How an Old School Business Discovered the Internet and Grew 350 Percent

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What do you do when you’ve been in business for years, and have a crisis of confidence?

One day something happens that forces you to confront some cold hard facts:

  • The world has changed.
  • Your business hasn’t changed with it.
  • And now your business is in jeopardy.

That’s exactly what happened to Brian Young, owner of Home Painters Toronto.

He discovered that his customers had changed their buying habits. They were going online to find a house painter. Yet his business was literally nowhere to be found online.

Many times, a story like that would have a bad ending. Some small businesses would succumb to the odds, and become the next failure statistic. But that’s not the case for Young’s business. In his case, he managed a stunning turnaround.

And this is the story of how he did it.

Cold Calling Made His Business Hot

Young started the business 25 years ago, while he was still a student in college. Back then, when Student Painters came to campus offering its franchise-style model, he jumped at the opportunity.

“It had always been my dream to run a business since I was a kid growing up watching my dad. Student Painters was recruiting on campus, and my friend did it and recruited me into it. I thought, ‘this is my shot at running my own business,’ so I was really excited about that. It was my dream come true,” recalls Young.

That was in 1987.

He discovered he was good at growing a painting business — mainly because he was good at cold calling.

“I learned how to do cold calling really well,” he said. “At the time I was young so I had all this energy. And cold calling didn’t take much time. You just had to go knock on doors and give them quotes on the spot. It’s more of a heart thing. Just go out and be as aggressive as you can. That was the way of marketing back then.”

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Young, at age 19, cold calling for Student Painters.

Upon graduation in 1991 Young went off on his own as an independent business owner.

Business was good. “I think our first year I was doing about $100,000 to $150,000 in revenue, in that range. It was pretty good back then,” he added.

Year after year, sales continued to climb.

His cold-calling marketing approach worked well for about a decade. Up through the late 1990s, “cold calling was the way to go,” he said.

The Internet Changes Everything

By the year 2000, though, the Internet had started gaining ground in the painting industry. Young began to notice consumers were going online to find painters.

Young’s world had irrevocably altered. He just wasn’t ready to admit it.

“I saw what was happening but I didn’t want to change. I’m like, ‘you know what, I’m a cold caller.’ I just kept knocking on doors,” recalled Young.

Yet, deep down, Young knew things were changing. “It was tough because I could feel my market going down, shrinking more and more and more.”

He soldiered on for another decade, watching sales gradually decline even though he was working harder than ever.

It All Came to a Head – Literally – in 2011

“I was canvassing a neighborhood and a potential client was upset that I’d interrupted his dinner. He came out and punched me in the face,” remembers Young with a rueful smile.

Young ended up with a black eye and the incident made him reevaluate his company’s marketing.

“It hurt me emotionally even more than physically. I am really passionate about my business. But it also knocked some sense into me. I realized, ‘Brian, I have to change or else my business is going to die.’”

“I call it the million dollar punch,” he added.

Playing Online Catch Up

Young took stock of his business’s situation and it wasn’t pretty.

Up to that point, in 2011, his business was nowhere to be found online. Yet, that’s where his market was.

“My business was offline, totally. I didn’t have a smartphone. I didn’t believe in email. I didn’t believe in websites. When it came to technology, we were bare bones. I mean, I had a Blackberry that I could type short messages on and that was it,” he recalls.

“So, I hired a consultant who helped me get my business online almost overnight. We worked ninja style. I was like, ‘What do we need now? And what do we need next?’ So we got a website. We joined some review sites. We implemented email marketing. One by one, we just kept nailing them,” said Young.

A major milestone for Young and his Home Painters Toronto business came just a month or so into the online transformation.

One of his first steps was to advertise using Google AdWords. “We had to do it because we were nowhere to be found in Google search results at that time,” he pointed out.

Advertising with AdWords required a huge leap. It meant spending more money than he had ever spent on marketing.

Prior to that time, his marketing budget was just $500 a year. “I’d do my lawn signs, and I would buy business cards. That was it. I was really cheap,” he laughs.

