Why Niching Down Can Help You Get More Clients

Sep 22, 2021

I spoke with agency owner Brandon Pierpont, of Painter Marketing Pros. Brandon transitioned from a generalist agency to a niche agency because he wanted to be a key component in his client's success. Over the past few years, Brandon has become an expert in the painting industry and is embracing the conversion power of social media and high-value messaging. Brandon believes in massive, imperfect action to keep things moving and begins his day with a meditation practice to help him focus clearly on his daily goals.


Transcript

Natalie: Brandon, hi! Welcome to The Amplified Agency Podcast. How are you today? 

 

Brandon: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me. 

 

Natalie: Yeah, of course. Thanks for joining us. What were you doing today before you jumped on this call? 

 

Brandon: Had a few sales calls today, kind of trying to take care of some things that I didn't get finished over the weekend. Uh, feeling behind per usual. 

 

Natalie: Typical agency owner life. That's awesome. What got you started in this business 

 

Brandon: Marketing in general? It was, um, I actually ran a mobile auto detail business about five years ago and then was kind of sick of agencies bothering me to market my business.

 

And so ended up learning it myself, realized the power of it. And then uh, ultimately didn't like the logistics of running a service, an actual service-based business, like a physical labor type business. Um, so then I ended up starting a digital marketing agency. 

 

Natalie: That's awesome. So then you made that transition and now you're working with painters. How did that transition feel for you? 

 

Brandon: Yeah, it felt good, it felt pretty natural, you know, because it was one of those things that I've kind of learned to apply for myself I guess.

 

And so then I didn't start with painters, I started with um you know, a generalist agency, I think a lot of people tend to start that way. But I really found that we had good results for home service businesses and painting in particular, and I enjoyed working with painters. I kind of liked the accessibility I guess of painters and kind of the relatability, you know. It’s a, I don't know, I felt that I interacted well with painting company owners and it could relate to them and and can help them.

 

Natalie: That's cool. Yeah that niche ng down I feel like is a tricky thing for a lot of agency owners where I know, at least for me it created this like panic of what if I'm not casting a wide enough net, and then once I made that transition, it was like, oh there are so many people within this niche that I could target that it's totally fine. Like I prefer to be the expert then kind of dabble in all these different things which actually takes more time for you as an agency owner to cater to all of those different niches.

 

Did you find that for yourself as well? 

 

Brandon: I did yeah, I was kind of, you know, every time you land a client, a different niche, there's a learning curve and, and sometimes I would find myself kind of almost in, over my head, you know, thinking one thing about an industry that I didn't really know very well, and then you land a client, then you kind of start working with that client and then um you sort of recognize your ignorance after you sort of already started. And so it's hard to always set expectations very clearly and understand what you're fully capable of delivering on if you've never really worked in the niche. At least that was my experience. 

 

Natalie: Yes. Yeah.

 

I definitely felt that pain, and I'm sure a lot of listeners feel that to where you're just like, “oh, I got this.” I mean, it's the same principle every time, but then once you're actually working with somebody in a totally different niche, you’re like “I have no idea what these people do.” 

 

Brandon: Exactly, yeah. 

 

Natalie: Yeah. That definitely eats up a lot of time. So when you made that transition, what was sort of the piece of sales that you found the most momentum with? 

 

Brandon: Yeah, for me, so I tried a few different things.

 

You know niche-ing down, I got very heavily involved with the biggest industry trade group pretty much immediately. So the painting contractors association, which is PCA, is the biggest group for painters. I ended up basically locking in an educational series with them where I would do a monthly webinar episode and I found some traction there. 

 

I found that that didn't convert as well as I expected. I think there's a little bit, um, I realized that there's sort of a customer segment that's learners, but not necessarily buyers, which I hadn't expected.

 

I thought if people watch your, your, your webinars listen to the podcast, they're definitely gonna buy from you. But I started kind of getting these kind of rabid, don’t want to call them rabid fans, but people who are, we said that they've listened to a lot of things and really enjoyed it, got a lot of value out of it, but ultimately weren't actually willing to move forward. So I thought that was kind of, I guess odd or surprising. 

 

But I found a lot of traction with Facebook ads. You're actually, yeah, I think it's because with painting, it's a very fragmented niche.

 

You know, they're, they're probably about, it kind of varies with 2500-3000 painting companies that are million or more in annual revenue. But then there are a lot of other guys who are maybe between 500,000 a million mark. And that's where I found a lot of traction 

 

Natalie: interesting. So really then with the PCA, you're getting more of that long term nurture at some point they might be ready to buy. It sounds like they might want to be testing it out themselves first. And then with Facebook, you're getting those folks that are really ready to jump into it.

