Family owned BrushStroke Paint Party is a fun, relaxing, classy paint studio, that serves the Naugacuck, CT community and brings out the artist in everyone! Founded in 2015, Kathy & Bernie Piccirillo created this amazing business that provides a unique experience for from kids to adults, as well as fundraises for non-profit organizations. Today Kody finds out how Kathy and Bernie generates 100% of their business through referrals from their relationship marketing strategy. They will disclose exactly how the do it, and explain how they leverage a a cost effective relationship system while spending zero dollars on conventional advertising.
Kody Bateman: Hey, everybody. This is Kody Bateman. Welcome to a very special edition of our Relationship Marketing Weekly show, coming to you live out of Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ve got some incredible guests on with us today, all the way from Naugatuck, Connecticut. I would like to welcome to our show today Kathy and Bernie Piccirillo. Welcome to our show today, guys.
Kathy Piccirillo: Hi Kody!
Bernie Piccirillo: Hi. How are you doing, Kody?
Kody: Great to see you and I’m so excited to learn from you today. We have people that are actually tuning in from all over the world right now and want to get a chance to say hi to everybody. We’ve got an action-packed show for you tonight.
First of all, you have a very unique business. This is super cool stuff. I love it when we have unique businesses that come on here and you run a company called BrushStroke Paint Party. Kathy, I think you are the one that’s going to kind of give us a little description about your business and what you do, what your specialty is. Go ahead.
Kathy: OK. I started BrushStroke in January 2015 and what it is, is it’s a paint party studio. So we come in. We have an artist. I have like 12 artists right now and they come in and people come. We have private parties. We have fundraisers, corporate events. We do team building, opens.
They come in to paint a specific painting and our artist takes them step by step through the process of that painting. It’s basically a two-hour session and at the end of the session, what I tell everybody is not two paintings are going to look alike because everybody’s eye is different for art. But they pretty much look the same and it’s a lot of fun.
We’re very successful with your fundraisers. We do a number of fundraisers monthly. I give back a lot of money for it, just because I’m into helping people. We also do birthday parties.
Kody: It sounds very intriguing. In fact, I’m sitting here thinking, “I want to do this.”
Kathy: You should.
Kody: I want to come do this, be a part of a party. Like I can imagine doing a – it would be a very unique birthday party. Like I imagine – I’ve got six grandchildren and so I can imagine I’ve got a grandson that’s going to turn seven just here in a couple of weeks. I could just imagine what a unique birthday party that would be is to have all of the cousins come over and his friends and we have a party where they learn how to paint, I’m assuming.
So they kind of learn the process of how to paint, the adults to get involved. Very unique business. Is this – I mean is this your brainchild? Is this something you came up with or are there other people that do this? What’s your competition like?
Kathy: No, there’s competition out there. I had attended one that I wasn’t too happy with and I thought I could do better myself and I did.
Kody: Well, look at that. That’s great and this is your – you’re in your shop right now, right?
Kathy: Yes. This is the studio. We have two studios. We have two different studios. It’s in the same building but they’re two doors apart from each other. We can access it through the back hallway, which is pretty cool because we can fit 40 in one room and about 36 in the other room and we’ve done it where we fill both rooms at the same time.
Kody: So do you do this like – usually in the evening hours that people come and do it or does it –?
Kathy: Seven days a week, whatever time people want to come. If they want to set up a private event. You know, I’m very lucky because I have two retired art teachers. So they’re available during the day to help out if they need to.
Kody: Wow. Well, that’s fantastic. Now –
Kathy: About the kids’ party, what’s fun about the kids’ party is after – we let the kids pick out what they would like to paint. You know, so everybody paints that. When they’re done, they do their little party, their cake or whatever. But then we have a loft and you could see it a little bit upstairs by the green fence there.
We painted a wall. It’s a blackboard and we write their name on “Happy birthday!” and then the artist will paint the birthday child’s hand and we let them put the handprint on a side wall and they sign it.