But almost immediately he saw the benefits of marketing online.

“For the first time in my life I didn’t have to cold call a house. That was significant. I was getting leads coming in – they’re called inbound leads — and that pretty much was the start of how things worked out. As more people found us online, things really started taking off.”

The Online Strategy to Refresh a Home Painting Business

Starting in Spring 2012, sales exploded.

“We started 2012 at $375,000 in revenue. Now after 2014 we’re at $1.3 million,” said Young. By his calculations, that amounts to a 350 percent increase in just three years’ time.

“I’ve been working like a madman ever since trying to keep up with the growth,” he added.

“Our goal now is to grow 20 to 30 percent a year. At the same time, I want to get my customer satisfaction ratings higher. We’re at 98.5 percent. We’re going to shoot for 99 percent customer satisfaction and encourage more online reviews. That’s how you have to market a business like this, is through reviews, “ he added.

“Before, in my business, you could upset someone, and then you could just not work on that street for the next five years and they’d forget. But now online, everything is exposed and you’re vulnerable that way. So you have to be impeccable about making sure every customer is taken of, no matter what. It raises the game of the business owner, and gives the customer more protection.”

In addition to advertising with AdWords, developing high customer satisfaction rates and encouraging positive reviews, there are a few other arrows in Young’s marketing quiver.

The company also pursues content marketing and search engine optimization as part of its strategy. ”For a year solid I’ve blogged two or three times a week,” points out Young.

Articles such as “What Causes Paint to Bubble, Crack and Peel?” and “Bringing Warmth to a Room with Ceiling Paint” give consumers the sort of relevant information they are looking for when researching painters, Young says. Content marketing also has helped the company’s website rank well for Toronto painter searches.

Even though his company was playing catch up, Young soon discovered that most of the painting industry was “still way behind.”

“Now they copy what we do. But they can’t keep up. Not that I’m trying to put the competition down — just saying that’s what is happening. My business has become the pacesetter,” asserts Young.

Growth Brings Another Set of Challenges

Another important element of the success story is how the company implemented Infusionsoft marketing automation software.

It wasn’t long before Home Painters Toronto became the victim of its own fast growth.

The more client leads the company got, the harder it became to manage them and keep track of what stage they were in.

“We had all these lead sources, and needed a way to organize them,” said Young.

In fact, Young insists that without automation there’s no way his company could function.

“Today, we quote anywhere from 200 to 300 leads a month. Trying to follow up manually with that many leads is nearly impossible. Automating our follow-up sequences saves us hours and hours each week,” he added.

He also needed to be able to hire and train people to help him. His vision was to create a platform to run the business off of, so he could duplicate his system and grow without increasing his personal working hours. That’s another thing Infusionsoft gave them, he said.

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Young, of Home Painters Toronto, channeling Rocky Balboa, with partner Jill Littlejohn.

But implementing Infusionsoft wasn’t smooth sailing at first.

“I was excited by our growth, but Infusionsoft was driving me crazy because I just wasn’t ‘getting it’.”

He knew from his father’s role model (his father also is a small business owner) that perseverance and hard work would pay off.

“Even if I had to stay up for 24 hours, I was willing to do anything because I saw in the first two or three months what the Internet could do for my business. This was my dream shot at turning this thing into something big. I couldn’t sleep. I was like ‘there has to be an answer to this, and if answers aren’t apparent, then we’ll find them’,” he added.

While on a retreat to Puerto Vallarta, Young coincidentally met Kelsey Bratcher of Hired Gun Solutions, an Infusionsoft expert. Eventually Young hired Bratcher as an outsourced member of his marketing team.

According to Bratcher, “small wins lead to big wins.” So, he focused on helping Young break things down into small pieces so they could quickly achieve some successes. The first thing they did was break down the Home Painter Toronto sales process into 12 stages and automated some of the stages.

Almost immediately, Young got his first “win” through Infusionsoft. The company sent out a reminder sequence about an upcoming appointment. “For the first time,” Young recalls, “I actually got a confirmation email from the client saying ‘we’re good to go tomorrow for 7:30’ without me having to call.”

