Originally published in PPC Magazine.

Artist. Painting contractor. TV star.

Joe Cornelius juggles all three roles to earn his living in the pine-covered mountain country of northern Arizona. The Flagstaff contractor is part of a new breed of media-savvy small business owners who have embraced the world of online marketing and personal branding to boost the bottom line.

Leveraging online marketing social media

Cornelius started painting for his father’s company at age 20, then spent three years learning the trade with a local CertaPro franchise. In 2007, he opened his own one-man painting business, focusing on residential repaints, small commercial jobs, decorative finishes and large-scale mural work. He set himself apart in the market by branding himself as Mural Joe on social media sites like Facebook and YouTube.

“Online marketing helps me build top-of-mind awareness,” he says. “Facebook keeps you connected with your friends, and if you forget who your friends are, they stop referring you. The sooner you come up in conversation the more work you get.” He also finds it useful to be able to refer prospective customers to one of his YouTube videos.

Being helpful increases your value

Since starting his own YouTube channel in February 2009, Cornelius has posted more than 40 videos. Many are short how-to pieces that showcase his talent for decorative painting and faux techniques, but he also tackles topics like color theory and how to mud a wall or use a cut brush. So far, his videos have generated more than 115,000 views, and have established him as a painting expert in his market.

“If you want to be valued, be helpful,” he says. “The YouTube videos allow someone to follow along from beginning to end and repeat it any time if they are having difficulty duplicating my technique. They’re a great teaching tool.” And, since many people don’t have the time or desire to do the work themselves, his videos establish him as the contractor to go to for this kind of work in the Flagstaff area.

Good products save time

Sherwin-Williams products and service have been an integral part of his success, says Cornelius. “I have never been a big dollar customer, but I have always been treated like the most important customer in the store when I’m there. They always give me their full attention and work to find the best paint for the project.”

His preferred products are Cashmere®, Duration Home® and the Faux Impressions™ line.

“Special effect coatings in the right hands can make for dramatic results that customers really respond to,” Cornelius says. “The Faux Impressions line of coatings expands the possibilities I can offer my clients. Its ease of use improves my bottom line by saving me time. The Quartz Stone finish, for example, makes an especially realistic sandstone effect in just one coat.”

With the downturn in the economy, large-scale murals and faux finishing projects are less in demand, so he’s been doing smaller repaint projects to stay busy. In any economic climate, though, he says the most rewarding projects are painting rooms for children.

“They ask a lot of questions,” he says. “Their honesty is refreshing, and they are always very appreciative when I’m done.”

Preferred products