Correct lead attribution is essential for successful marketing for your residential or commercial painting business.
In this episode, we discuss:

  • Gathering and understanding your lead sources
  • How you can track leads better by source
  • How to decide which channels to keep (and which to add)
  • Pipeline management tips
  • How to measure lead channel success, and how to use that knowledge to strengthen your marketing

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

Episode Transcript

Below is a transcript of this episode:

Michael: 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: Okay, welcome to episode 25 of Grow your Painting Business, the podcast from My name is Chris Rains, I’m joined as always by Michael Utley. 

Michael: Good evening, Chris. How are you doing? What are you doing this weekend?

Chris: This weekend, I don’t know. We might go to the zoo.

Michael: That’s good.

Chris: It depends on how hot it is.

Michael: Yeah. I’m headed to the family reunion for Epps Work Camp.

Chris: Oh yeah, the work camp. We should do a whole episode that’s not-

Michael: An episode from work camp.

Chris: Yeah. It’s like, five thousand Utleys get together-

Michael: Or Epps, yeah.

Chris: Epps family and some Utleys, too.

Michael: Yeah, the Epps side of the family and all the Utleys. Yeah. 

Chris: Yeah, that’s a trip. Well, we’re going to talk about lead attribution, the importance of knowing where all your lead channels are and correctly attributing them. But before we do that Michael, we have a special offer for anyone who’s listening to the podcast, and that’s a free audit of your painting [and/or] contracting website. So why don’t you tell the audience for a quick 30 seconds here what they can get for free?

Michael: Yeah. So we work with a lot of residential and commercial painters and not just small ones but big, multi-million dollar operations. And one of the things we do for free when we’re getting to know someone new and talk to them is we’ll run their website through a handful of tools, look at how it’s doing in terms of SEO, how the page speed is working out. And in particular, how it’s doing against the competition. It’s sort of a preview of the deep dive we do during the first month of a new Search Primer program with someone, but it’s a great way to kind of get familiar, get some free information, get a free idea of how you’re doing against competition. And sometimes it confirms some hunches, other times it reveals some surprises. 

So yeah, we would welcome anyone to go to, fill out the quick form and get on my schedule for that free assessment. 

Chris: Great. Go to to take advantage of that free offer. All right, let’s get into the content of the show. We’re talking about lead attribution. So Michael, when you have maybe a young, super upstart painting company, you kind of operate on the level of, “I don’t know where our leads come from. We got good referrals,” and it’s pretty general like that. But the more you mature as a company and the more work you do, the more channels you’re going to have.

Michael: Yeah. And in our experience, a lot of, even companies that have been around for a while, sometimes have some old assumptions kind of built into the hardware of their lead tracking and scoring. So sometimes they don’t necessarily have a real current, fresh, clean, simple, unified way of judging every lead that comes in. Sometimes you can have, one type of lead is going to one group, one type of lead is going to another and they may have really different conversations among those different sales reps or sales departments. And it can really skew what you think is happening in your marketing. 

So we’re going to talk about how to baseline and get everything on a level playing field and really understand what’s going on with your leads.

Chris: Yeah. And we title this episode, I think, How to Get More Leads, and I think it relates to that in terms of, you have a finite amount of time and money to invest in your various lead channels, whether it’s advertising, offline flyers, you name it. All these channels you can use and the only way to determine where you should spend your money is to determine what’s actually working.

Michael: That’s right. And this goes back to that old phrase. Feed the eagles, starve the turkeys. And the first step in that is getting all those eagles and turkeys together and deciding which ones are which.

Chris: Exactly. So let’s get into it. In terms of lead source … Well first, let’s go over what are most of the typical lead sources for a painting contracting business?

Michael: Yeah. So one trap that companies will fall into is not knowing whether a lead constitutes a new project or a new customer. So first off, you have to kind of define your terms. And we really like to use projects. And here’s why. One of your most often underutilized resources for new projects is your existing customers. And with digital marketing if you’re using email marketing and social media to stay engaged with your customers and stay top of mind, maybe a monthly or quarterly newsletter, then you should be generating new projects in the future.

So step number one is just decide, “Hey, what is a lead?” Are we talking about a project or client?” And we really like that project approach for that reason.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. And I like to think of your audiences as going from warm to cold, so you should address your warm audiences first because those are the ones that are most likely to result in new projects. So who’s more likely to result in a new project, someone who sees a billboard or someone who you’ve already done a project for and you have their communication and you could email them for free? It’s obvious.

