Events Promotion and Marketing in the Real World

Strategies for the Craftsman Painter Collective

Torlando Hakes
16 min readDec 12, 2023


Gala events, home shows, handing out flyers, going door to door. For an introvert it sounds like a living hell, but for annoying extraverts, who don’t know what to expect heaven to be like, but if this was it, they’d say heaven ain’t so bad.

Lucky for you, I’m one of those annoying extraverts, and I have to tell you. Doing all that shit ain’t so bad.

In hyper local businesses, and in particular painting, they are an untapped source of exposure where there aren’t too many sharks in the water. Your competition likely hates this stuff more than you do, and they don’t have a collective council encouraging you to get off your butt and go do it.

These events and activities are great at getting you in front of potential customers and referral partners and turning you into an indispensable member of the community. Personality has a surprising amount of pull in winning paint jobs, and when people love you, they’re going to love your work. But they have to meet you first.

In this article, we’re going to dive into marketing in the real world.

The Power of Physical Events

Physical events create a platform for personal interaction, a crucial aspect often lost in digital marketing. They offer a sensory experience — seeing the colors, feeling the textures, and engaging in real-time discussions about design and craftsmanship. Our presence at these events isn’t just about brand visibility; it’s about creating an experience that attendees will associate with our brand.

Seth Godin once defined brand as what people expect of you before you walk into the room. Expectations aren’t only about awareness. It’s about affinity. A service business is surprisingly intimate. Especially, when it comes to the home. You’re going to see a lot of underwear, a lot of messes, and a lot of things people usually hide from guests. I once did an estimate for a couple who forgot to hide the boudoir shrine of the wife that they placed directly over the master toilet with a fancy array of lotions, creams, and lubes on a tray below. At least, I hope that was a picture of his wife and not just some centerfold that she is forced to endure every time she uses the toilet. At least her back is turned away from it.

Fortunately, experiences like that are far and few between. (By the way, I didn’t get the job.) More often, intimate looks like a family who just moved to town, and they haven’t made any friends. The teenager thinks everything sucks, and while this move was exciting and the start of a new chapter, now it feels like the house painter is their only friend. It can be meaningful if you embrace it.

This is why being an active member of your community is important. You’re going to be in people’s homes, a lot. People are more comfortable with you in their home if they feel like they already know you. Community work, plants a relationship seed, sometimes years in advance of service. But when you plant those seeds and water them, no change in the Google algorithm is going to disrupt your business because you’ve grown such deep roots.

Let’s look at the opportunities available.

Home Shows and Local Conventions

If at all possible, never skip a good home show. Even if you can’t afford a booth, go as a visitor and strike a conversation with every booth at the event. It’s an excellent source of referral partners and surprise opportunities.

One year I had a booth and a young aspiring architect with a back round in product design came up and introduced herself to me. Three weeks later, I hired her as a color consultant, which made me money and affirmed to her that her future was in homes.

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a fancy booth to make a lot of opportunity at a home show. You don’t need to construct an entire house inside the warehouse. You don’t need to put yourself in a dunk booth. You don’t need to give away a brand-new car. You just need to show up and open your mouth.

The most memorable booth I’ve ever visited was an Edward-Jones advisor. I’m not even sure if he had a banner up. It was just himself and a stack of business cards. He opened his mouth and sparked a conversation with me, he demonstrated his expertise by giving me investment advice that I still believe to this day. It wasn’t fancy. There were no gimmicks. He just opened his mouth.

I lead with this story, not because I don’t believe in going big at a home show. I think huge displays are a lot of fun, and they garner a lot of attention that works well. However, there is a danger in thinking that you have to go big in order to find success. That just not the case. Before anything, you have to let go of the self-limiting belief that you need to spend a lot of money, be very creative, make a spectacle (read: fool) of yourself to get attention. No. You just need to be willing to connect with people. I’ve seen beautiful booths by interior designers who won’t open their mouths, and the result is they spend a lot of money and get nothing out of it.

The first thing you have to understand about a home show is that if you won’t open your mouth and talk to every person, it just won’t work for you. I might even go as far as to say, if it’s your first year, just show up like that Edwards Jones guy. Make your mouth and your notepad your only tool, and set a target to walk away with 100 leads. If you open your mouth and talk to everyone, you’ll do it.

