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Q: I live in a small town that has about 4,000 people. I have the second-largest painting company in town and advertise in the town paper along with two other painters. The largest painting company in town has been here for 25 years and doesn't have to advertise--the owner gets tons of work. How can I use advertising to get some of his work? One other thing, this town is starting to boom. Please tell me how I can attract new customers.

A: First of all, I'm glad to hear you're in a town that's doing well. That always helps! If possible, make sure your ads carry one or more of these messages, or something similar:

  • You'll meet or beat the price of any other painter in town. Or perhaps you'll charge for the paint, but not the labor on the trim.
  • Your turnaround time is fast (if you can live up to it by using other painters).
  • Create a great one-page brochure (not something that looks like it came off a copy machine), and deliver it to homes or businesses that need painting.
  • Collect written references from people who've been satisfied with your work in the past. Keep them in a three-ring binder and carry them with you when you go to quote a job.
  • Look outside your town for work. Pay a teenager to drive to surrounding towns (within an hour or so of your location), and deliver those brochures to places in need of a facelift.

You can "tie up" jobs by creating a policy that you'll charge a little more now, but you'll come back in two years to do touch-ups on all trim and doors. Chances are when the whole house or building needs repainting, they'll call you again because you've been back twice, and they know your work is good.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder and president of Silent Partner Advertising, where she oversees multimedia advertising budgets for retail and service clients. Her book, Advertising Without an Agency, was written for businesses owners who are working with small advertising budgets and can't afford professional help. It's available in major bookstores; from, and; or by calling (800) 228-2275. You can reach Kathy at (315) 487-6706 (weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST), or visit her Web site at

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.