Michael: That’s right. So if you’ve got somebody who’s coming in from a Home Advisor lead form or something versus someone who has already had you in their home or their business, maybe you’re cross-selling services, maybe you’re doing commercial painting for them and you’re able to cross-sell concrete floor polishing or some other services you’re doing. Yeah, that’s a very different type of relationship, very different lead and potentially much, much easier to close. 

Chris: Well let’s talk about managing those different channels, Michael, in a way that allows you to not only be able to tell which channels resulted in leads but also the quality of those leads. You mentioned Home Advisor and a lot of times these Home Advisor leads are either at one extreme, tire kickers, and at the other extreme, someone who’s just interested in going for the lowest price provider. So let’s talk about practices we can put in place to make sure that … Because it doesn’t matter if you’ve got double the leads in one channel versus the other if all of those leads are very low quality, right?

Michael: Yeah. There’s a problem, so let’s distinguish here between the two groups. Exclusive leads and lead aggregators, if you’re using a platform, and you may have a good relationship with them. You may have a great sales rep who you’ve known for years. But, if closing that sale or getting on the phone with that lead comes down to being the fastest one to dial the phone and getting lucky, luck is not always something you want to count on.

So we’re seeing a lot of clients moving dollars away from marketing channels where the leads are not exclusive. For example, someone fills out a form and says, “Here’s my zip code, here’s my name, phone, email, and I’m looking for somebody to paint three rooms.” And that information goes to seven different companies. And this is not a nefarious practice, it’s just one that’s kind of been very common because it’s easier to monetize a lead across seven different customers than one. 

But that’s really different. Now an exclusive lead is one where maybe you’re attracting them to your website and they’re coming in and they’re just completing a form on your website and it’s just going to one company, you. That’s a very different. . . I’d rather have one of those than seven of the other because it’s being divided among seven or 12 different service providers. So yeah, you get into a price war, you get into a lot of things that are not really based on things that you can control. 

And so yeah, one big differentiator here in thinking about leads, one big area to consider, are these exclusive leads. Is this an exclusive source or is it one where I’m just one of the people receiving the contact info?

Chris: Yeah. So let’s talk about, and eventually this goes into having a system and probably a tool to take all of your lead sources and ideally, every lead that you get should be attached to a source. So how should we think about doing that?

Michael: Yeah. This requires a little bit of effort. This is one of the tough ones because a lot of companies just don’t have a CRM in place. And if they do have a CRM in place—a customer relationship management system—if they do have one in place, sometimes they haven’t really done the work to get it set up to deal with the realities of their business.

So let me give you an example. And by the way, we’re not going to promote any particular CRM that’s out there but just if you want to see an example of one, SalesForce is probably the most popular CRM but it’s really geared more toward when you have a lot of different people who need to be in contact with those leads and tracking that lead through a complex set of steps. Other people want something really simple. There are CRMs like Sugar CRM that have tried to stake out territory on the simple tracking end of things, and that’s a good way to kind of get things in, identify a source, create the environment for you to handle follow ups the way that you need to [in order] to close things correctly. But we won’t dig into that. 

But let’s just say that you need to have a solution in place where you’re getting all of the information into one level playing field. And in an extremely low tech situation, I would recommend a spreadsheet. I would recommend one where every potential project that’s coming in is being identified and the source is being identified and you’re just forcing the discipline of identifying sources for everything in one uniform environment so that you can measure the value of these different sources. 

And then, here’s the problem. I can’t tell you how many times, with SearchPrimer, we started working with a new client, they’re sharing their screen to us and we say, “Yeah, tell us about your CRM,” and they poke around and we’ll say, “Yeah, on your lead source there, show me that. Hit that dropdown menu,” and here’s what I see every time: Ad, Billboard, Classified, Flyer, Door Hanger, Internet. And I can’t believe it. But “Internet” is one category. 

And let me tell you, if there was ever a thing that you wanted to break down into more detail, it would be “Internet”. That doesn’t tell us anything. If we know that we got some set of leads from the internet, that’s not good enough. Digital marketing has changed everything. The reason all the ad dollars are moving to the internet is because it’s imminently trackable. But if you’re not understanding your lead sources from, for example, your email newsletter versus a social media post, then you really don’t have any idea of where to divert those digital marketing dollars. 

