In this episode, Michael and Chris discuss the importance of personalization in digital marketing and branding.

In this episode we cover:
What is personalization?
Why is it important? (96% of marketers believe personalization advances customer relationships)
Why does personalized marketing set a company apart? (“Dear Customer” vs “Dear Steve”, getting the same generic emails over and over vs. getting an email about a page you just read, etc.)
How do you it?
How do you go beyond first names?
What is customer segmentation? (i.e. different approaches for reaching out to an industrial painting business audience vs. a residential painting business audience, etc.)
What are some software/tools that can help you personalize your brand and marketing strategy?
How much does it cost?
Can you do it yourself?

For more information on the tools and resources mentioned in this episode, please visit:


Michael Utely: Today, we’re talking about personalization, not just digital marketing but as a brand, as a company how well do you relate to your audience?

Michael Utely: Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential and industrial painters, to grow their business 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 15 of Grow Your Painting Business. My name is Chris Raines, I’m joined as always by Michael Utley.

Michael Utely: Hey, hey.

Chris Raines: Hey Michael, how you doing man?

Michael Utely: Good.

Chris Raines: Cool. And today we’re going to talk about something called personalization inside your business, so addressing your audience whether it’s online or offline in a more personal way and a more warmer way and how we can do that inside of our business, whether you’re a painting business or another business in the trades. But before we get to that we have a special offer for anyone listening to the podcast and needs a little bit of help, wondering where they stand with their website. Michael why don’t you tell them about that.

Michael Utely: Yeah, so sometimes when people are talking to us and they want to get oriented or get started, we start off with a big competitor assessment and an SEO evaluation, sort of lays out a roadmap for the next twelve months. But something that we do even earlier than that if we’re just on an initial phone call is we’ll pull up a couple of tools that we have that let us see some rankings and see where their website is scoring. So if anyone wants to know what their website rank scores is, not just domain authority but their rank score. How many keywords they have ranking in Google in the top five pages of results and then how many of those are on page one versus page five and what the cumulative score is of that. We can pull that up and easily during a phone call pull up their website and two or three competitors and compare and contrast. So it’s pretty interesting and it’s a good way to open the conversation with people.

Chris Raines: That’s great, and where do people go if they want to take advantage of that? This is a free service?

Michael Utely: Yeah, free service. Typically, we’ll do a 30 minute phone call for these as an initial assessment, and for us it’s just a good way to build relationships with people who need what we do. Anyone can go to scroll down hit the contact form there, and what we’ll do is shoot back a Calendly link to get on my schedule and it’s essentially me setting up a conference call. Then, what you’re going to want to do during that free assessment is just be in front of a computer so you can see, because I’ll share my screen and poke around and show your website versus your competitors and show you the scores.

Chris Raines: That’s great, it’s a great free way to get a sense for where you are in your marketplace. Okay, so let’s get into the content Michael, personalization. So, what do you think of when you think of personalization in business?

Michael Utely: I think our title for this is “It’s Not Just Business, It’s Personal”. When we started thinking more about personalization with digital marketing, we tended to thing in terms of email and email strategy and segmenting our email list into different audiences and using elements that let us customize that content better. And that’s a good thing to do, it’s still a good best practice to use first name when you’re sending an email and-

Chris Raines: Now, for people who might not know what you just said first name, what is that? What do you mean when you say that?

Michael Utely: Yeah, so a company can have a regular email strategy where they’re sending out maybe a newsletter every month, but the ones that do better tend to include some elements of personalization. So for example, a lot of our SearchPrimer clients are in commercial painting and a lot of them are in residential painting and there’s a big difference between these kinds of audiences. A commercial or industrial painting audience member is typically going to be a site manager or a building owner, someone who’s responsible for a pretty significant piece of property and a substantial project, and so the tone and the approach to speaking to them, is going to be a little bit different. So segmenting those audiences, getting those literally into different email marketing lists or getting them into a system where you can tag your audiences, tag email addresses and designate different audiences when you’re sending out email.

Michael Utely: A couple of different elements that we use to make things more relevant to the recipient is to use their first name, speak to them literally in a personal way, but the more important factor is making sure that the content is relevant to them. So if you’ve got a 10% off labor discount going into winter, and you’re trying to fill in those last slots in November before the weather gets bad, for any exterior work, well speaking to someone by first name and knowing what part of the country they’re in and you’re in and speaking to your residential audience with material and an offer that’s as relevant as possible, that’s going to have a big impact on the conversion rate of that email strategy.

Chris Raines: Another thing I thought of was that you might want to segment if you’re a painting business for instance that does commercial work and residential work, you would want to keep those lists separate I would imagine.

