In this episode, Michael and Chris talk with David Chism, of A David Creation, about the nuts and bolts of keeping sales leads coming in and keeping jobs lined up, even through the seasonal dips. We talk about what works both online and offline, not just making the phone ring with new jobs, but to nurture your current clients for repeat business and great referrals. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from SearchPrimer.com.
Michael Epps Utley: Great episode coming up today. We’ve got David Chism and we’re going to understand how to keep your sales pipeline full.
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 SearchPrimer.com, the experts in digital marketing for the trades.
Yeah. Welcome to episode five of the SearchPrimer podcast. This is Michael Epps Utley, president of GoEpps, the creator of SearchPrimer. We’re also joined by cohost Chris Raines of Bullhorn Media. Chris, you want to say hi?
Chris Raines: What’s up? Hey. How you doing?
Michael Epps Utley: And we’ve got a great guest today. It’s a David Chism of A David Creation. David has been working for many years with painters all across United States. Not just with digital, but with marketing overall. So we’re going to be talking to David today about everything that painters need to do to keep a pipeline going, keep it full. The last four episodes we’ve been talking about Google and search engines. Today we’re going to take sort of a big step back and we’re going to talk about sales pipeline. Again, this is not just digital. This is overall. So David Chism. Welcome to SearchPrimer podcast.
David Chism: Thank you, Michael. Thanks for having me on your show. And Chris, nice meeting you.
Chris Raines: Yeah, you too.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. Glad you’re here. We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. When I started my company a few years ago, you and I were talking about how to package up a digital services for painters. And it took me a while to sort of get it through my thick head that you were doing something really different than what I was doing. You’re really … And I’m sort of setting this up so you can tell me if I’ve got it right or wrong. But you’re really working with painters to help them think about how to manage their business overall. You’re sort of a, I wouldn’t say a spiritual guide, I would say a practical guide and a coach, primarily for marketing and sales. But am I on the right track there? Is that how you would define A David Creation?
David Chism: Yeah, I pretty much focus on the marketing side first and then sales. They kind of go hand in hand. Not as much on the business side, I usually refer business coaches, but to some degree I do at times help if they can tighten up their marketing and sales that’s obviously going to help their business grow, too, so.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. And you work with, gosh, I mean it sounds like you’re working with people. I know you just came back from six days in California and you’re headquartered in Frederick, Maryland. And it sounds like you’re working with people all across the United States. Do you kind of have folks in every region right now?
David Chism: Yeah. I actually do. I have quite a bit on the West Coast because that’s where I’m originally from. A fair amount on the East Coast where I live now and then it’s kind of sprinkled throughout the Midwest and a little bit in the South. So yeah, it’s really all … It’s normally in larger cities for the most part, although I do some small consulting at times for some smaller accounts in smaller cities and towns around the country as well.
Michael Epps Utley: Now I want people to know, so you and I know each other personally. We’ve spent a good bit of time together over the years as friends, even before we started working together. Some time hiking the Appalachian Trail. But just real quick tell, just so people know sort of who they’re listening to today, tell them a little bit about sort of your personal profile, where you’re headquartered, what’s your family situation, what’s your favorite hobby these days. And I know the answers to this, but I just want you to get to share it.
David Chism: Right. Well yeah, so I moved to Maryland just about ten years ago, so this fall will be ten years from San Diego. I have, my wife is from the Maryland/D.C. area, so we decided to make a big leap of faith and move to the East Coast. And so I started my company in 2009, about this time, I think it was about April or May of 2009, to work primarily with painting contractors in their marketing department, to be a marketing manager. So that’s what I started doing when I moved here.
I have, ready for this, seven kids. I have the oldest is almost thirteen and the youngest is nine months. And I have book end boys. So I have a boy, five girls, and another son. So cool, really happy about that. And life is very busy with them. But yeah, so that’s a big part of my life.
Obviously my church, I’m a … Go to a Presbyterian church that my wife grew up in, in Frederick. I went to the same denomination out in San Diego, so it was pretty easy transition. So I’m pretty involved there. I work on their building committee right now, so anything related to construction and so it’s kind of up my alley. So I help with the new facility. I kind of help renovate that and everything. So, that’s on the spiritual side, but I also run a home group out of my home. So in the evenings, a couple times a month, I’ve got folks from church coming over, we do small group studies.
