How Do You Get New Customers? Industry Studies Offer Insights

Two recent studies by Sherwin-Williams offer insights on referrals, lead generation and contractor hiring trends.

To research how people find and evaluate professional painters prior to hiring, Sherwin-Williams has conducted a Hiring a Painter or Contractor Study through its DIY Advisory Panel in 2013, 2015, 2018 and in the second quarter of 2021.

Overall, this year’s results are quite similar to the 2018 study for those who’ve ever hired a painter, though significantly more respondents indicate that they’ve ever hired a contractor, particularly within the past year.

A few other notable differences:

  • A new response option was added in 2021, and was the most selected reason for hiring a painter: “I couldn’t reach the area(s) that needed to be painted.”
  • Ratings/review aggregators like Google Reviews have risen in usage while legacy sites like the rebranded (formerly Angie’s List) have declined in usage.
  • There is a relationship between number of quotes received and project cost. As the number of bids increases, total project cost increases.
  • When asked about hiring a contractor, remodeling/renovation and HVAC are the most cited types of work.
  • 82% (versus 76% in 2018) say they’ve hired a contractor before, the difference being statistically significant with previous studies.
  • One-third (33%) have hired a contractor within the past six months, significantly higher than 2018 (22%).

Leads and referrals

The Sherwin-Williams Lead and Referrals Study has been conducted every few years since 2012, with an objective to determine how professional painting contractors get new customers. The most recent was completed in the second quarter of 2021 through the Sherwin-Williams Pro Advisory Panel, which focuses on painters with 25% or more of their business in existing residential.

The study found that referrals from existing customers are still by far the most common way painters generate new business. 94% of respondents say customer referrals generate new business for them. This includes paint store and trade partners.

Consistent with past trends, familiarity with lead generation services continues to increase while interest in joining decreases. 11% report use of lead generation services, consistent with 2018. In 2021, Home Advisor is the most used service, followed by Thumb Tack and Porch.

Familiarity of lead generation services has increased compared to prior years with 68% of non-users saying they’re familiar. Among those familiar, however, 61% say they’re “very uninterested” in joining a lead generation service, much higher than prior years. Many expressed they don’t have a need or believe the services provide poor ROI.

Social media growth as a source for new business appears to have slowed, with 39% citing it as a source for new customers, which is consistent with 2018 results.

Read more stories about building your painting business in the Pintor Pro magazine archive.