 

Brandon: Yeah and I think you know my partially be just the setup of the series that I created with the PCA. So the PCA is very much focused on education first, and so to kind of align with their goals, we had to make it this series that basically educated painting company owners on how to market their own companies, and you know in my mentality would be that they wouldn't want to do it right or or that they would just want to pay me to do it because obviously I know what I'm talking about.

 

Um but some of them it didn't translate quite as cleanly, 

 

Natalie: Yep. Yeah, that makes sense. I know there's a lot of agency owners that go after JB relationships. What made you go the route of working with the association?

 

Brandon: Yeah. Yeah. For me it was just kind of to try to I guess own that angle, you know, so there are a couple different um niche agencies. It's like propainter website, there are a couple of different um, you know, agencies and basically web developers in the space. And so for me the more you can kind of become almost a quote-unquote “official” provider, right, or kind of industry, you know approved almost agency, the bigger the moat that you're going to, the bigger the better you're going to basically create against competition.

 

So it's almost the best defense is a good offense even starting out just kind of trying to position myself, and aligned with people who already had clout. 

 

Natalie: Smart. And does the PCA have events that they, like in person events, conferences that they do as well? 

 

Brandon: They do. So, you know, Covid obviously put a damper on that. There's, it's weird. There's, they’re called PCA nation. Maybe I think my contact might be a bachelorette or bachelor fan from the Bachelor Nation, but they have sort of sub kind of related council, like there's a Florida council. I think of the PCA, it's not technically part of the PCA, and things like that.

 

So my first event will actually be next month. There's an event, I think there will be a lot of smaller companies there, but it will be good, a lot of Florida companies and then they have an annual expo, which was virtual uh this year because of Covid, but next year I'll be in-person, we've got a booth reserved for that and have applied for speaker role and so very much looking forward to that. 

 

Natalie: That's cool that you could get a speaker role with that as well because I think so many of us have done the booths over the years which are good for reinforcing in that initial brand exposure, but that authority really does come from being on stage and talking about it. 

 

Brandon: Yeah.

 

Yeah, I think I think there are five speaker sponsors, maybe 50 applications, so, well, not sure that I'm going to get it, but we'll see. 

 

Natalie: Fingers crossed. 

 

Brandon: Yeah, exactly. 

 

Natalie: That's awesome. So in terms of ,you know, your sales process, what have been some of the biggest hurdles that you've encountered? 

 

Brandon: Yeah, I think for me, you know kind of and I don't know whether this is would always be the, I think it's been a really wild market, you know because of Covid and you know kind of the government relief programs and then uh you know people quarantining and being concerned about exposure and and so there there have been supply issues in terms of paint, right?

 

You know the supply chain disruptions and then labor issues, labor shortages have been a big factor. Meanwhile demand for paint jobs and painters has actually increased quite a bit. And I think that I think the variety of reasons that, I think one, you know, could be that not everyone lost their job, but even if you didn't lose your job, you're still, a lot of people are still getting government subsidies of some kind, especially if you have kids, you get extra checks or whatnot. People are spending more time at home--meaning that if you don't like the paint on your walls, it's gonna bother you more now.

 

And so if you have the excess income, you just stare at it for a year and then a lot of times you know for people in 2020 would have and this is kind of focused on residential paint. But people who would have, um, got in their house repainted didn't because Covid had just broken out. And so, you know, there was fear of basically being in contact with anyone. And then 2021, a lot of people have kind of moved past that another sort of resurgence right now, but some people are kind of over it.

 

And so now there's almost a 2021 demand plus the 2020 demand. So you sort of, it's just been, it's been kind of weird. Um, I guess so. I guess one of the struggles I've had is sort of the product market fit during this crazy, transitory period. We've entertained the idea of launching a recruiting campaign, right? So helping these paying companies hire and retain qualified painters. It's not something that we've pulled the trigger on yet because it's, it's not something we've offered previously. So I guess I'm a little hesitant because I'm not positive we would be able to deliver on it to the satisfaction that I want to know that we will deliver on it.

 

But it's, it's kind of made me, I guess have to pivot a little bit in my messaging and have to try to really be in tune with the market because just, you know, the idea of selling leads are getting more paint job in and of itself is not, is not a compelling message right now, right? 

 

Natalie: Yeah. That's an interesting approach to it because I've been hearing that a lot in the home services industry in general that people like, I don't need any more leads. I need bodies that can actually do the work.

 

So making that pivot to provide any sort of support for finding employees would probably be really beneficial, And I feel like that would strengthen, well it would build, start something but also strengthen a relationship with painting companies 

 

Brandon: I think so too. And day to day I'd like to offer probably all of that as part of our service officers because of your, you know, there's there's labor and kind of supply and demand and if you're only driving one of those sides, especially if you're very good at driving it, then you are leaving a big opportunity and kind of making yourself less sticky by not addressing the other side.