Michael Epps Utley: Well good. Yeah, thanks for sharing that. I wanted everyone who tunes into what we’re doing here to sort of know the sort of the nature of our lives and sort of people and Chris and I have similar kind of family profiles and so it’s good for people to kind of understand how we think about business. It’s not necessarily just about what can I get, it’s more about how does this fit into me as a whole person. And these questions, how to keep the pipeline full? These are really hard questions because we face a lot of kind of questions and things about process and it’s just hard to always know, should I do this? Should I do that? There are a lot of decisions that are made and some of them are sort of in the blink of an eye. So let’s just talk about pipeline. What are the things that of come to mind if I ask you the question, what are growing painters today doing to maintain a healthy pipeline? Folks that you’re working with who are growing, what are the things they’re doing that you consistently see across your client base?
David Chism: That’s a great question. Well the guys that I work with and even some other painters that I know personally but don’t work with, they’re all have a consistency. I think it’s a mixture of the online marketing, so they do the Internet marketing. They also do a lot of offline marketing as well. It’s still a big part of it. So that would be like just print media and neighborhood domination. But it’s also getting into prospecting, too. So I think it’s a little bit of everything. So I-
Michael Epps Utley: So when I think about prospecting, I think maybe picking up the phone and just dialing up some folks. Is that something people are doing and how do you sort of set that process up for success if … What is it and what does prospecting look like these days?
David Chism: So prospecting is, it really depends on obviously the audience you’re going after. So if it’s … And also, I don’t know, we’ll probably get into it later, but the difference between residential and commercial, it’s really not the same thing, residential painters and commercial painters. So prospecting for commercial work is just completely separate. That would be phone calls. That would be having a list of companies in the area, of property managers. And maybe it’s drive-bys. So some contractors I know will spend their Fridays passing out donuts and coffee or popcorn or something like that.
Michael Epps Utley: Oh, interesting. Okay.
David Chism: And just kind of … Yeah, so that’s-
Michael Epps Utley: So just sort of a gesture of goodwill. Sort of show up and make an introduction and maybe not even have a strong ask, but just have a sort of greeting. Is that kind of the idea?
David Chism: Yeah. It’s pretty rare for painters to be consistent at that. So again, they’re trying to think outside the box and how can we be a showing up and being consistent at their audience. So that would be on the commercial side.
The residential, maybe home shows, community events, those kinds of things. That’s also a type of prospecting. And prospecting existing clients, too. So picking up the phone or sending emails to existing clients and just kind of keeping that pipeline full by always reaching out. Because a lot of the painters I’ve seen in the past or even that I’ve worked with that I’m trying to get out of this, they’ll just rely on the current. They just want the phone to ring based on current things. So, “Hey, I’m just doing this. This has got to work.” But they never reached out to their past customers. They never check back into them. They’re just looking for the new thing.
Chris Raines: And David, I have a question about prospecting and I know I’ve experienced this in my video business and Michael, I’m sure you’ve experienced this in yours and David, maybe you, even you, too. You do prospecting, do the initial outreach so that they know who you are and then there’s that critical follow up. You need to stay in front of them. Maybe they don’t have a need right now for video or painting or digital marketing, whatever it is. But they will later and so it’s critical to follow up. And a lot of times, and I’ve felt this, how do you follow up in a way that’s not just, “Hey, you got a paint job coming up for me?” How do you follow up in a way that’s genuine, authentic, but still keeps you top of mind for that commercial prospect?
David Chism: Yeah, that’s another great question. So really it’s not just being, I mean to some degree prospecting can be annoying. I mean if you’re consistent at it, you’re not giving up on people. So I think a lot of it is just being consistent. Showing up and being, whether you’re doing an in person or an email, but it’s been really consistent at it. That’s the main thing. So it may not be asking for the … There may be times where you need to ask for the business, “Do you have anything coming up?” But maybe not now, but you always want to have a next step. So if you’re prospecting and you get to know someone, there is a relationship that’s been built. So it does take time.
I know years ago I was prospecting because I have also background is from the painting background, so I was prospecting commercial market wants and I went into an organization and they looked at me like, “Uh-oh, here comes the sales guy.” I didn’t sell anything. I just kind of, actually I gave them a gift and I told them, “We know how to paint your products. We’re really good at and customers use us to paint your product.” And I walked out. That’s all I did. I came back-
Chris Raines: That’s good.