Michael Utely: Yeah, generally if you’re using a self service tool like Constant Contact or Mailchimp, any of the most popular platforms, your easiest approach is going to be to go ahead and divide those into the two customer sets by having them on separate lists in the back end. It’s good because you may have an editorial strategy and a content strategy where you have some things that might speak to both audiences, but it’s going to be much easier to just develop the topics and the content that are unique first, and then any pieces that are common to both place it in both newsletters, rather than trying to do something more complicated than copy-paste. The kiss principle always applies to email marketing, if you’re not doing any segmentation, think of the biggest way to divide your audience into two groups and start with that not to overthink it.

Chris Raines: Yeah, let’s talk about personalization as you move past. So what we just talked about was more an email or marketing automation thing, on the digital side. So talk about personalization and how you can bring that to bear on into for instance, the sales process and how you interact with people. Especially if you’re doing residential painting for instance, you’re dealing with a lot of leads, a lot of customers in your area, so how do we take that whole broad range of people and still remain personal with each of them.

Michael Utely: There’s a stat out there that 96% of marketers believe personalization advances customer relationships. What are the 4% that think personal relationships don’t have anything to do with advancing business? What kind of maniac, what psychopath 4%? This is like 1 dentist that did not try to-

Chris Raines: Dear human.

Michael Utely: Yeah, dear person. So I think the opportunity we have to take an idea from digital marketing, and apply it to business much more broadly. We need to explode the idea of personalization away from just segmenting email lists and say “Wait a second, we probably need a 360 degree review of how well we’re relating as people.” As different tools come into play, for example phone tracking and recording your phone calls and making sure your phone calls are being handled correctly and quickly. As more tools are introduced, sometimes it can be easy to forget people are only going to work with us if they trust us, and they’re only going to trust us if they know us. So what are all the points of contact we have from the time the phone is answered, or not answered even worse, all the way to the follow up after the project is complete.

Michael Utely: Conducting this 360 degree review, can reveal a lot of mistakes. I’ve seen a lot of instances of contracts having the wrong information in the contract, and what you’re really telling the person on the other end of that when they see it is this sales rep did not take enough time to make sure that this information was correct. I probably shouldn’t trust them with my project. But here’s the thing that’s even worse than this: the recipient can’t help but say to themselves “I don’t feel like they know me. We had this great conversation, I thought this guy was really good and then I got an invoice or a proposal with the wrong street address. I don’t wanna be screwing around trying to wave these guys down the street the day of. What in the world?”

Michael Utely: So personal touch comes down to integrity, quality, everything, and the reason we’ve expanded what we think about with personalization, is we do a lot of management of customers online reputations, and the messages that come through, they’re deeply personal. If you want to get things personal real quick, have a meeting with your entire team and start reading off every review of your business publicly in that meeting every week, every month. Stuff’s going to get real, real fast.

Chris Raines: Might be uncomfortable, but it’s stuff you need to hear and that flows into something I just thought of. If you want to get personal and this is a good practice for online reviews, every single review that comes through, you should be responding to. Especially if it’s a negative one.

Michael Utely: Yeah, we provide training guides to our clients and train them or unless we’re doing it for them, to handle every review as an opportunity. So start off with the positive and it can sound a little bit like customer service speak if you’re not careful, so you need to be authentic and succinct. If there’s a problem, acknowledge it, and acknowledge it publicly and you don’t ever have to really tell a reviewer “Hey, this is not okay to talk about here.” As our friend Bill Sever says “The deer have guns now.” Everything is marketing now.

Chris Raines: I was just about to bring that up, because everything that happens after the sale now is because of social media. It’s publicly available potentially information.

Michael Utely: That’s right. So you can hate that and say “This is awful, they don’t understand what happened.” Or even “This customer is crazy.” But guess what, everybody’s got crazy customers and it’s not up to you to get to decide who gets to speak. Everyone gets a voice and if they’re wrong, they’re wrong, but the way you address it is you demonstrate compassion, forward movement, positive options, and working towards a solution. There’s really no benefit in trying to get them to take something offline.

Michael Utely: There are a lot of good examples out there, but one I like to use when I’m speaking to students or anyone is Scout Barber shop here in the neighborhood. You know somebody goes in to get a haircut, they love it they post review, pretty typical. But something that Brooke and her team over at Scout have been really good at is when there’s a review that comes out they’re on it within minutes, if not a couple of hours, minutes. And they respond very quickly and they have a routine. If somebody has a bad experience they say ,“Hey I’m really sorry that happened please come in and speak to one of our lead stylists.” They escalate it; they’re able to create a sense of escalation without ever blaming the person. “Well you know you came in and asked us to do something crazy and we can’t do it.”

Michael Utely: There are a lot of unfair things that get said in reviews, but when you want to bring it back to human connection and keeping things personal, you have to demonstrate forward movement, be a good conversation partner, have the conversations publicly, and just propose new options where you can utilize your team and utilize the resources you have to make it right and to demonstrate that. But following up publicly is really valuable there.

Chris Raines: Let’s go into how we actually practices to actually do these things. It’s hard to, you obviously can’t remember the first name of everyone you have and specific details about their situation or their business, so how do we go about organizing our lives and our relationships with our customers?