But, if you do it that way, you’re sure to come back the next year with a few new ideas for how you can make your booth stand out a little more and with a better plan of attack.

In subsequent years, you might even come back, determined to show up the guy that had the booth next door to you. You know, the one. The cabinet remodeler who brought in a full kitchen.

Before you start planning on demonstrating the live painting of a tiny home, let’s build up some ways that you can take advantage of a home show, ranging from no money to an open bank.

  1. Home Show Crasher — As a home show crasher, the trick is to show up without a booth and just talk to as many people as possible. Hang out all weekend long and travel around to each booth, building relationships with all the vendors. Ask them what they do and who they serve, then share what you do and who you serve. Invite them to a café meeting later in the month to see how you can network and help each other in business in the coming year. Grab their card and follow up with them later to start a referral partnership. Find an area on the floor that looks like it’s a little vacant, as if it could have a booth but doesn’t. Stand there and start engaging passersby. Act like you have a booth without having one. Go as long as you can before getting kicked out.
  2. Co-rent a booth — In many shows, you can go in on a booth with a strategic partner. Put together a co-branded offer and compete on how many leads you get.
  3. Rent a booth, but don’t do anything fancy — I have a small table cloth with the Craftsman Painter logo that I take with me to certain events, just in case they have a spare table. I pull it out as well as a stack of business cards and a nice notebook that I write name, email, phone number along the top. Then I make up some offer that would entice them to give me their email. Whether the booth is free or costs a bit of money, this is my bare-bones set up that I can make do with. I know I can make something happen because I open my mouth. I usually test a few offers on the fly to see what’s resonating with people. Maybe it’s a discount on a painter for a day. Maybe I say I’ll paint your front door for free as long as you supply the paint. Maybe I’ll have brought my paint colors, and I’ll ask them if they want to look at paint swatches, and I’ll offer to send them ten paper samples for free (which I order for free from the Sherwin-Williams website.) The game of this situation is the constraint of bare-bones, while at least garnering the right to occupy booth space.
  4. Rent a booth and dress it up — If you’ve got the extra budget, more signage is the game. Your brand name nice and big, a short list of services, 1–3 max, and examples of your work. You want people to see what you do, how you do it, and why. You may even create a little home vignette. This ventures into the realm of being more of an immersive experience than a display. But anything immersive should showcase your expertise, such as a color display, or a wall rolling demonstration.
  5. The Home Show Flex — Is it worth it? Probably not, but flexing rarely is. We still do it, though. To flex in our space, it’s all about a grand, immersive display. Build a house in the mofo. Paint it to the 9s. Now, I recommend partnering with a remodeler or a builder and co-funding a smaller portion of the build. You might even be able to get away with just providing the paint and the labor. But the deal is, you get ample signage and you co-run the display. Again, if you don’t open your mouth and have direct conversations with people, it will be a massive waste of money and time. This plan takes a tremendous amount of planning and collaboration. It requires money. And for our space, you may not get the return. You might not even come close. But you never know with these things. That’s why I say, if you want to go big, team up with a builder and try to just provide the painting. Shoot, maybe they will even by the paint. To get in on this scheme, start calling up builders who are affiliated with the local home show and make a simple offer. “Hey, my name is [your name], with Craftsman Painter, I saw you’re going to be in the home show. I know builders who make a huge splash build out vignettes or actual houses. If that’s you, I’d like to team up. I’ll do all your painting if you let us bring in a few signs and work a table. You were already going to have to get it painted, this way you don’t have to worry about the labor.” Start this campaign a year in advanced and the last home show. Try to find at least one. Shoot, maybe you can do multiple in the building. All it will cost you is your time.

You can replicate the home show experience at any convention or community event that offers booth space for local businesses. County fairs, fall festivals, parades, high school sporting events. Sponsor as much as you can afford. While these aren’t going to be attributable to direct lead sources, you will water your garden this way, and you’ll feel good about being so involved in your community. What goes around, comes around.

Galas and Charity Events

Galas and charity events are my jam, and my wife’s greatest nightmare. I’ll spare you the story of the time I accidentally won an auction for a 6-day African Safari.

Participation in galas and charity events aligns with our vision of community contribution. Sponsoring these events or offering our services for venue design can significantly elevate our brand image.