David Chism: Again, a month later and they had a little smile on their face and I kind of wondered, “Why do they got a smile?” And they actually said, actually a client called and said they used you and like you. Boom. I was in the door. The next time I came … So, I kept coming back. I never sold my service, but I just kind of handed them a gift, said, “Hi. Anything I can do to help?” And then if I felt like there wasn’t anything going on I’d say, “What do you think about this fall or this winter or next spring? Do you have anything coming up then?” So it’s not just the here now, but when should I follow up? Getting permission to next steps. And people are usually fine with it. “Well, I don’t have anything right now, but yeah, check back with me in a month. Check back in three months from now.” Same with-
Michael Epps Utley: So David, there’s a lot of meat in what you just said and just unpack it a little bit. I think we’ve probably had a handful of conversations with painters that or clients of A David Creation and SearchPrimer and the pattern that people fall into, and I think this is young and old alike, is when the business is coming in and maybe it’s April first and the phone’s ringing and you can’t get enough trucks on the road. Suddenly all the sales just drops off. You’re not doing the things. You’re not swinging around to somebody. And then the slow time comes because you didn’t prepare and you’re scraping together and trying to call people and sort of getting a little desperation mode. Not necessarily always for cashflow, but sometimes just to keep the guys busy and keep the crews working so they’re making money. But how do you counsel folks to smooth that out? I think that’s a trap that young people don’t know to expect and older people should know better but still fall into that problem.
David Chism: Yeah. So it’s knowing your business. There’s seasonalities. The painting industry, especially in the Midwest and East Coast, have extreme weather. So if you can look at maybe the last couple of years of your business trends, you know when you’re going to be busy. Which is typically starts in April, end of March, when the weather starts to clear up. If it’s good weather, you’re going to be painting exteriors, for example. And that’s going to probably go through October, November in most states. And in California, the weather’s good typically around, now Mike, they still have seasonality. So if you know your seasons, when you’re going to be super busy or slow down, that’s how you can prepare for the highs and the lows.
So I’ve seen the solid paint companies, they have a little bit less of a dip. They all have them. They’ll start planning for in December, January for April. And they all … So, I actually know a paint company that hires in December and January because that’s the best time to find the painters that are out of work that might be pretty decent. And so they’ll say, “Hey, in a couple of months from now, we’re going to explode.” And so they’ll just keep them on staff or pay them a little less or something. And they’ll just prepare ahead of time. So when April first hits, they’re rocking and rolling. They got more work then they know what to do with, but they still have, they’ve hired the people, they’ve trained them, they’ve got them ready.
And then when you get extremely busy sometimes, especially now in this market, what I’ve been counseling clients to do, some of them just cannot service the amount of phone calls they’re getting. And I’ll just tell them, “Well, you got to get your sales guys to prospect.” So, right now we might tone some things down. We may pull back on some marketing. Things that are more lead generation, paid search or something, to get your guys to start contacting customers and start preparing for the fall, the winter now. Even though it’s hot and heavy because they can’t keep up on the sales … Or maybe it’s not just the sales, it’s actually sometimes the production, actually getting the work done.
We have a low unemployment rate right now. So the issue I’ve been seeing now is that it’s not necessarily a marketing issue going on, it’s getting the work done and finding the right people. So when that happens and they’re hot and heavy, than I encourage them, “All right. I know you’re busy but pull back from lead generation and look at prospecting for the future.” Three, four, or five months down the road. You got to do that because you know, no matter what, it’s going to get light. It always lightens up every year. And they have to prepare way in advance.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. November, December, January. When the holidays hit and the weather changes. No matter what, it happens. Now we’ve kind of run back and forth across this topic, but we’ve sort of touched on a number of different channels. Direct sort of door to door prospecting. We’ve talked a little bit about digital, like stand in front of people with email. You can always do that with social as well. And then you mentioned advertising and then where do referrals fit in to a pipeline strategy? And then where do existing customers fit into a pipeline strategy? Where do those two things fit in? And how do you help someone keep those things going? When they, it’s easy for them to take their eye off the ball.
David Chism: I think existing customers and referrals tend to take second place. A lot of guys tend to focus on just getting the phone to ring. That’s why they’re hiring a lot of services, say, “Here. Just get my phone to ring.” And they’ll do lead generation programs and they, again, forget about their existing customers and the referrals. So, usually what I recommend … And a healthy paint company or really any company would be I see very strong repeat work and referrals. And sometimes probably have seventy, eighty percent. So healthy paint companies that have been around for … It’s usually not a young company. So usually I see companies that will say they’ve been in business fifteen plus years, twenty years. If they’re that good and they’ve gone through some ups and downs in the economy and they’re still in business, you’re going to see a seventy, eighty percent of repeat customers and referrals. And so the strength there is that they reach out to those customers that might be through several different means. I see good old fashioned postcards, email, email newsletter-
Michael Epps Utley: Okay. Tell, yeah, tell us about that. That’s good. I think a lot of people … We sort of get so excited about digital, that we kind of forget that sometimes a good ole piece of mail, if it’s done well, can be effective. So what are some things that you’ve seen that you’re kind of excited about with postcards?