So yeah, so I think I want to talk a little bit more, though, about digital marketing channels specifically. But that’s what we mean by tracking and identifying lead sources.

Chris: Yeah. So I think from the company side, it all looks the same, right? They go into your website. Let’s say you have a contact form or get a quote form. You mentioned, you’re right, there’s a lot of different channels. Someone can go directly to your website. They can be referred by another website. It can be search traffic. It can be social media traffic.

Michael: It could be traffic, people watching your videos on YouTube and seeing a phone number in the description.

Chris: Which is another sort of a referral traffic. So, and this gets into the technical aspects of a website and a good digital marketing company can help you attribute those various sources of leads by setting up, for instance, goals and Google Analytics or something like custom UTM parameters-

Michael: And let’s talk about trackable phone numbers.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. So, well let’s take all the channels, for instance, and go through quickly how you can track that inside of your website.

Michael: Yep. So like we said, existing customers, one of the best places to go for leads, well you need an email newsletter. And you can go ahead and configure a free Google Analytics account to work on your website and track your traffic and you can activate an email channel and integrate it with things like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact and you can see, and then track that all the way through to form completions or phone dials if you’re using a trackable phone number. And you can track it back to the newsletter. Bam, there you go. 

Referral traffic, very important. If you have people clicking through from another website and coming to you, and this is really important when you have, maybe something like … My company, for example, gets sales leads from the Chamber of Commerce because we’re members and we’re listed in their website in the directory. And we get the phone rings because of that. And I can see when someone’s come through and spent five, 10 minutes on the website and I get a lead that day, and I can simply see that that’s where it came from. And usually they’ll tell me or I can verify it later. I can say, “Just curious, did you find us through the Chamber site?” “Yeah we did.” “Okay, great.” 

Another one: offline, if you’re doing door hangers, make a note in your digital metrics whether it’s in your lead tracking or any other place that you’re recording marketing events that you’ve done offline, you can just put a flag in there for that date and say, “On this date, we distributed a thousand door hangers in this zip code.” And then see what happens with your lead volume from that zip code. 

This is all trackable. It’s all common sense if you just don’t overthink it or don’t complicate it.

Chris: And better yet, a lot of times you put a phone number on an offline marketing piece like that and this is the same for outdoor, anything that you’re doing. Do not put your actual phone number. Go and buy, you can get trackable phone numbers for really cheap. Put a trackable number on that so that you know, any time a lead comes in from that source, you’ll be able to track it. Otherwise, you’ll just think somebody called you out of the blue and they may not even remember. You can ask them. They may not remember seeing the flyer or seeing the thing. They’ll just, they’ll … A lot of times people don’t really connect those things and they say, “I don’t know, I heard about you somewhere. I can’t remember. I got your number from a friend.” So having that trackable number is essential. Otherwise, you’re not tracking that channel communication. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Michael: And something we did a couple weeks ago, we had an event happening and were going to have a lot of offline marketing but wanted to put a URL in the creative and so we put a separate URL to just a landing page. So instead of sending people to the website, sent them to a standalone landing page with a unique URL. And it was a lead generating page, we had 18 leads come in from it. It’s like, yeah, okay, these 18 came from this event because that’s the only place that URL, which just means website address, was promoted. So yeah, trackability. 

Chris: And ideally those URLs are siloed off so you know that any traffic that goes there, they had to come directly from whatever your promotion was because it’s not linked to any other part of the site.

Michael: That’s right. And another one that’s sort of underestimated is walk in traffic. If you have anybody that comes in or they’re sort of, and you can extend this out into the field if you have, your trucks are wrapped properly and you’re doing a professional job with that. Anybody who kind of walks into your storefront, can be a walk-in, anybody who walks up to one of your team leaders or your managers who’s out in a branded truck, have those guys set up, have them trained. Have them ready to pull a card out. And their number one thing is to connect with people on a personal level, not to act like they’re being bothered but to see, this is where my next week’s pay is going to come from is how I treat this individual who’s coming up to me in my branded truck. 

Chris: Yeah. I mean, we should do a whole episode on-

Michael: Offline.

Chris: “Outdoor,” well we already did. . . If you’re interested in offline marketing tactics for painting contractors, I think it was a couple episodes ago, maybe 23, where we talked about that. But we could do a whole thing on vehicle wraps. I used to be in a BNI group with someone who was. . . they were sign makers but they also did video wraps as a big part of video, vehicle wraps. . .

