator, and start to invest in other channels?

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: Ideally, we would … I like to look at it, Michael, in terms of hunting versus farming. So ideally, the farmer-

Michael Utley: Yeah, yeah. Why don’t you talk about that? I love this analogy, and this is a very popular way to talk about it. But, why don’t you break that down, because I think it’s brilliant.

Chris Raines: So, farming and really what SearchPrimer does is helping painting companies to be farmers. What I mean by that is you go out and you plow a field, and you plant lots of seeds everywhere through content, and everything else you’re doing on your website to optimize it. And, the result of that is free traffic, organic traffic. Right?

Michael Utley: Yeah. Stuff starts popping up.

Chris Raines: Yeah. So, a farmer … Seeds are cheap, but crops yield really high. But the problem with farming is that it takes a while to activate. Right?

Michael Utley: That’s right. That’s right.

Chris Raines: I like to look at hunting versus farming. The hunting example here is paid lead aggregators like Home Advisor or paid search through Google AdWords, things like that.

Michael Utley: Right.

Chris Raines: So, I like to look at it as farming versus hunting because the farmer can go out and plant a bunch of seeds, plow, but they got to wait for that crop to come in.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: And in the meantime, they still have to eat and feed their family.

Michael Utley: Right.

Chris Raines: So, sometimes it’s appropriate to go out and do a little bit of hunting, and go buy an expensive arrow if you’re paying for leads. Go out and kill something while you’re waiting on the farm and the crops to grow.

Michael Utley: Yeah. We’ve talked about sort of the different types of lead generation tools, and I would recommend anyone listen to episode 25. We talked about how to appropriately measure the return on investment, and compare the different source of leads and making sure that your base lining along the same metrics. You know, the typical value size, or the size of the project, not just, “Did we get a new client?” Because a common overlooked source of leads is existing clients. But, yeah. Let’s put these things into a kind of visual. I think today’s episode will be a little bit shorter, so I’ll probably kind of talk about this for a couple of minutes, and this will be kind of our main thing for the day here.

Chris Raines: Yeah.

Michael Utley: But, think about a yard stick. Zero inches is maybe sort of the starting point. The first inch of that yardstick is sort of saying, “Okay. We gotta get this phone ringing. We got to get some stuff going.” So, maybe you’re going out and turning on some lead aggregators. So these are hand raisers, people who are actively looking for your particular service, and it’s the most expedient. At this end of the yardstick, we’re talking about the fastest thing you can do.

Chris Raines: Yep.

Michael Utley: But, it typically is the most expensive. So, you’re running rich in terms of getting them, but they’re. . . not worth as much. There are some negative for this end of the stick, and they are that you’ve had to spend money to get that individual lead. And, you’re being very quickly in an environment with lead aggregators, or even other things we’ll talk about in a second. You’re being shopped more often against other providers. So, that’s kind of one end of the stick. You get out to kind of the one foot mark, and we’ve got another big category.

This is advertising leads. Now, the difference here is, we’re over a tipping point, and these are exclusive. So, maybe you’re running paid search advertising. Maybe you’re working in a channel, maybe working with A David Creation, and Bob and the team are running paid search. So, this is that category where you’ve got exclusivity, but they can still be kind of expensive. And then, you get a little further out. Maybe the 24 inch mark, and then you’re into content marketing, which is slower. But, it’s exclusive, and people are coming in directly to your website and becoming a lead.

So, none of these things are bad. We’re just saying that where you are in the journey has a big impact on where these are going to fit into your needs. And then, all the way at the end of that yardstick, at the three foot mark. So, 36 inches down the line, is you’re an established brand in your environment. People are seeing your trucks, and you are known and you have an established base of existing customers who are using you for repeat business. And, you’re using tools like email and social media to stay engaged with them. And that’s really the true extreme of the farming.

Chris Raines: Yeah.

Michael Utley: Not only are you patiently able to spread seeds like with content marketing, but you actually own the field. 

Chris Raines: And you own the mind share in the eyes of the customer.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: I like to think of it like Apple computers. Right? Apple doesn’t have to … If they come out with a new product, they don’t have to do anything really to get the knowledge of that product out to people because all they have to do is issue a press release to every major media organization that says, “Hey. We’re doing a watch.”

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: And everyone-

Michael Utley: The world explodes.

Chris Raines: Yeah. They put it out there, and everyone is going to do a story on the new watch that’s coming out.

