Today's residential repaint business can be a lucrative niche market. If you've decided to make it your specialty, you'll get the best results if you keep your business focus to this type of work.

Customers are key – repeat business and customer referrals are important sources of opportunity and revenue. Cultivating these valued referrals and establishing yourself as a professional takes time, effort and an understanding of some basic practices. Here are six strategies to build your reputation ...and your profits.

1. Know Your Customer

In today's market, two groups offer the greatest potential to residential repaint contractors: baby boomers and senior citizens.

Many in these groups lack the time, desire or ability to do the painting themselves, plus they have the disposable income to afford a professional. With the onslaught of home improvement television programs, decorating magazines and Internet sites, residential repainting contractors are dealing with a sophisticated customer base.

Even if they haven't picked up a paint brush themselves, they certainly know what to look for in a contractor: a quality, dependable professional who knows the meaning of good surface preparation, provides value and uses topnotch, long-lasting products.

2. Know Your Products

Being successful in this market means knowing your products and how to integrate them into the goods-and-service package that you offer. With all the advances in coatings technology, you can offer your customers more product options, like low-odor, stain-resistant or environmentally-friendly acrylic finishes that are as durable as alkyd products. From ultra-smooth to semi-gloss, finishes come in more sheens, too, giving customers a range of choices and upgrades. Educate your customers about the differences among today's paints and coatings, and they'll see you as a knowledgeable authority who brings extra value to their project.

3. Know Your Value

Set fair prices – not necessarily the lowest prices. Remember, your good work and good reputation are worthy commodities that carry value in the market.

Make sure your estimate clearly states your base costs and several options for standard and premium products, as well as a clear explanation of the differences. When you address their expectations in writing, your customers will feel reassured about what they're paying for – and about your professionalism as a contractor.

4. Know Your Business

One of the simplest ways to differentiate yourself from the competition is to ensure your company follows good business practices. Demonstrate your worth as a professional painter by showing your customers respect. Arrive on time, return phone calls promptly, clean up when you leave and note details that are important to the customer. Simple gestures such as trying not to wake a sleeping baby or greeting a customer by name go a long way in creating a good impression. Develop a code of conduct in dealing with customers and take the time to train your crew to follow it, too.

The professionalism you show customers will travel by word of mouth, and some prospective customers will find that almost as appealing as your painting ability.

5. Assist With Color

Helping your customer select color can be more difficult than painting the house.

Easy-to-use color visualization computer programs not only help make the sale but also provide added value to the customer.

With some very smart programs like Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer, you can use a scanned photo of a home to show how various color combinations will look before the brush is applied.

Images can be changed, saved and printed for the customer to compare. Such software not only increases your customers' confidence in their final selections, but also provides you with a professional presentation tool that sets you apart from the competition.

Also, check out ColorSnap to create custom palettes on your iPhone or Android, and Sher-Color Advanced Matching Technology to match a color sample, including sample material or a color chip, quickly and precisely. 

6. Extend Your Services

Color consulting is not the only art in which you can dabble. With so many looks and decorating ideas available to consumers, some contractors find it necessary to expand their services to include techniques like texturing, faux finishing, marbleizing and Venetian plastering. Don't head off to art school, but do enroll in a few workshops to learn how to apply these finishes correctly. As you become proficient, develop a portfolio with photos and poster board-sized samples to use as a visual selling tool. Once you've got some experience under your belt, contact your customer base with a flyer or letter announcing your new services.

The bottom line is that there is a difference between a good painter and a good painter who is also a successful businessperson. By incorporating these techniques into your daily routine, you can ensure that you are both.