Adapting A Business Model And Digital Marketing Strategy to a New Consumer Environment
The Paint Bar has been a household name in Greater Boston’s art, venue, and children’s spaces for the past decade. Read more about how Smoko Digital promoted a virtual business model to increase sales from online ads by 259% during a pandemic.
Name: The Paint Bar
Industry: Art Venue
Location: Newton, MA
Size: <10 employees
For the past decade,
The Paint Bar has welcomed tourists and Boston locals alike to reserve a spot for the evening at their painting studio in downtown Newton. In fact, they were the first paint-and-sip establishment in the Northeast. There, even the most beginner-level painters had the chance to learn step-by-step how to create beautiful pieces in a fun classroom environment, topped off with a glass of wine or a beer. Moreover, The Paint Bar has been a leader in unique and creative child care options, such as day care, birthday parties, and art camps. Their 600+ positive reviews on Facebook rave about their expert artists on staff, who are helpful, patient, and engaging.
Business Model Adaptations To COVID-19
Mother-daughter owners Jill and Jackie are clearly passionate about their business and came from art backgrounds themselves. So when COVID-19 hit, they felt they had no choice but to adapt quickly and creatively, which is what they do best!
Seemingly overnight, Jill and Jackie developed an extensive, fully-virtual business plan before any of their competitors (most of them large chain venues) had a chance to react. Since Jill and Jackie were not hosting any classes at the studio, they set up large-scale Zoom lessons, giving them the ability to teach to far more participants than their studio could hold at a time. This increased their revenue per class.
They also wanted participants to experience the same level of convenience and customer service they were used to in Newton, so they facilitated the delivery of easels, canvases, paint, and brushes to customers within 20 miles. Any customers outside that radius got their materials via express shipping.
Digital Marketing Adaptations on
Google, Facebook, & Instagram
The Paint Bar assumed that during COVID-19, families, especially those with children, may have been experiencing periods of “cabin fever.” There were also cancellations of fun events like Bachelorette parties due to the virus. Smoko Digital wanted to capitalize on this increased interest in virtual get-togethers to spread awareness of The Paint Bar’s new business model.
Smoko Digital chose to work with Google, Facebook, and Instagram for a few key reasons. On Google, we wanted to make sure that The Paint Bar capitalized on the fact that competitors were not advertising, giving us a very healthy impression share and increasing our exposure. We also wanted to capture the increased search interest for virtual events. On Facebook and Instagram, it was important for us to utilize our lengthy and loyal remarketing list, as well as directly target individuals we felt would be interested in these virtual classes, but might not think to search for them.
Ad Types And Extensions Utilized:
Responsive Search Ads
Expanded Text Ads
Call Outs & Structured Snippets
We made significant changes to Google Ads in order to promote The Paint Bar’s virtual events. We did not adjust the bid strategy or budget at all - The Paint Bar kept their normal Google Ads budget throughout the months of April and May 2020.
The first plan of action was to develop a new keyword list to capture search interest for virtual/remote activities. The screenshot shown, pulled from Google Trends, illustrates one example of the massive gains in search interest for these keywords during COVID-19.
Next, we wanted to make sure that every text ad shown highlighted The Paint Bar being fully-virtual with delivery options for materials. This differentiated us from other competitors who did not have options for virtual classes yet.
Lastly, to round out the ease of user experience, we worked with Jackie to adjust the landing page content, ensuring there was no confusion about The Paint Bar’s virtual offerings. Throughout April and May, we honed the negative keyword list, geographic targeting and made small account optimizations to ensure our new strategies were as effective as possible. This has led to increased click-through-rates and decreased cost per clicks as the ads matured.
Google Ads Results
The following results illustrate the effects of these optimizations on The Paint Bar's sales directly associated with Google Ads, comparing April and May 2020 to January and February 2020 (which are normally some of The Paint Bar's strongest months), using the same monthly budget as pre-COVID. Conversions are defined as website purchases, phone calls, and contact form submissions.
Increase In Return On Ad Spend
Cost Per Conversion
Increase In Conversions
Increase In Purchase Value
Ad Types And Strategies Employed:
Video ads with captions, showcasing the virtual teacher
Carousel ads with example artwork and virtual setup
Boosted posts of hometown favorites Jackie and Jill, eliciting lots of positive engagement
Boosted events with photos of the planned lesson on Fridays and Saturdays
Utilized both Facebook and Instagram platforms
Facebook & Instagram Ads
Since we knew a lot of people would not know about The Paint Bar’s new offerings, and therefore were not using Google to search for them, Facebook and Instagram were the platforms we used to target individuals and tell them this news directly. Similar to Google, we did not increase the monthly budget in April or May 2020.
Visuals in digital advertising have always been important to The Paint Bar, whose social media profiles cater to the artistically-inclined. We A/B tested many forms of media for social ads, including video, static images, and carousels. Using our past data for device categories, we knew most of The Paint Bar’s traffic from these channels came from mobile devices. For this reason, we made sure to optimize both the ads and landing page experience for these users.
We used specific audience targeting to reach people likely to be interested in the new model on Facebook and Instagram. We used life event targeting like “recently engaged” and “friends of recently engaged” who may be planning virtual bachelorettes. We also targeted “friends of someone with an upcoming birthday” for those celebrating remotely. We knew a lot of parents would be looking for virtual activities as well, now that their children were being homeschooled. Finally, our remarketing list was a goldmine of returning customers already familiar with the excellent customer service The Paint Bar provides.
Facebook & Instagram Ads Results
The following results illustrate the effects of these optimizations on The Paint Bar's sales directly associated with Facebook and Instagram Ads, comparing April and May 2020 to January and February 2020 (which are normally some of The Paint Bar's strongest months), using the same monthly budget as pre-COVID. Conversions are defined as website purchases.
Increase In Purchases
Increase In Purchase Value
Return On Ad Spend
Cost Per Conversion
This case study showcases:
1. The importance of timeliness when it comes to adapting a business plan to unprecedented events
2. The necessity of a robust, yet flexible digital ads plan to promote new services with an adapted angle
3. The results of capitalizing on a time of increased search interest