Michael Utely: Yeah so the way that we talk to our clients about this is you have to think in terms of essentially a sales funnel and start there. So at the top of the funnel you may have somebody who’s coming in, maybe it’s a new contact, so what’s the experience answering the phone? Have you ever called the phone number on your website to see what happens? Because a lot of paid search campaigns we turn on are driving paid traffic to phone numbers and guess what? If that phone number is not being answered you’ve got a real gap in your hand off there from driving traffic over to generating a lead.

Chris Raines: Or worse yet they answer and it’s “Hello?”

Michael Utely: Yeah, a non-banded, not always helpful “Hello” almost like someone is surprised that someone called. So going through that experience yourself, thinking about the experience of someone hitting the website and either completing a form or making a phone call, are they being acknowledged? Is the technology working correctly? If there’s call tracking in place to record things is someone listening and coaching people? So doing a fresh reset on the inbound contacts that are happening. And then number two, once something handed over to a sales rep, is that person setting an expectation for themselves? That they’re going to capture notes after every conversation and take the work off of the customer and put it on themselves to maintain the conversation where it left off.

Michael Utely: It’s not the customers job to explain four different times at four different stages in the sales process what’s needed. It’s the task of the rep to capture the information succinctly and efficiently, and you may need to provide a CRM for that like Salesfoce or SugarCRM or just having a good workflow in place for them to take notes accurately and correctly, and quickly during and after each point of contact with a potential customer.

Michael Utely: And then prep for a call. If you’re about to make a call don’t call them and wing it. Look at your notes, remember where they are. If they say something about what’s going on in their personal lives, that’s just a gift. You get to use that to acknowledge and demonstrate that they’re important to you as individuals. And then last, after someone’s through the sales funnel, make sure your documents are correct. You’ve really got to make sure that your contacts are up to date. If they’ve just rebranded and you’ve grabbed some logo off of Google image search and they’ve just launched a new branch, and you didn’t poke around on their website and see the press release on it or noticed that their website was different than the one you got from image search, well guess what? You’re not really making documents that are going to inspire confidence.

Michael Utely: So having the correct business name and it all comes down to slowing down and asking questions saying “Hey Johnny I noticed that your email address says Jonathan but I was calling you Johnny because somebody else did. What name do you prefer going on this contract?” Just slow down and ask the question. Those little details are going to reflect a professional operation, and one you care about them, not just moving them through the system.

Chris Raines: And those are things that might not make or break that first sale, they might be small enough to where they don’t make or break it. But they’re going to influence later on whether that person A buys from you again or B is readily and happily going to recommend your services to other people that ask.

Michael Utely: I think that’s right. I think if we go back to Tony Hsieh, Zapos, and the idea of a net promoter score, if we think in terms of the standard of our business relationships, it’s not did get the contract signed, but would this person recommend us to a friend? Then you’re really going to have to do something to stand out. You’re right, it may not cost you the sale to have a typo in an agreement. That’s true, I’ll accept that. But here’s something I’ll also stand on: anyone who’s going to go out of their way to promote your services to someone else from the point of view of being a customer is going to have had a pretty stellar experience. It’s going to be one where they felt heard and they thought that they mattered all the way through the process until the last walkthrough was done.

Michael Utely: And this applies to a residential customers but it also applies to the B2B. This goes all the way to the top, if not more so, and any dependence on process requires, demands training. You have to set expectations with every point of contact in your organization, and everyone in general, to say as an organization, we’re committed to being warm, friendly, positive and personal. You have to articulate this and it’s not enough to just have it in some mission statement somewhere, this is a thing that needs to be trained and taught as a mantra. It’s not an ideal that should be articulated, it’s a behavior that should be developed and inculcated into every little nook and cranny of your organization.

Chris Raines: That’s great. That’s a great one to end it on there. We usually talk about digital marketing here and marketing in general, but this pushes into more broadly how to do business and make people feel like they matter and are being heard, and that you care about them beyond their current transaction, so good stuff.

Michael Utely: This is a good episode. It’s funny a lot of the companies that we do digital marketing for starts with this stuff and as we are working it starts with “Hey, we want to do some segmented emails can you help us figure that out?” And it turns into, “Hey here is the problem, nobody is answering the phone or this phone tree experience is horrible.” And so as we are sharing our experience on this podcast, we want people to benefit and stand on the shoulders of people who have learned a lot of really hard lessons, but coming across poorly is a very expensive problem and one that we see often and have the opportunity to work on quite a bit.

Chris Raines: Like Bill said everything is marketing. Well stay tuned, next week we got… or next week, might be a week from now who knows. Next episode we are going to talk to Brad Henderson who is a brand design expert, and we are going to talk about what goes into making a good brand, so I’m looking forward to that.

Michael Utely: Awesome, thanks Chris.

Michael Utely: The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free service of Visit us today on more information of how you can grow your business using the latest tools in digital marketing.