Many of these events have auctions, and you can provide things like gift cards and painter for a day packages to auction off and get greater visibility. For you, it’s just a day’s worth of work. But the exposure, and the impact of the gift, benefits a good cause. Not only that, you’ll get more work out of it. These non-profits usually have a board of well-off do-gooders that have stuff to paint. It’s not rocket science. It just takes community awareness and engagement.

Sponsoring these events is the kind of brand awareness that nurtures the seeds that you’ve planted. You may not see things sprout at your first event, but at least you’ve done a good thing and if you open your mouth and talk to people, you’ll find the opportunity. Plus, they make for great date nights. Take your spouse, dress up fancy, and go hob knob with the affluent. There’s really not much to it other than believing that you have the right to be there. Don’t let imposter syndrome scare you out of painting some rich guy’s house.

Real-World Marketing Techniques

Handout Distribution

Handouts remain a surprisingly potent tool, especially when distributed in strategic locations like local home improvement stores, design studios, and community centers.

More than anything, they’re handy. You can keep a stack in your car, drop them off at a realtors office and put a deal for new home buyers or sellers. Realtors love being able to provide resources to their clients.

Get creative with handouts. Experiment with size, format, texture, design.

Flyers have just enough real estate to convey a full message to drive action. QR codes are particularly effective today, as one of the subtle vestiges of a touchless pandemic life made its way into our prolonged new normal.

Business cards are a simple go-to. Easy to carry around in your pocket. People hang on to them longer than they should. Again, I like QR codes on a business card because you want these people to get their hands on more information. If the only action for them to take is to scan the QR code, then they are going to go to a website where they have access to as much information as you can provide. I’ll even use business cards going door-to-door, sticking them in the weather stripping.

Posters are something you don’t often see in the painting space. But you go downtown, around college campuses, and in central community arenas, even in small businesses, there are typically bulletin boards, and windows that you can ask to put your poster in. Don’t ask, you don’t get.

Vouchers or Gift Cards are great handouts that do a couple of favors. For one, the voucher is a way to discount without saying it’s a discount. With services, discounts are weird. Some say they feel like they devalue the labor. I’m not sure about the evidence to support that. But one thing is for sure, if you’re able to discount, then the question becomes why didn’t you just charge that price to begin with. A voucher or gift card on the other hand is a note that has value.

I always like looking for simple and low cost hacks to things like this. But just because it’s low cost doesn’t mean it needs to look janky. A good hack is to take a stack of color brochures from your local paint store and put a branded sticker and a business card or voucher in the cover. Then hand-deliver it or stick it in the weather stripping of a house that’s recently been purchased. It’s a nice piece of collateral that only costs a sticker and a card. Watch this video for a step by step on what I’m talking about.

Swag. Is there another word for this, yet? Nothing makes me feel like a geriatric millennial more than the word swag. While I desperately ask ChatGPT for a better word than swag to use, I’ll tell you that it’s good for business. Give your customers logo’d t-shirts (but cool ones, don’t ruin it with your phone number, email, and website). Think of things that aren’t easy to throw away. Chachkies that work are inherently useful. Chip clips, sticky notes, chapstick, notebooks, (stupid) pens. I roll my own eyes at this stuff, and yet as I’m typing this, I wouldn’t have to even reposition myself to find some other company’s pen within arms length. I’ve had a Beth Robinson chip clip keeping my shit fresh for the last five years. Who is Beth Robinson, you ask? I don’t know, some realtor. But I don’t forget her name. I can’t. I never will, chip clip.

Media Engagement

In keeping with my low to no cost mantra, here is a screenshot of the very current website of our local cable access television station:

You can, in fact, make your own television program. While this website is probably intentionally not up-to-date, on occasion public television centers do update their camera equipment and make it available to the public for free. Ours even provides training and editing support.

Realistically, you can do most of this stuff on your phone and just post it online, but I wanted to give a shout-out to a few of my buddies that work at our local CATS station. And also show a little Indiana pride by mentioning Bob Ross’s famed public access show, the Joy of Painting, was filmed in Muncie, Indiana.