David Chism: Yeah. So, years back when I was working for my dad’s company, I interviewed some past customers and just asked them some questions about our service and what they liked about us, how could we improve and all that. And so I sat down with key clients, our top five customers that paid us the most money. And one of them said … I said, “How can we market to you more? In a way that’s not an in your face or something like that.” One of them said, “I never get any mail from you.” And he said, “I get the mail from your competitors. So in the mail, I get postcards from them and I …” And he knew their names. I said, “Wow, you know my competitor names and I don’t.” I was afraid that over time he might forget who we are. So he said, “I don’t mind getting something in the mail from you because your competitors are doing it.” So just a real blunt in my face, you’re not marketing to me.
Michael Epps Utley: That’s good.
David Chism: And, I think a lot of times people think, “I don’t want to bother my customers.” But what on the flip side, I think customers go, “Well, I think my painter, my plumber, my electrician, they’re probably too busy.” So they don’t always necessarily recommend them or reach out to them because they think they’re too busy. So by reaching out through a postcard, through an email, it lets them know. Like the realtors who will say, “We’re never too busy for referrals,” is kind of a tagline from, I think it’s a Buffini, is a real estate [inaudible].
Chris Raines: And David, just to tag onto the referral conversation, I know this is big in a lot of the other trades, but what do you recommend in terms of referral groups? I know BNI is a big one, Business Network International. And then there’s other groups similar to that. What do you consult your clients on in terms of those types of groups?
David Chism: Yeah. That’s a great question. I have a lot of clients that have done BNI in the past. Some are pretty faithful at it. They attend every week. I haven’t seen a strong return on investment from that because it’s a lot of time commitment and they’re usually fairly small groups. So, there’s a place for it if you’ve got some time in your schedule to do that. But I would actually say step it up a few notches, not to dis BNI but I think that there’s some other outfits out there. Example, would be the rotary club. So rotary club is usually business owner or executives that are a lot more about community than just getting referrals. And I think the issue with referral groups is they’re … I’ve been to them myself. I just stand up and listen to someone talk like, okay, here’s how many referrals I have this week. It’s very cut and dry. It’s almost like fake almost sometimes.
And when you go to something like a rotary, then you’re all in about the community. How can I help the community grow? And then, by the way I’m a paint contractor. By the way I’m a roofer. I’m a plumber. And so those guys, those executives, they’re bankers, they’re lawyers, they’re small business guys. They’re all in there to help their community grow first and then all of a sudden, yeah, they start the referral. And I think that’s going to be a stronger … Chamber, would be close, like a chamber of commerce. The chamber is similar in sense of getting referrals, but it’s also about how to help businesses grow and connect. And so that’s where a rotary or a chamber would be a stronger point there.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah, we … I’ve been, this is Michael, I’ve been a guest out to the rotary and it was very much a sort of a relationship group first and sort of networking second. And we have a really great chamber here. Chamber of Commerce of Nashville and they’re actually a GoEpps client, full disclosure.
But I’ll tell you what they do that’s really good, when it’s a networking thing, they call it a networking thing. And when it’s an educational thing, they call it an educational thing. And you might have some networking that happens at some of those other things, but they go ahead and call it what it is. And I think that’s good and so.
But your point is really that there’s a mix of strategies. It’s not just digital. You can’t turn your back on digital, but you also can’t turn your back on offline. It’s relationship based. It’s all about planting a seed and having the diligence and patience to watch it grow.
I think, David, you, your company and what we do with SearchPrimer, we’ve really benefited from getting to work with some people who have sort of figured out the painting game. So I think for some of the younger painters who are listening to this, this is sort of seasoned wisdom from that we’re really sort of absorbing. I mean, I have kind of grew up around some construction. David, you grew up in painting. And between the two of us, we have some direct experience, but we’re really talking about the twenty to forty different active campaigns that we’re a part of and the active monthly war rooms that were on. This is really where the blood, sweat, and tears is happening to earn that full pipeline through consistency.