Michael: Truck wraps, yeah.

Chris: And they always used to say this and it’s absolutely true. In terms of cost per impression, nothing even comes close because you pay once and you’re going to drive that thing around anyway. 

Michael: And Mike Jones of The Locust Project does those here in Nashville for The Parke Company and Parke says, he’s a friend, he says it’s been one of his most consistent ways of people knowing who he is and what’s going on.

Chris: And it makes you look more professional anyway. You have a company vehicle. But why would you not use that, all of those square inches on that vehicle to brand and get that exposure? Cost per view is just pennies.

Michael: And just a side note, we’re not in any particular business relationship but we work a lot and are hired quite often by David Chism over at A David Creation. And if you’re hearing all these ideas and you’re trying to take notes and you don’t know what to do first, David is sort of a quarterback and hires Search Primer in as his SEO team. But David has Richard on his team who he works with quite a bit. And so if you want to get into truck wraps and some of these other things that we’re touching on very briefly here, David can help you navigate that and he’s sort of the quarterback or the CMO for hire for a lot of commercial and residential painters and is very much about quality truck wraps and lead tracking and making sure that CRMs are actually reinforcing the measurability of a business to tell what’s working and what isn’t.

Chris: Yeah. We’ve actually done a couple of podcasts with David Chism as a guest. Super smart guy. And you can go to, I don’t remember the episode numbers off hand but you can go to and just do a search for David Chism and he’ll pop up. But you can listen to those.

Michael: And he’s from a painter family. He kind of grew up around it. So Chism Brothers out in, I believe Sacramento. 

Chris: Super smart, super nice guy. Okay, cool. Well that’s all the time we have. It was a great topic, Michael. We don’t talk a lot about these sort of full spectrum marketing aspects in terms of offline, flyers, but they are important. They need to be mixed in with your online tactics. 

Michael: Yeah. And I think part of why this is energizing for us, Chris, you and I are essentially running digital marketing agencies and providing a suite of services to a lot of clients across the country in different industries and we see the horror stories. We see them saying, “Well, I don’t really know what we’re getting out of this,” or, “We don’t really think we ought to have that phone number the way it is.”

Chris: Gosh. I could tell you… The one I hate is, “We don’t really feel like this is working.” And I’m like, “No. If we set things up properly, no one’s talking about their feelings. Everything’s a number.” We got seven leads from organic and we got four leads from paid traffic and we got two from social and this is how much we spent on each therefore this is the cost per acquisition. If you professionalize the way you set things up and you track everything in the way that you should, no one’s ever talking about their feelings when it comes to leads. It’s, we know these are good or we know these are bad.

Michael: And the reason people don’t do it is it’s a lot of damn work. It’s very hard to say, “Wow, our phone number’s what we’re used to. For 50 years we’d stick our phone number on everything, and you’re asking me to change my phone number?” No, I’m not asking you to change your phone number. I’m asking you in this campaign to use a different phone number so we can see what’s happening with the campaign so we can make smart decisions. 

And that’s hard for people. And I’ll tell you another trap they fall into and we’ll probably wrap up on this Chris but a lot of times people don’t know what they don’t know. But they forget that there might be something out there. And so they’ll often say, “Well, we don’t really think we’re getting a lot of business from LinkedIn. We don’t see ourselves as that because nobody’s ever really said that to us.” Well just because it makes up, just because other sources make up 80 percent of what you know day to day and the other 20 percent you don’t really have a good feeling about or knowledge of doesn’t mean that there’s not something out there if you haven’t tried it, measured it, evaluated it or at least just put the tracking in just to turn the headlights on in the dark and see what’s happening.

So yeah, making decisions from ignorance is dangerous territory.

Chris: Yeah. So the lesson is don’t be a palm reader, be a scientist.

Michael: That’s right.

Chris: When it comes to digital marketing. We’re not dealing in intuition or feelings. We’re measuring everything like a scientist and we’re-

Michael: Yep. And if I had a headline for this, it would be, “Internet is not an adequate degree of specificity in tracking your lead sources.”

Chris: Exactly. You can do better and if you don’t know how to do it yourself, reach out to We can help you do that.

Michael: Yep. 

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

Michael: Excellent. Thanks everybody. 

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.