Local media partnerships on the other hand are all part of a low to no cost effort to get publicity for your business and be involved in the community in a meaningful way. I’m not suggesting here to pay for radio or newspaper ads. But by doing charitable acts for your community you can get featured in local newspapers, radio, and community magazines. Crafting press releases or event-specific adverts that capture the essence of Craftsman Painter can show your willingness to give back to your community.

Door-to-Door Campaigns

Door-to-door is not for everyone. Most people I know would rather speak in public than go door-to-door. But since public speaking is not a fear of mine, maybe the two are correlated, I’m not afraid to go door-to-door.

The brainless way to do this is to just pick a nice neighborhood and start knocking on doors. You don’t need anything to begin. Just time. You don’t even need door hangers. You can have them, but you don’t need them.

Here are a handful of approaches to going door-to-door, ranging from no money and all time, to no time and all money.

OYM — Open your mouth. I’m brining it back. Just pick a neighborhood and start knocking. If you have a phone, that’s enough. You don’t even need a handout. Knock on a door and mention you’re painting a home in the area, and you wanted to introduce yourself and spread awareness of your business. Ask an open-ended question to get them talking, like, “How long have they lived in the home?” Tell them you’re not here to sell anything to them today, but that you are interested to know if they have any home improvement projects planned for the coming year. If you don’t offer that service, maybe you could make a good recommendation. If it’s painting, ask them if you can text them your information to reach out to you when they are ready. Now you have their number and you have theirs.

Handouts — Let’s bring these back. You can do door hangers. They provide a little more room for things like testimonials and a list of services, but honestly, leaving a business card in the weather stripping can work just as well. Especially when your targeting is on point. Flyers are also suitable, and what’s nice about flyers is that they are a little more versatile. Since you’re a painter, use a little piece of painter’s tape to tack it to the door. It’s cute.

Recently Sold Homes & Listings — Recently sold homes and listings are publicly available and easy to find on Zillow. If you’re not worried about gas money, map out a bunch of houses that have recently sold. Go during peak home time hours, like in the morning or right around when kids are getting home from school. Bring your business cards and a stack of the color brochures. Knock on the door and welcome them to the neighborhood. Let them know you got their address from Zillow and that you wanted to introduce themselves in case they have plans to paint. Hand them a color brochure and tell them there is a voucher for painting inside with a few color swatches for inspiration. Have your phone and messaging app out and ready to go, then ask them if you can text them a link to your portfolio and then look down at your phone ready to type. If you really want to get fancy with this technique, put together a proposal based on the listing pictures, print it out and deliver it on the doorstep.

Setter/Closer Model — The setter/closer model is a framework in direct sales for services that have custom pricing. For this strategy, you’re going to make a hire. It can be tempting to want to hire a high school kid and throw them to the wolves, but that’s not going to work. There are actually professional direct sales people who are independent contractors that really know how to do this. They usually cut their teeth in pest control and are looking for higher ticket opportunities with bigger commissions in things like solar and roofing. You’ll realistically be a stepping stone between pest control and solar panels. All you need them to do, is target the right neighborhood, and get the homeowner to consent to the sales person taking video of the scope of work and setting up a video call to discuss the proposal. You’ll put together the estimate from the video and join the rep on the video call to go over the proposal and close the deal. You’ll have to pay a healthy commission for this type of deal, but you’ll stay busy.

Check out this podcast episode to learn more about D2D:

Guerilla Marketing Tactics

For members of the craftsman painter collective, I’ve got a real treat. This article happens to be one part of the Field Marketing & Social Brand course available to licensed members. While most of the educational content is posted in various platforms around the internet, the class is nice because it’s laid out in order and by topic. And I also don’t post everything. There are some things reserved only for collective members. One of which is the Guerilla Marketing Playbook. A full plan for organizing a community pop-up mural. Which is a great way to get publicity, beautify your community and scout for artists that almost always are in search of a job. But just to entice you to get major Fomo for what I’m talking about, I had DALL•E, the OpenAI illustrator, conjure up this fever dream of a graphic. I hope you enjoy how giftless AI seems to be at spelling and making typography at the same time.


P.S. The latest podcast episode is out. I won’t oversell it.

P.S.S. At the Collective, we’ve got some fun stuff in store for 2024, and it’s all about Brand. Check out our updated site to see what I’m talking about.



Torlando Hakes

Craftsman Painter CEO | Author of Sprint | PaintED Podcast Host