And it’s tough. Sometimes, David, I kind of hear you holding folks feet to the fire. Like, “Hey, this is a little low. What happened here? What happened here?” And I know sometimes the phones not being answered during business hours. So there are some nuts and bolts about doing this well, but also it really foundationally comes down to knowing what your channels are going to be, knowing your seasonality, and then putting in the time. Doing the work. It’s like going to the gym. You got to put in the time.
David Chism: Yeah, years ago I heard a marketing consultant say a quote. Paraphrase it, but she basically said, marketing is everything you do or don’t do in your business.
Michael Epps Utley: That’s good.
David Chism: And so it’s like you said about not answering phones, that’s bad marketing. But you’re always marketing.
Michael Epps Utley: That’s right.
David Chism: Whether you’re marketing a solid reputation in who you are, trust and all that, or you’re just not doing certain things that people are going to pick up on. And that’s bad reviews or not answering the phone properly or terrible grammar on your emails, all those kinds of things. It’s you want to be consistent. You want to be consistent at good marketing. And I think that’s all part of it.
And just going back to real quick to the chamber and it’s about being a leader, making your business, no matter what size it is, doesn’t matter if it’s a really small business, how can you be a leader in your community and respected? Almost like a respected advisor in your … So they look to you on whether you … You can spend a lot of time on digital marketing and then just community. You don’t have [inaudible] not print or anything else and say, “You know what, I’m going to join the rotary. I’m going to do some community events. And I’m just going to do digital marketing.” But you could still be a trusted leader like this guy, this outfit, they’re in our community, we trust them, and they’re giving back, too. So they’re in the little league, they’re in the 5K races and the charity events. They’re everywhere. So it takes time. It takes years.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. And I would argue that if you know your pipeline, you know your business. And if you know your business, you know your pipeline. You should always be able to assess how healthy your pipeline is against a basic grasp of how much work is in the shop at any given time.
So, David, one more question before we shift gears and start looking forward to the next episode of the SearchPrimer podcast. What are some tactics out there that are underused that people maybe think are outdated, but actually they’re still good? Or another way to kind of think about this, sort of the flip side of the coin, what are some tactics that people think should work that they’re still hanging onto that it’s just not working anymore and it’s a tactic that needs to be ejected? Well, what kind of thoughts do you have on that direction?
David Chism: Yeah, so I guess we’ll start with underused is, I would say that like I mentioned earlier, prospecting. Reaching out to customers and staying in touch. I really don’t see a lot of companies do a good job staying in touch with their customers. They still rely too much on new business then old business. So just the whether that’s a pop in, personal visit, whether that’s a phone call or sending someone an email or a text message, just saying hi, reaching out. Even letters. I mean, had really good success with guys writing personal notes when they have time. Thank you notes.
Michael Epps Utley: That’s good. Personal notes.
David Chism: Sending them in the mail. They work and people respond to those. So that would be the-
Michael Epps Utley: And stuff that’s not working. How about that?
David Chism: Yeah. I would say print media. There’s some reasons why you should do it, but and the other really it’s about, I would say like the, that’d be like the yellow pages have kind of run its course. So that was really popular in the eighties and you know it’s not what it used to be because they discount so much. So if you’re ever going to talk to the yellow pages and obviously they’ve moved into a lot of digital marketing and other things. So even they realize they had to move away from just the print.
But even magazines and newspapers, again, you’re going to see them when they reach out to you that they’re offering lots of discounts. If it was that popular and worked really well, they wouldn’t have to do that. And I just think most people are going to gravitate more towards a digital device first, then the print. So I’m not against it. I think that there’s a … I have guys that do print and it works. It’s just I try not to have them spend a fair amount of money on that. So just very light.
Michael Epps Utley: Yeah. Good. Well, we’re out of time. That’s David, this has been awesome. I know that everyone who listens to the podcast is going to appreciate the wisdom and insights. We’re actually fortunate in that we’re going to have you on another episode. David Chism’s also gonna be our guest for our next SearchPrimer podcast episode, Growing Your Painting Business.
And our next topic is Growing Pains: Transitioning from Residential to Commercial. We’re going to get into how companies make that turn and how they work their way through it. And so be talking to David again. And David, man, it was awesome to talk to you today. This was tremendous information. Super helpful, I know to everyone out there and thank you so much for being on the show today.
David Chism: Thank you Michael and Chris.
Chris Raines: All right, catch you later David.
Michael Epps Utley: Thanks. Talk to you soon. Bye.
David Chism: Bye.
Michael Epps Utley: The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free service of SearchPrimer.com. Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools in digital marketing, SearchPrimer.com.