“A light bulb went off. Previously I’d have to make multiple calls and leave voice mails. It got me thinking in terms of automation — versus of me doing all the work in my business. I realized it would free me to focus on strategy,” Young added.

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Young, with Kelsey Bratcher of Hired Gun Solutions, after accepting the 2015 ICON Award.

What It Takes to Transform an Old-School Business’s Marketing

The transformation of this once tech-phobic painting business is so dramatic that Young and Home Painters Toronto won the 2015 ICON Award. The Award is presented by Infusionsoft to small businesses demonstrating outstanding marketing success.

According to Marketing Coordinator Jill Littlejohn who was on hand at the 2015 ICON Conference (dressed in painter’s clothes just like her boss), under Young’s leadership they have embraced marketing automation completely. The Infusionsoft marketing automation software has been woven into the company’s processes so deeply that it is now “essential,” she said.

Today, Young sounds like a marketing tech whiz. But according to Bratcher, at first he was anything but. “I had to explain how the technology worked.”

But what Young had going for him was his drive. “He listens, and he goes with it. We’ve made some mistakes over the years and made some people angry with emails. But he doesn’t have this fear component. He just moves ahead — not recklessly, but he doesn’t spend much time worrying about his decisions,” added Bratcher.

That drive has caused Young’s business to be recognized as one of the top home painters in Toronto. The business has even been featured on several home decorating and makeover TV shows.

Young had some final advice for other small business owners — of any industry. “No matter how bad things are going, no matter how long it’s been going, there has to be a solution. Someone in the world has succeeded and overcome that problem. If they can overcome it, you can. You’ve just got to pay the price. If that means working a little harder, you have to work a little harder. Or work a little smarter. Or learn a new technology.”

“I watched the movie “Rocky” growing up. I’ve watched it so many times I know almost every line. I could almost recite it. I look for that movie whenever I’m having a tough time because this guy came from nowhere. He got a shot at the title and he just gave it his all, and he was standing at the end of that first movie. Motivation like that gives me the pigheaded determination to overcome anything no matter what,” he added.

And what about that $10,000 check that Young received as part of the ICON award? “I donated half of it to an entrepreneur cause — and am thrilled to help other entrepreneurs make their businesses a success.”

Image credits: Small Business Trends, Home Painters Toronto


Oh Snap! Snapchat’s Memories Feature Now Lets You See Old Photos

See Old Photos and Videos with Snapchat Memories

Oh snap! Snapchat wants you to hold on to your photos and videos for a little longer.

The new Snapchat Memories feature is a shareable and searchable archive of snaps. The feature allows you to save photos you take within Snapchat’s server.  The company, in its press release describes Memories as “a personal collection of your favorite moments that lives below the Camera screen.”

Swipe up from the camera to open Snapchat Memories and easily find your saved stories or snaps using keywords. Type in words like “cat” or “watch” and all relevant searches will automatically appear.

Memories also contains tabs for viewing just stories, snaps or your complete camera roll. To enable a new interaction, tap and hold the snap. You can also edit the snap adding timestamps and geofilters even if you are far from the time and place they were originally taken. You can then share that older stamp to your current story where it will appear with a timestamp and a white frame to indicate that it is older content.

Snapchat Memories Will Help Marketers Create Brand Stories

Though the new Memories feature affects all users it will be a real boost for small business owners or other marketers using Snapchat. his is because the new feature makes it pretty easy to string together multiple older photos to better create a new story for your brand.

There is no doubt that Snapchat Memories is one of the biggest changes that the company has made to its wildly popular app. Snapchat’s 150 million daily users leverage the app to film major milestones in their lives.

This includes, but is not limited to, family vacations, engagements, graduations, weddings and much more. These are moments that you want to remember and having them on your camera roll is risky as you can lose your phone together with your memories.

For marketers, snaps and stories that have helped you establish your brand’s identity are now easier to retrieve than if you took them using your smartphones regular  camera.