 

Natalie: 

Yeah, that's a really good point. I hadn't even considered that. I really liked that approach. That's really cool. Yeah. That's such a big part of being an agency on the right is it's not just delivering your standard packages to your clients but really assessing their pain points and are there ways that you can help them navigate that because yeah, if they can't figure those pieces out, they're not going to spend money on marketing, right? 

 

Brandon: Yeah. And it's you know, it's kind of trying to take responsibility at least the way I view it sort of take responsibility as much as I can for the success of their business, not just what we got you leads or we got you x, y and z and that's what you paid us to do and kind of the rest is on you.

 

But really viewing it more as a partnership and I think if you can develop obviously inbounds right? Like not, not allowing them to abuse the system were becoming overly accessible, but I think if you can create that kind of trust with somebody, you're going to have a customer for life. 

 

Natalie: Makes sense. One of the things that we're always interested in is what are the newest approaches agency owners are taking to build their authority and really amplify their voice within the space. Have you been trying anything new recently?

 

Brandon: I have actually-- just started a few weeks ago. I am going Live every day. So I do a live video stream on Facebook every day. I have not mapped out a contact calendar, probably should save me time every morning thinking about what I'm going to talk about. But I basically just try to do value ads you know, I've done webinars. So I kind of think through things that I've talked about previously and I go on live and then I post it to a bunch of different places on um, social media and you know. I'm basically an influencer now.

 

You know, I think I'm pretty sure I don't have Tiktok, but I'm pretty sure that I’m a Tiktok influencer.

 

Natalie: You're famous? 

 

Brandon: Yeah, I'm famous. That's right. 

 

Natalie: That's a really smart approach. So what made you want to go that route? 

 

Brandon: Yeah, I was talking with someone else who tried to learn from from other agency owners, you know what, I think this podcast is such a great idea. I think the more, you know, we're all community and learning from each other is really the best way to excel. Um, I was talking to someone who's farther ahead of me in a similar niche and he had recommended, you know, the more you kind of get out there and expose yourself like that um, people aren’t going to come through immediately. But it's about building a brand over a long term and you know, the more people know you, people start to raise their hands right?

 

And people, people are raising their hands and they're coming into your ecosystem that way. That's obviously a very good lead, right? It's a very good prospect. So just kind of, I guess further branding kind of goes along with the PCA webinar strategy. It's just more building up that presence, building up that trust factor, you know, being known as the marketer of painters. 

 

Natalie: Yeah, that is such an interesting piece of owning an agency is, it's not just fulfillment and maybe direct sales, but really being the face of the agency and being visible everywhere and building that brand ethos as to who you are and what's the type of work you do and are you really knowledgeable, especially when you niche down like you have of like I really understand your space. 

 

Brandon: Yeah. And I try to try to use painting, the word “painting,” “painter,” uh, in front of things right? Like when you're running, you know when you're running painter Facebook ads or Facebook ads for your painting company, right? And kind of it can sound redundant and and a little silly um but it doesn't sound silly to your target customer right and to the prospect that you're talking to. It sounds totally natural and it sounds, wow, that's a really good fit because everyone, there's so many people out there selling marketing--let me help you grow your small business and help you grow your home services business, your contractor business.

 

But there are not that many people saying when you're running Facebook ads for your painting business, when you're running painter Google Ads, you know when you're building your painting website, how do you make sure that you're painting website converts? Right? So the more you can kind of put in that niche specific language to sort everything you're talking about. Again, I think it's just that branding over time. 

 

Natalie: Yeah, that's a really good distinction because a lot of times we do, I feel like we have that ick factor with everything we do, but we're just like, “Oh, it's so skeezy, I don't want to do it.”

 

Brandon: Yeah, no, it's, and, and we know, I mean we know that the value that, right, that there is value in niche-ing down; we know that, but you do have to learn niches and something that works and in one niche our way of advertising or you know, maybe Facebook ads work over here, but they're really not going to work over there. Maybe Google Ads were there, but you know, ultimately not going to work for this niche. Um, we know that, but we also know that the fundamental concepts of high converting websites, especially home services in general, it's all going to be fairly similar.

 

Uh, we know the fundamental concepts are pretty much the same. So it can seem kind of ludicrous to keep saying painter or plumber or dentist or, you know, whatever your niche is. But again, you've got to. I try to always put myself in the minds of the end customer, the prospect that I'm targeting for painters--especially, if they're not listening to marketing, you know, webinars every day. They're not reading uh, you know, marketing blogs, they're not super familiar with all this marketing. It is a somewhat foreign concept, right?