So we have many, many –
Kody: That’s cool!
Kody: That’s cool. Well, I guess what everybody, myself included, wants to know, you started this business like you said in 2015. So you’re approaching three years old as a company. The obvious first question is, “What do you do to bring in business?” I mean what kind of things did you do when you started to get people to come and buy the service from you?
Kathy: I have never paid for any type of advertising. It has been word of mouth, Facebook and through our relationship marketing that we do.
Kody: No kidding. So what do you do on Facebook, just an example?
Kathy: Well, BrushStroke has their own Facebook page. So every time somebody – we have a group that paints, we take a group photo. We do two things with that photo.
Number one is I will post it on Facebook saying the name of the painting, the date and everything. So people go out. They share it with everybody. They like it. So it’s all over Facebook and then the second thing we do is we put it inside a greeting card and we send a “Thank you.”
Kody: So yeah, all right. So you have a party and at the end of the party, you send a thank-you card out. You told me before the show started that you actually try to get a thank-you card to basically everybody who is in attendance, if you have their name and address, which is really incredible. Do you have an example of one of those follow-up thank-you cards? Just kind of walk us through that.
Kathy: I do. This was – this card here is a fundraiser that we did. So they sold tickets. They sold 70 tickets to come and paint and everybody that painted, they painted on a wood slice, which is something brand new that BrushStroke is doing.
So everybody that signs in on the sheet and gave us their address, they got this card in the mail.
Kody: Wow, wow.
Kathy: What’s pretty cool is there’s our BrushStroke on the back.
Kody: That is so cool. That is really, really cool. So you do that after every one of those events. Now, do you have any like – people that listen in to this show, people are always interested on return on investment. We try to inspire people and what they need from us, which is human connectivity and obviously you’ve done that. You create human connections with people, which is by far more important than any business you will ever do.
But people that are listening in, they’re like, “Yeah, that’s great. But do I get a return on my investment when I send these cards out?” So can you – I mean can you – what kind of business can you attribute to doing this type of activity?
Kathy: Well, we – I just lost my – I’m sorry. I lost my whole train of thought.
Bernie: Well, I understand what you’re saying, Kody. It’s hard because right from the beginning, from 2015, we started with the thank-you cards. OK? So it’s not like we were doing it and doing it and then – then we started and we saw an increase in business. We were doing it right from the get-go.
So we don’t have any type of data that says, “Well, we were doing this much business before and then this much after.”
Kody: OK. So let me change my course of questioning then. This is fantastic actually because from day one, you’ve done this.
Kody: From day one, you’ve done Facebook posts. You get the message. You got that out of the way. You always have sent out a thank-you card to as many people as you can. You always have pictures in there of the party itself and there’s a high personalization with the card. You’ve done it from day one.
So let’s just talk about the growth of your company then because you can attribute the growth of your company to this activity because you’ve done this at – it’s basically all you do really to market is that.
So tell us a little bit about the growth of your business and – hey, listen. It doesn’t matter what business you start. Businesses, no matter how cool and neat and unique they are, are never easy to start. It’s hard to grow business no matter what you do. So tell us just a little bit about your growth and your experience in that for you.
Bernie: I would have to attribute a lot to the thank-you cards because we get a lot of feedback from people. As a matter of fact, there was a group here the other day, women that come – now, I have to kind of backtrack a little bit. When Kathy started it, I said, “OK. It’s a cool idea. You never know what you can do until you put your best foot forward, if you don’t try.”
So I was like, “That’s good. I will support you. Not a big deal.” I figured people would be coming in maybe a couple of times a year. We’ve had people in the first three years that have come 50 times and over, one person.
Bernie: I’m like, “Look, did you build a closet to put all this stuff in?”
Kathy: So – and I have to attribute a lot of that to the thank-you cards. I mean yes, we send thank-you cards. But we treat it – when people come in, we treat them like family. We treat them right. They’re comfortable here. If it’s a smaller party, we offer them coffee. We can’t offer coffee to 60, 70 people.