Even if you save your photos, finding specific shots buried under an avalanche of other images can be daunting when trying to create cotent about your brand via social media. However, the fact that you can quickly locate your photos makes this app a great tool.

Any snap you save in Memories is saved to Snapchat’s servers, so you can quickly access it from any device where the app is loaded.


Century old London Underground typography to be tweaked


Tube bosses are set to introduce the primary exchange to London Underground’s typography in a century asshipping for London marks the one hundred year anniversary of its ‘Johnston’ font.

The changed lettering will appear on all delivery signage from next month despite the fact that passengers are probable to remain in large part oblivious as in case you blink, you’ll pass over the modifications.

that is because designers have sought to keep as lots of the unique font as viable while updating it with lighter lettering that is stated to be extra pleasing to current eyes, in addition to being more adaptable fordigital uses.

Jon Hunter, TfL head of design commented: “The Johnston typeface speaks of London like no different. it has been around one hundred years. it’ll be round one hundred more years if not longer. We just wantto make certain it’s used always across all our branding and across all future branding systems we might also have, so we asked Monotype to head returned to the original concepts of Johnston, and create avirtual typeface the use of the DNA of its truly iconic predecessor”.

the brand new appearance Johnston100 layout has been conceived to be able to higher in shape the social media age by way of offering a range of readymade digital fonts and will first of all seem onrevealed materials which include Tube maps and posters.

supply: night trendy

Forgotten histories: A library in a Guwahati mosque shares the fate of an old Assamese community

Every time Assam heads into an election, the political discourse in the state invariably veers towards the issue of indigeniety. Who is an original inhabitant (and who is not) becomes a central question, with all the political parties nudging the electorate’s collective memory to recall real and imagined injustices.

With elections having kicked off in Assam again, my thoughts returned to something else, to my childhood when I would accompany my parents to a concrete structure in Guwahati’s Lakhtokia area. The structure was architecturally nondescript, but the images and the experiences of it still coalesced to form fragments of my memory. Known locally as Sirat Library – although the Assamese pronunciationSirot often rendered the name incomprehensible – it was located within the precincts of a mosque called Lakhtokia Masjid No. 1.

I vaguely recall public meetings being held in the small library. And till the early 2000s, it moonlighted as a voting booth. For a child, it was an unusual sight to see so many people of different religions line up to cast their votes and even more unusual to see them do so in a library inside a mosque.

The structure still stands today. But the only sight that greets a visitor is of a small room bereft of books or readers. Its holdings are restricted to a small glass cupboard and a few Islamic texts in it.

Legacy of the past

The history of the library is really important to the Khilonjia Muslims or ethnic Assamese Muslims living in Guwahati. Khilonjia Muslims have been in Assam since before the Ahom invasion in the 13th century and they have always been known to relate to their ethnic, rather than their religious, identity.

Shehabuddin Talish, the official scribe of Mir Jumlah, the Nawab of Bengal who invaded Assam in 1662, described their encounter with the Muslims in Assam: “The Muslims whom we met in Assam are Assamese in their habits, and Muhammadans but in name.”

The famous colonial historian Sir Edward Gait, in his monumental work A History of Assam published in 1905, extensively employed Talish’s descriptions to map out a definitive chart of Assam’s history. Nevertheless, historical narratives of Khilonjia Muslims remain sketchy. The same fate is shared by the library in Lakhtokia.

There are no written records of when or who constructed the library. It is, however, believed that the structure is among of the oldest libraries in Guwahati, and the mosque it is a part of is among the three oldest mosques constructed in the colonial period.

The mosque finds a mention in an article in 1885 in the journal Assam Bandhu, which was edited by the Assamese intellectual Gunabhiram Barua. The land for the mosque was donated by Col. Jalnur Ali Ahmed, the father of the fifth President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. Col. Ahmed was a distinguished Assamese of his time: he was the second Assamese associated with the Imperial Medical Services and the first Assamese to receive an M.D. degree from London.

