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Harnessing the Power of the Database: A Painting Contractor's Journey

Starting a business from scratch often embodies the very essence of the American dream. I embarked on this journey as a painting contractor, from very beginnings with $5,000 borrowed. This capital was soon turned into a couple of step and extension ladders, plus a small spray machine. With my own pick-up and a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit, my painting business took flight.


The early years were intense, characterized by hustle, sweat, and a relentless drive to succeed. As a newcomer to the industry, I had to continuously prospect, cold-call, and invest in lead generation services. These efforts bore fruit, and I found myself handling a couple of hundred jobs per year. Despite this, I soon realized I was making a significant mistake that was draining my financial resources and ultimately hampering the growth of my business.


This error was a simple one but with far-reaching implications. My business strategy was fundamentally flawed as it centered solely on bringing in new customers. I was excessively focused on drawing in fresh blood, with little to no regard for maintaining relationships with existing clients. This obsession with attracting new customers was eating up a considerable chunk of my profits in the initial years.


The age-old adage goes, "the money is in the list." At the start, I didn't quite grasp the profound wisdom behind these simple words. I had failed to maintain a database – a record of my clients' names, numbers, and addresses. This oversight meant I was not only failing to market to past clients, but I didn't even possess a basic database to begin with. As such, I was overlooking a wealth of potential profits and the opportunity to build a loyal customer base.


Each job was a transactional interaction. Once a customer reached out, I either secured the job or didn't. If I did, it was a rapid, impersonal exchange – a classic case of "wham bam, thank you ma'am." If I didn't, the prospective client was dead to me. This simplistic, two-pronged approach was woefully inadequate and failed to harness the potential of previous clients and dead leads.


After some time, wisdom and experience set in. I began reading articles, sought mentorship, and received coaching. These resources taught me an invaluable lesson – there is a veritable goldmine in your database. The individuals who had already transacted with me and those who initially declined my proposals constituted a potentially profitable pool that I had previously ignored.


Existing clients already had a rapport with me and were familiar with the quality of my work. By ignoring these past customers, I was discarding the chance to create an ongoing relationship that could lead to repeat jobs. Furthermore, these past clients had networks of their own – friends and acquaintances who likely fell within a similar financial bracket and could afford my services. By failing to remain in their consciousness, I was missing out on potential referrals.


Even the "dead leads" held latent potential. Life circumstances could change, and individuals who had previously declined my services could be in a position to hire me later. By writing these prospects off, I was abandoning future opportunities for profit. Additionally, past customers were more likely to employ my services again, given the pre-existing relationship and proven record of delivering satisfactory results.


In light of this revelation, I realized the need to foster relationships with my past clients and keep them engaged. By providing valuable content and staying on top of mind, I was able to build an increasingly receptive audience for my services. After analyzing past data and estimating the revenue generated from marketing to my database, I realized I had missed out on at least a million and a half dollars over my first two years in business. This was a stark wake-up call to the power of maintaining and leveraging a customer database.


If there's one thing you take away from my journey, let it be this: start building your database today. It doesn't have to be complex – even a spreadsheet or a spiral notebook will suffice in the beginning. Consistently record client information and actively keep in touch with them. Many often ask me which Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is best, and my answer is always the same: the best CRM is the one you use regularly.


Reflecting on my journey, a specific incident comes to mind. During my first few years, I had a client who we completed a couple of interior painting jobs for her. However, one day, I drove past her house and saw one of my competitors working on the exterior painting job. Perplexed, I called her, asking why she didn't contact me for the job. Her answer was simple yet shocking: she didn't know my business handled exterior painting. This incident underscored the importance of regularly communicating with past clients and educating them about the full range of services offered. It also served as a reminder that without a functional database and regular communication, it's easy for your business to be forgotten.


The takeaway here is simple yet powerful. Don't underestimate the power of the list. The consistent cultivation of relationships with past clients is crucial for the growth and success of your business. These individuals are not just one-time transactions; they are potential sources of ongoing business and referrals. Your existing database of clients is a goldmine waiting to be tapped. Don't make the mistake of leaving money on the table. Instead, learn from my journey, leverage your database, and pave your way to continued success.




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