Steve Burnett

Handwriting Old Way or New Way with marker on visual screenWe spend so much money and effort looking for new customers when we already have a list—many times a long list—of customers who already know, like, and trust us, and would be more than happy to give and refer us more work.

But like all of us, they get busy and forget about us.

For the past 20 years, as both a painter and a consultant, I’ve found the following three strategies work best for building relationships and winning more business through existing customer relationships.


The simple truth is that, no matter how much someone likes you or your work, if you’re not on their radar, you’re not going to be on their list of contenders for any job.

One simple way to stay top of mind with current and past customers is to make sure you connect with them on Facebook or LinkedIn. Build on existing relationships with friendly and useful exchanges. You can recommend other groups or pages of interest, or simply share links to interesting articles or even events.

Email is another easy way to stay top of mind. You can use Gmail or sign up for an automated and formatted program such as MailChimp, iContact or Constant Contact to customize the look of messages so they match your brand.

But it’s not all about looks. The message is what really matters.

Use email to send what I call G.I.E. emails: messages of Gratitude, Inspiration or Entertainment. Do not use email to promote sales, coupons or blogs. Again, it’s about building a relationship, not selling.

And don’t forget about the value of snail mail.

Sending a card every four months with a G.I.E message is great way to connect with your customer base.


In the past, Always Be Closing was the ABCs of sales, but in our highly connected world, I’ve found a more effective ABC is Always Be Connecting.

Local networking is one of the most effective ways I’ve found to Always Be Connecting.

The three networking groups that have proven most useful to us are BNI (Business Network International), Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary. They each serve different purposes and are a great way to connect and stay top of mind to your community.

Before you begin face-to-face networking, I recommend you read Bob Burg’s books: Endless Referrals and The Go-Giver (coauthored by John David Mann). As he outlines, the key is to always be looking for ways to give value and serve. If that, rather than getting a sale, is your focus, you will be well taken care of.


While I admit this was not our hottest lead source straight away, with work, we found a way to go from a 25% to 52% close ratio on quality Internet leads. Here’s how we did it—and without paying for SEO services:

Start by writing a 300- to 500-word blog post each week. These can be short stories about current projects that you are working on. How about a before-and-after photo with explanations? It could also be a short post about how to properly prep and paint. A good blog not only demonstrates your skills and capabilities, it moves you up in local rankings and puts you in front of potential customers.

Here’s just one quick tale of proof of this approach: At the start of this year, Ron Ramsden of Ramsden 1-800-PAINTING didn’t even have a web site. He built one and started blogging on January 30th. Since then, he has written a weekly post, and is now ranked on the first page of Google for niche city: ‘Interior Painting Methuen, MA’ and ‘Exterior Painting Methuen, MA.’ As he continues to blog weekly, Ron will soon own the top key words for his town.


While none of these strategies may be groundbreaking, they have the potential to help you break records in terms of sales. Plus, your past work experience together means both parties have reasonable expectations in terms of the work to be done and how it will be done, taking a good bit of the ‘work’ out of every job.


Steve Burnett headshot High  ResolutionSteve Burnett is a high school dropout who successfully launched not one, but two paint companies over an eight-year period. While running his second company, he made a conscious effort to actively build, and not just maintain, the company. Three years later, he had quintupled his book of business.

In 2014, he wrote a book about his experience and sold his company. Since then, his focus has been on helping other pros achieve the same kind of success. Get his free estimating bundle at

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