But if it’s a smaller group, “Hey, you guys want a cup of coffee?” We make them feel comfortable and at home. I like to tell them it’s like being at home. You don’t have to clean up though.
Kathy: One of the women said to me the other day. She says, “You know, when I first came, the very first time I came and I received the card, I thought it was really nice.” She says, “But now every time I come, I can’t wait for my card and I expect it.”
Kody: Wow. Isn’t that something? So you have a lot of repeat business.
Bernie: Oh, yeah. That’s what was kind of phenomenal about it. Like I said, I figured people may come two, three times a year. There are people that come multiple times and we have membership, a VIP membership. You pay so much and you get discounts and stuff when you come and you paint free on your birthday and stuff like that for the VIPs.
As a matter of fact, this coming Sunday, we’re doing a special for the VIPs. They come in. It’s going to be a freebie. They come in. They could do whatever they want. They come. If they want to paint, they could paint. They see something on the wall that they’ve been wanting to paint. We’re going to have an artist or two here. They’re going to help them through. No charge and we’re going to give them – we’re actually going to put a little spread out for them. You know, little pickings and stuff for them.
So just another form of appreciation. You know, not necessarily a card, but just another form of appreciation. So we try to do things like that for people too.
Kathy: I met a woman yesterday and somebody told her who I was and she was all excited. She goes, “Oh my god! My daughter has been at your place five times already.” She said, “I have these pictures hanging all over and she has got her greeting cards all over too.”
Kody: Wow. That’s great. You know, you two, both of you, just resonate appreciation. I mean you’re kind, nice people and so – Bernie, you mentioned that it’s not just the cards. It’s in everything you do. It’s the way you say hello to people. It’s the way you treat people when they’re there. It’s – you two are very personable people, which I think really ties in.
A lot of times people think a relationship marketing system is about a system that automatically sends greeting cards out for you and gifts to here and there, to make people feel good.
What you’re teaching us today is it’s far more than that. Relationship marketing is not a system. Relationship marketing is who you are. You two are about creating relationship way before you are about creating a marketing system to generate money.
You’re both very modest. I will go ahead and do a little bit of the touting for you. You run a very successful business. I mean you started from scratch three years ago and you have this gorgeous, beautiful studio behind you. You’re sold out running events seven days a week. You got a big gig going this Sunday. You got fundraisers all the time. You got return, repeat business coming in to you all the time and you’re modest about it, which is another thing that really impresses me.
So in other words, what you’re doing is working. I mean it’s just being nice to people. One of the things I always like to ask, what comes – and this is funny because I get both answers.
What comes first? The being nice or the sending of the card? Because a lot of times, people, they – they’re new to relationship marketing and they learn, “Well, I need to send out a thank-you card.” So they send out a thank-you card and I’ve had numerous people say to me, “When I send the thank-you card out, something changes. It makes me want to be better at serving those people.”
So which comes first? The serving the people or sending the card and then serving the people better? You see what I’m saying? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? With some people, it’s like they – their level of service is OK. But when they start the appreciation part, it brings their level of service up higher. What do you guys think about that?
Kathy: Well, we – from day one, we’ve always treated everybody with kindness as they come in. You know, the card was always in the back of our mind. We were going to do it anyway. But if you go on our Facebook page and read all the comments that people put in there, all the stars that we have, it’s a family business. We love going there. They treat us nice. You know, and I mean that in return is awesome for me.
I feel that’s what we get in return is listening to all these people. The women that were here the other day, they even said, “I will never go anyplace else. I only want to come here,” which is so meaningful.
Bernie: And they bring people back.
Kathy: And they bring people back.
Bernie: So there’s a referral right there.
Kathy: So we have a lot of referrals.
