When Andy Gill relocated to Maple Plains, Minnesota, he had to leave his customer base behind. After five years running a successful painting business in South Carolina, Andy found himself back at square one. Luckily, with a lot of hard work and a little help from Thumbtack, Andy has been able to rebuild his business without breaking the bank. One year later, Patriarch Painting has been hired over fifty times on Thumbtack and continues to grow. We caught up with Andy to hear more about the role Thumbtack played in rebuilding his company, and what new pros can do to win business.
How did you get started on Thumbtack?
I joined Thumbtack in 2014 after hearing about it from another contractor. When I first signed up I was skeptical. I had used lead generator services in the past and for the most part they hadn’t worked out. Thumbtack was significantly more affordable so I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did—the jobs started coming in right away.
These days I refer other professionals to Thumbtack all the time. Sometimes they join and just sit on their accounts without quoting, but once they get their first hire they’re hooked. I just talked to a wallpaper hanger I referred a few years back and she told me that she exclusively uses Thumbtack now.
How has Thumbtack helped your business grow?
I moved from South Carolina to Minnesota a few years ago and had rebuild my client base from scratch. That means that I had to quote a lot, and I wouldn’t have been able to do so if Thumbtack weren’t so affordable. Other lead generators cost almost twice as much, and as someone without a lot of startup capital I didn’t have a ton of extra cash to invest in finding work. At the same time, I needed work to have capital to invest, Thumbtack made it possible for me to get jobs under my belt and build out my customer base. I had no problem buying four or five leads at $6.00 each because they were almost always qualified and I knew even if I only got one of those, it would be a worthwhile return.
What do you suggest for people just getting started on Thumbtack?
I teach a lot of my friends and colleagues about how to use Thumbtack once they’ve signed up. I warn them that no matter what there will always be a good number of window shoppers who are on the site to find out how much things cost. You know that a customer is serious if they include a detailed description of their project, and tell you that they want to get moving right away. Generally, I only bid on projects that have fewer than three quotes already.
It takes time to find the kind of customer you’re looking for. But if you stay at it, you’ll learn how to fine tune your profile to get there. Once you know that someone is really interested, call them right away. As soon as the response pops up on your phone, either send them a message or call.
Do you use the Thumbtack mobile app?
I use the mobile app because of ease of access. I do have a home office but a lot of the time I evaluating requests and responding from my phone. As much as I can, I open requests and purchase quotes right away from my phone.
Any tips or secrets when it comes to asking for reviews?
When I work with customers, it’s a process of learning and getting to know one another. As their project progresses I inform them about my company’s vision. There are a lot of good ol’ boy painters in this industry that aren’t concerned with customer service. I come from the U.S. Air Force and I’ve brought a lot of those values with me. My painting service is based on integrity and everything we do hinges on that. Making people comfortable is really important to us. As a painter, working in someone else’s home is a really intimate thing and takes a certain amount of trust.
Once the job is finished people tend to be very happy and very gracious. I explain to them that reviews help me offer everybody the same vision. People are always so nice about it—they say yes right away. Recently, I’ve started giving people a future discount of 15 percent off if they write a review on Thumbtack.
Do you have any advice about buying credits on Thumbtack and managing them?
I started using auto-reload last year. I buy the $75 credit package every time I run out. You can easily breeze through that amount so I budget carefully. A lot of that is knowing which customers will be right for you. I get anywhere between 15 and 25 leads a day, but I’ve learned to be very picky. For example, I hardly ever send a quote if they don’t provide a phone number in the request. I reload my credits three times a month, at most.
What other marketing tools do you use?
I stopped using most other lead generators. In my opinion, a lot of big box companies are only concerned with the customer—not the pro. It just seems to be more and more money for less qualified leads.
I’m still rebuilding my customer base in Minnesota. I was in South Carolina between 2011 and 2015 and had just gotten to the point of stopping all advertising. I know it will be a while until I get to that point again, but Thumbtack is helping me get there.
How much of your business comes from Thumbtack?
I would say that around 40 percent of my business comes from Thumbtack these days. When you’re trying to build a customer base without much equity it’s the best option by far. You can be very picky and the quotes aren’t expensive. If I buy 10 quotes for $10 each, even if I win only one, it’s still a 700 percent return on interest.
How can people expand their business on Thumbtack?
I have a lot of friends in general contracting and I tell them all that it’s the best way to build their business. But you have to do it right. You’re going to get flooded with leads and get overwhelmed and want to buy them all. Be strategic despite the excess. If you’re a painter you shouldn’t be buying wallpaper leads. Don’t get lost in all of the different categories—stick to what you do best.
What’s the secret to sending the perfect quote?
There is no way that Thumbtack can collect enough data for me to give clients an accurate estimate for a job. I never send a set cost in quotes and I always say that I need more information. I’m not just looking to book a job, I’m looking to present long-term customers a quality experience. In the long-run, setting up an in-person consultation is the best way to go. I come over, discuss measurements and give product options so that I can give an accurate proposal. People have told me that they hired me because of the free in-home consultation. It builds trust and good faith. I get hired around 80 percent of the time after the consultation.
What’s the key to being a Top Pro on Thumbtack?
Good customer service and promptness are key. If you can call them right after they hit the send key, that alone might impress them enough to get you a job. And always be professional. Use proper punctuation and good grammar. Some people won’t respond to a query if the message is misspelled.
A lot of my Thumbtack clients have become recurring customers. It’s good business. You pay for that lead upfront and then you never have to pay for it again. If clients have a good experience with a painter on Thumbtack, they’ll be more likely to come back for other services.
Any parting advice for other pros on Thumbtack?
Remember: some people aren’t going to hire you. Don’t get frustrated by that. It comes down to whether you’re right for that customer or they’re right for you. These are the most affordable leads you will ever have and you just have to keep trying. Eventually those leads will turn into jobs. Don’t get upset if they choose someone else. That happens. It always happens. Know that your jobs will come.
[Photos via Andy Gill]
Read more top pro interviews here.