Michael Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: Now, that’s an extreme example.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: There’s not a lot of companies like Apple. But you want to aspire to that degree, to where you own so much of the mind share, and your brand is so prevalent that you don’t have to worry. At that point, you’re kissing the lead aggregators goodbye, because you’re so much in that owned farming category. 

Michael Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: You have a farm and employees at the farm, and silos that are … You’ve got a fully operational organic thing going, and you don’t have to go hunt anymore.

Michael Utley: Yeah. So, I think the punchline here to the story, that’s exactly right. Apple is the perfect example of this, because my goodness. Who would’ve imagined that a company running TV ads that had less than 2% of the market in the 80s would be the biggest company in history?

Chris Raines: And maybe that was a bad example.

Michael Utley: No. I think it’s a good example. Yeah.

Chris Raines: But in terms of scale, but you can be … If you can aspire to have the sort of brand presence in your market, and the sort of owned land-

Michael Utley: That’s right.

Chris Raines: As Apple does nationally, you’re going to find yourself relying less and less on buying leads, and more on just earning your own and farming your own land.

Michael Utley: That’s right. So, yeah. I think the punchline here on buying leads versus generating. We frankly find paid search to be a healthy part of the mix. It actually works really well with SEO.

Chris Raines: Right. They should work together.

Michael Utley: So, we’re not saying that this is a journey where you only want to be at one point on the yard stick at a time. I think what we’re saying is there are bookends at the beginning and end of the frame that you’re in. And I think that what we’ve seen over the last 12 months of what our clients are experiencing, is they’re finding that there’s almost a sense of nostalgia in holding onto some of those first steps. And, we’re finding that those dollars are better spent further down the yard stick with more earned media, more existing customer engagement, rolling that money into more targeted paid search where you gain that advantage of exclusivity.

If I had to tell anybody to move those dollars, I would tell them, just kick them over to paid search and test it. Come on, you can always flip it back on if you really lose something. Again, listen to episode 25 on lead tracking, and get a really clear idea of managing the ROI of your different lead channels. But, yeah. I think people are starting to move away from some of the aggregators, where they’re thrown in and it’s a speed dialing game.

Chris Raines: Yeah. If you’re looking to, I’m going to give a shout out to one of our partners here. But if you’re looking to move from the lead aggregators, where you’re sort of sharks in the water fighting, to a more exclusive paid lead, check out Bob Alesio Industrial We’ve had Bob on the episode before.

Michael Utley: Yeah. Bob Alesio. Yeah.

Chris Raines: Bob Alesio. I’m sorry.

Michael Utley: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Raines: I’m sorry, Bob. Bob Alesio, specialist for pay per click advertising.

Michael Utley: Yeah. 

Chris Raines: For painting contractors. He’s worked with tons of painting contractors, so give him a call, and he can help you kind of transition from those aggregate leads to leads that you own.

Michael Utley: Yeah. And Bob’s team and the [inaudible 00:12:35] SearchPrimer team are both part of … We both work supporting A David Creation, and if you need help knowing where in the yard stick you are, and where in the yard stick you should be, David does a lot of work as a sort of a chief marketing executive for hire for painting companies. His company is, and he’s a good quarterback. He’ll help people decide where to put the dollars in terms of paid search versus paid media versus social, versus building their email list. He’s sort of able to stand over all of it and help people know what to do.

I think this is pretty revolutionary. I think helping people get away from the fear factor. It’s tough, because sometimes I got a good relationship with that service rep, but some of this is just going to have to go the way of the Yellow Pages. The dollars are just moving to things where people have more exclusivity and more control. And those networks will adjust, and they’re trying to. But, we’re saying they’re a part of a spectrum, and we’re just seeing some people kind of phase out of that these days.

Chris Raines: Yeah. It’s renting versus owning, and both should be a part of the mix. But, I think always looking towards owning the land versus renting the land is a good thing.

Michael Utley: Yeah.

Chris Raines: And so, knowing how to get there is good.

Michael Utley: Yep. Cease and desist letters can come to 651 Main Street, Nashville, Tennessee, 37206. Thank you.

Chris Raines: All right, and we’ll provide links. I know we dropped a lot of names there for people that are experts in this stuff. But, we’ll drop links in the show description on our website,

Michael Utley: Yeah. They’ll be in the transcript as well.

Chris Raines: Yeah. Okay, great. Okay, cool. Well, that’s all the time we have. We’ll see you next time.

Michael Utley: Excellent. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 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 in digital marketing.