Kody: Yeah. Absolutely, yeah. In fact, like you say, you don’t do any other advertising. So really your only source of incoming business is word of mouth and referrals, which again attributes to what you do. So what’s interesting about watching the two of you – and again, I think this is important for the educational process of people out in the business world.
You started your business where your appreciation level of people was already high. It’s just who you are. It’s what you do. It resonates in who you are as people. So you already had that down and then you got a system that allowed you to take that high level of appreciation and reach out with a tangible touch.
So now you have the system and that system is high too. I think that’s one of the reasons why you’ve had such dramatic success quickly is because your appreciation level is already high. The relationship marketing system came in and it matched that high level. What happens with a lot of people is – listen, we don’t live in a very nice world today, do we?
Kody: So what happens is a lot of people get into business and because we’re in an environment of not so nice things going on in the world, that kind of carries in to people’s business. So people’s appreciation level might be a little bit lower.
So I’m doing a business. I’m serving people. But my appreciation of people is at a low level. But then I get this relationship marketing system that is sending out thank-yous and birthdays and holidays. So what’s going out is at a higher level and because I’m sending that out, it makes my appreciation of people rise. So it makes my service ability get higher and higher. Does that make sense?
Kody: And what’s cool about what you’re doing is you can teach people that. A lot of times – see, you have it in your mind that everybody is – like everybody ought to be like that, right? I mean that’s how you are. You’re kind to people. You’re genuine with people. You’re way up here. You get the appreciation system. It comes in high too. We get in our minds sometimes that everybody is that way and candidly, most people are not that way.
Most people are like this. So the appreciation system actually pulls them up. What I love about you guys is that you’re just an incredible example of that. You know, keeping the appreciation of people level high in your life.
Now, you do other things. You do birthday cards, holiday cards, random, unexpected cards. Any other of those stories you want to share with us?
Bernie: I don’t know if you wanted to read these.
Kathy: Yeah, we just –
Bernie: Just a couple of testimonials, people that we’ve said – show the – this one. This is one of our favorite kids that comes all the time. Can you see her?
Bernie: Cute as a button she really is.
Kathy: And her mom wrote, “She loved her surprise,” because every child that has their birthday party here, we send them two packs of brownies. That’s their gift from us and –
Kathy: “I didn’t know you guys did that for parties. Very cool. Now the fight for the brownies.”
Kody: Oh, that is so cool.
Kathy: Well, what’s neat – and I have to put my glasses on, so I could read it. But what’s neat about this other one is I received this on my phone. It says, “What an awesome thank-you. We all loved our cards and my family enjoyed the brownies. Receiving that made my day. You guys know how to run a wonderful business. I hope that you are around for a very long time. Enjoy the weekend.”
Kathy: But there’s one other one Kody that really made me feel good too is – this was a birthday party for an adult. You know, a lot of adults set up their parties and she put, “I just want to say that one of the things I absolutely love about small businesses is how interpersonal they become. Thank you so much for the gift. I love what you do and will definitely be back for more.”
Kody: Oh, wow. That’s fantastic. Those are the true pay days, right?
Kathy: That’s what we get from people and that’s what – not only do we treat them good here. They treat us good.
Kody: Yeah, that’s great. Well, I will tell you what – again, you two are just an inspiration. It’s not just about making a living. It’s about making connections with human beings and using your gifts and talents to bless the lives of other people. That’s what makes business fun. You can tell that you guys – you have fun doing this. I mean this is – this isn’t just a job for you. It’s a lifestyle. It’s something that’s fun for you.
So any final words of wisdom both from Kathy or Bernie, both of you? I always like to close the shows out by giving you the opportunity to give us any final words of counsel for anybody watching the show today. How to be with your customers, how to be in your life, anything you would like to share. Go ahead.
Bernie: Just one thing. You said we’re very humble. Thank you for that. We’re also good-looking.
Kody: That’s right. Yes, you are.