Personal histories

Writer-lawyer Akdas Ali Mir, one of the inhabitants of the locality, points to a letter written in 1915 by AHW Benting, the then Commissioner of Assam, which is probably one of the earliest and only clues to tracing the history of the library. “Benting had issued directions in an Order Letter to shift the Makhtab (primary Islamic school) established by the British from the mosque to the present location, where the Junior Madrassa High School is in Guwahati.”

Mir continued: “We can surmise that Sirat Library is the spot where the Makhtab was and then got converted into a library.” This may be true as Sirat is an Arabic word meaning a “way of life”.

As with all public libraries in the state, Sirat Library too was awarded a monthly grant from the government for its upkeep. But the actual running was done by the area’s Assamese Muslims, with people taking turns as librarians. Renowned Assamese filmmaker Altaf Majid remembers his childhood days spent in the library reading in the quiet. “My uncle used to be the librarian for many years. Every Friday afternoon he would take me to the iconic Lawyers’ Book Stall in nearby Pan Bazaar to buy books. In fact I read the Mahabharata in Bengali in Sirat Library in the 1960s.”

Majid continued: “This library was also a repository of well-known pulp fiction of the period. They were in English, Assamese and Bengali. In fact, I also read my first English novel in this library as well as the famous Bengali Mohan Detective Series and the Assamese adventure series Pa-Phu.”

Credit: Shaheen Ahmed
Credit: Shaheen Ahmed

Mukimuddin Ahmed, another resident, talks of the days in the late 1950s when he would act as the librarian in the evenings. “I was paid Rs 5 every month as the librarian and I worked for a year. Every afternoon after school I would go to the residences to collect the newspapers for the library. In the evenings after the readers had finished reading them I would then return them to the respective households.”

Assamese Muslim women had a strong role to play in the library’s upkeep. In the late 1960s, the only Assamese Muslim women’s social organisation, Anjumaan-E-Khawaateenein Islam, contributed Rs 10,000 to construct the new building for the library from the earlier Assam-type house construction. Noted Assamese woman writer Alimun Nessa Piyar donated furniture to the library in 1960.

As Helena Barranha and Susana S. Martins poignantly observed, “Memory has become both an intellectual challenge and a commodity for easy consumption.” This is true for contemporary India in general, and Sirat Library epitomises the trend. The erasure of the library from popular memory testifies to the erasure of cultural traditions that were once so integral to the Assamese society.


Blizzard Announces Big Hearthstone Expansion – Whispers of the Old Gods

Blizzard Announces Big Hearthstone Expansion - Whispers of the Old Gods

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has been growing in size since its release two years ago, and Blizzard announced a third expansion for the free-to-play collectible card game on Friday night. Titled ‘Whispers of the Old Gods’, it adds 134 new cards to the game.

(Also see: Hearthstone Introduces New Game Formats and More Deck Slots)

Alongside that, you will also be able to get your hands on four “Legendary Old Gods” cards featuring C’Thun, Yogg-Saron, Y’Shaarj, and N’Zoth. Yep, those really are their names.

“It is said that for millennia uncounted the massive Old Gods lay dreaming in ageless sleep deep beneath the surface of Azeroth,” Blizzard elaborated in a blog post. “Maybe noisy taverns full of laughter, shouts of triumph, and clanking tankards are like a snooze alarm you can’t turn off, and this whole Old-Gods-waking-up thing is entirely our fault.”

You can now pre-order a 50-pack bundle of randomly-generated Whispers of the Old Gods cards for $49.99 (approx. Rs. 3,300) before the bundle releases next month. And should you choose to do so, you will be rewarded with a new card back for your loyalty to Blizzard.

The company said to expect the release of the new expansion across all platforms – Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android – starting end of next month and latest by early May.

(Also see: StarCraft on Your iPhone? Don’t Rule It Out, Says Blizzard)

You will be able to put down gold you earn in-game (or real money if you please) to get the new card packs contained within the expansion. Blizzard is trying to involve the community further by doing a further reveal of the cards coming with Whispers of the Old Gods next Monday. If you want to know more, head to the official website for the expansion to learn more then.

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Tags: Blizzard, CCG, Hearthstone, Whispers of the Old Gods