 

So when you kind of make it specific to them, you talk about their painting website, their painting business or residential repainting customers--that our office painting, commercial painting, and you just, you focus on what they're thinking about in their world. I think you kind of bridge that gap between, it's just another marketing guy, you know, saying a bunch of stuff and he's probably selling people snake oil and, and what they know, like, and do every day and you can kind of, you know, I think you can kind of build trust there.

 

Natalie: Yeah, that's really cool. So it seems like you have a pretty good method of bringing them in with a level of trust. But one of my favorite things to ask everyone is what is the worst sales call you've ever had? 

 

Brandon: Yeah, I've had a lot, had a lot of really bad sales calls. Um I would say that the worst sales call. So my, my sales calls used to be a little bit different. They would be longer. I would be scheduled for an hour. Now, scheduled for half hour.

 

You know, I think if you bring people in the right way, and I'm in the process of creating a video sales letter, and I think if you kind of have people consume some of this content before they come in, and you've already pre-positioned them then it doesn't need to be such an extensive process. It could be more interactive, more Q&A, something like that. It used to be scheduled for an hour. I have people come in highly, highly positioned came in through the PCA funnel, you know. I've been talking with them  for weeks, and then I decided I had three of them, three owners um, on the zoom call and I decided that hour wasn't long enough. So I was going to take them through two hours, and I was gonna deep dive into all kinds of technicalities that I'm sure they were thrilled to learn about.

 

So it's super technical, super long, basically the exact opposite of what I'm trying to do now, which is focusing on industry, their language, their problems, what they care about. And instead I took them into my world whether they wanted to be there or not, and I planted them there for twice as long as we were supposed to be there. I didn't end up landing that customer, 

 

Natalie: But so much time with them. 

 

Brandon: But we, we all had a great time, great time, yep, exactly. 

 

Natalie: So when you encounter sessions like that, which I wouldn't say it was a failure, it was a learning experience, but as an agency owner we all encounter fail failure sort of every step of the way.

 

How do you deal with it when you encounter it? 

 

Brandon: Yeah, so I've been working on this, um, I used to be and I guess I still am at times a little bit too hard on myself. So I'm working on kind of developing a short term memory. I try to figure out what went wrong or where I could improve upon learn it, and then forget it just kind of put it away. right? And I'm focusing on massive imperfect action, and then I find that the more things I'm doing, obviously, the more things I'm messing up, but instead of sitting there worrying about what I mess up, I just do more things right, not ignoring what I messed up because I need to learn.

 

But sitting there harping and focusing on it, you're always going to fail, you know, way more times than you succeed. That's part of the journey. And you're not gonna close, I don't know of anyone who closes well over 50% of their sales, you know, it's, which means if you're closing under 50% of your sales calls your you're losing more than you win, right, no matter how successful your agency, So, um you know, for me, it's kind of take the learnings, but then leave the rest. 

 

Natalie: Yeah, that makes sense.

 

I like what you said there, that massive imperfect action. I think a lot of us become so paralyzed, especially when something goes wrong, but it's like, I'm just, I'm not going to do that again, or I'll get to it and we find a million other things to do so that we don't have to face that again. 

 

Brandon: 100% 

 

Natalie: Yep. Okay, so my last question for you is how do you stay focused as an agency owner? 

Brandon: Yeah, and that is something I'm struggling with a little bit right now, you know, having launched the Lives recently, I'm getting much more active on social media and it's kind of not something I've really done a lot in the past, and I'm finding it a little bit distracting--obviously social media can be a black hole for a lot of reasons.

 

Um and so for me, I'm sort of meditating and I'm finally, that's kind of clearing my mind and I think, you know, even though I'm doing massive imperfect action, trying to prioritize, and for me, the only way that I can really get things straight is through getting up early and meditating, Because then I can kinda as opposed to, well I have so many things, you know, 10,000 things I have to do today when you actually sit down and clear your mind, like, you know, you have four things, right?

 

And it's like, okay, maybe there are a few different tasks for each thing, but you can kind of almost like bullet bullet pointing the 10,000 things you have to do, put them into subcategories, what are the themes of what you're having to do then prioritise those things. So all you know, typical time management type stuff, but for me it's just about clearing my mind so I can actually see clearly the primary task and then I realized it's not as overwhelming as it as it feels that it is, 

 

Natalie: I love that, so really re centering, finding clarity, focusing on the specific things you have to do instead of that giant picture of things and then you just tackled today 

 

Brandon: the cluster in my head uh approach, 

 

Natalie: yep, I like that.

 

Well, Brandon, thank you so much for taking the time today. This is insightful. I love the different approaches that you're taking and that idea of massive imperfect action, like just give it all a go see what sticks and stay focused while you're trying to do that all. 

 

Brandon: Yeah, thanks a lot for having me. This was fun.