Bernie: But I did like little number crunches of what we said because we don’t do any – really don’t do any traditional marketing. OK? And I kind of wrote down what we did as far as cards last year, as far as a dollar amount, if you want to tell people that. Well, how much are you putting into it?
So last year, we sent out almost 2900 cards last year. OK? Now a lot of people might balk and say, “Oh my god! Twenty-nine hundred cards! I would never send out that many.” Well, this is the foot traffic that we have here at times too.
So then some of those cards were – brownies were attached to and everything. So I figured out last year, we approximately spent in our marketing – now this is our marketing – $5300 for the year, for our marketing. OK?
Some people spend $5300 a month in additional marketing and that comes out to like a whopping $453 a month for our “marketing”. So –
Bernie: Is there a payoff there? Yeah, I think so because we’re not spending thousands of dollars trying to bring more traffic in. Traffic seems to be coming in. Does that make any sense to you?
Kody: Well, it makes a lot of sense. You’re – basically, you’re spending $450 – average $450 a month for all of your advertising and marketing expenses and you’re generating a highly successful business out of that. Obviously you’ve got great revenue coming in every month. You’re paying your bills. You’re making profits. All off of a $450 advertising budget. That’s phenomenal.
Kody: And you know what? Your competition, they are spending a lot more money. They’re running ads in the paper and they’re – you know, maybe doing something on the TV or the radio and traditional marketing methods and they’re great. All that is great. But you spend a lot more money doing it. Probably less effective too. Well, not probably. It is less effective, especially today, because – you know, we say this all the time is that we live in a Google age world where people can Google you and your competition before they ever meet you or have an experience with you.
So for me to see an ad in a newspaper or an ad on the radio about coming to this service, it just doesn’t mean very much today because I can find out about you whenever I want. But I will tell you what. If I’ve experienced a card in the mail from you, a box of brownies just like you just showed, I’m loyal to you for life and I’m going to send everybody – in fact, not only am I going to send people that want to go do a party. I’m going to have suggestions. Oh, you know what you should do for a fundraiser? You should do this and you should go see these people over here. So that’s what you guys are doing.
Bernie: I mean if anything, any last thing, any last words is – yeah, it’s nice to send thank-you cards. But this is about them. It’s not about us. OK. Somebody gets that. I don’t care how they figured – they think they appear, whether they think they appear good or not. They’re looking for themselves.
Kody: Oh, no question.
Bernie: In that, you know. And we’ve had a lot of people that just – that hang them up in their house on the refrigerator. We’ve had the fire captain here that we know. He has to go to people’s houses when there are incidences. He says everywhere he goes, he sees on the refrigerator.
Bernie: But he goes in and has to investigate happenings and stuff like that. So people who are not from out there. They’re holding on to it and other people see it and maybe they have it at their desk at work. Hey, what’s that? Where did you get – hey, that’s pretty cool. Hey, I want to go do that. So –
Kody: But you mentioned too that they’re holding on to it, not because it says “BrushStroke Paint Party” on it. They’re holding on to it because it has a picture of them on it. You guys are great that. Yeah, celebrating other people. Super good.
Kathy: My last words are just be kind to people and open your arms and open your business door along with your arms and the business will come. Do your different things and it works.
Kathy: Kindness works.
Kody: Kindness works. No question about it. It’s called the “Kindness Revolution”. We’re all a part of that and we certainly appreciate your example. There is a bigger cause here. We live in a world of negativity and we’re about to change that. We want to bring the world together in kindness. We’re one race. It’s called the human race and the two of you are doing an incredible job out there, sharing kindness with other people and celebrating other people’s lives. I want to thank you for that because you’re an inspiration to me personally and to my family. We really appreciate who you are as people and anybody that’s listening to this today has a lot to learn from the example of Bernie and Kathy Piccirillo. So, guys thank you very much for being on the show. Look forward to another version next week. We will be back here a week later and we will keep these coming. Thank you guys. Take care.
Bernie: Thanks Kody.
Kathy: Thanks Kody.