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A fellow business owner and marketer made this request for help today:
“I’ve tried many things in the past to get customers for my cleaning services.
I’ve passed out flyers and also sent direct faxes too small offices. Is that a good way too promote or am I just wasting my time? Chris, what would advise me to do?”
(Please be aware that this same piece of marketing advice that we gave applies to all types of businesses, whether you are a service business, retail business, accountant, distributor, or whatever. No matter what, you will be at least 10 Times More Effective when using a marketing strategy as opposed to having no strategy.)
My response and marketing advice is below….
Alice, I am going to come right out and say, “You would get 10 TIMES BETTER RESULTS if you first developed an overall marketing strategy.”
What you are doing now is what I call the “Trial and Error Death Trap.” It sounds something like this: “Well, we tried that for a while and it didn’t really work. So now we are going to do this. I just don’t get it. I mean all of my competitors do it so it must work. But why don’t I see any results?”
Here’s what you need to do to be excellent in marketing and have a thriving business:
Identify your target market.
Which businesses need cleaning services? Which ones can afford it and will pay for it? Why?
In your case, I would think that small businesses may not be your ideal client. But then again, define “small business.” Are you referring to sales volume or number of employees.
I can tell you right now as a marketing consultant that has worked with a wide variety of businesses, including small companies:
“Small businesses are very price sensitive and prefer to do more themselves rather than pay someone else.” (They hold this belief even if it would free up more time to be more productive. Go figure?)
So before you randomly begin picking a target market, have a rational reason why. Continue to read below and you’ll begin to see what I am talking about.
Determine their wants and needs.
It may be obvious to you, but ask yourself: “Why would someone want a clean office?”
Your answer might be: “Why wouldn’t they?”
But you have to speak “their language” and relate to their situation. For example, some businesses do all business by telephone, or Internet orders, or outbound sales people, or direct mail/catalogues, etc, etc.
These businesses never have walk-in traffic. They do not have customers visit them. So naturally, there is far less of a concern for a “clean office.” Sure it would be nice to have, but since no revenue will be lost if their office is not spectacular looking, they are not motivated to do anything about it.
However, seek out the businesses that do deal with customers directly, especially professional services where they have very high end clients visit them. Now they NEED a very presentable office or they risk losing out on a lot of revenue.
Determine the level and type of demand.
If you have ever read any of my previous work, you will know that I am a very strong advocate of knowing whether the type of demand is “Primary Demand” or “Selective Demand.” It is one of the most overlooked aspects of marketing being ignored today! Primary Demand: If a business does not already use your TYPE of service and is not currently considering doing so, you will need to create “primary demand.” Simply put, you will have to convince them first to even want your type of service (or product) before you even get them to buy it from you.
So for your cleaning business example, if you are approaching businesses that currently do not use a cleaning service, you will have to explain the time saving and productivity enhancing benefits of using one. Then explain why YOU are the one they need!
Selective Demand: These businesses already use a service (or product) or are in the market for it and are actively looking. In these cases you do not need to spend much effort convincing them “why” they need it.
In this case, you must state your argument why your cleaning service should be the one they choose.
This is what you will encounter when you call on or contact businesses already using a cleaning service. They will either be satisfied or unsatisfied with their current service provider. Your emphasis will have to be on “conquest sales” — meaning stealing customers from your competition.
Now in your line of business and in many others, slashing prices always seems to be the first technique used to steal customers. This may work well for selling products. But if you are marketing services, let me tell you this…think twice before doing that.
Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that there will be businesses that will be open to talking to you if you offer them a better deal. In some cases, they may feel they are legitimately getting “ripped off” or paying way too much right now. And they just might be right. In those cases, if you can give them a fair price that is a better deal for them AND still gives you healthy profit margins, then go for it.
However, if you are slashing prices just to gain clients, aren’t you really just hurting yourself in the long run? First of all, you can easily get into the game of “How low will they go?” Secondly, it de-values your perception of quality if you are “cheap.” Thirdly, who’s to say after all this effort, you won’t lose the business in a month or two when someone else quotes them an even lower price?
What will you do next, price so low that you lose money with every client? I didn’t think so.
Here’s what you could do though…
Develop a Hypothesis and a Solution to Match.
After you know your target market, have defined their needs, and analyzed the competitive picture (currently using or not currently using a service like mine) go ahead and develop a clearly thought out hypothesis.
For example, start with business NOT currently using a cleaning service, but that deal with customers or clients regularly at their location.
Develop a strong case for WHY they would be wise to invest in your cleaning services. Show them on a break-even analysis that your fee will be well compensated in either customer retention or converting a higher level of store traffic or business appointments into paying customers/clients.
Then state your case why it is more cost effective and saves them valuable time to outsource this to you rather than doing it themselves or paying an employee overtime to do it. You can also emphasize that you are the “expert” at this, not someone’s secretary so it is expected that you will do a far better job at it.
For businesses that ARE already using a cleaning service or are currently “shopping” for one, state why you are unique and better.
Determine the really compelling reasons why these businesses want a cleaning service to begin with.
Maybe it is a retail store that wants to create a better first impression for their customers. This will ultimately lead to a better customer experience and ultimately more in-store purchases.
A good example may be that unlike most competitors, you also clean windows. Well, as a marketing consultant to retail businesses, I can tell you that many “passerby’s” will first look in a store window before deciding to walk in or not.
Now for successful marketing, all retail businesses would perform better if they had more in-store traffic. So therefore, if your cleaning service also cleans windows, you could rightfully justify that your services are more valuable to their retail business. You actually HELP them get more customers and sell more products.
Maybe it is a professional service business that needs to impress prospective clients to choose their services over a similar competitor.
Your cleaning service may dust chairs and polish wooden conference tables. Many other cleaning services may not do this or do a poor job in doing so.
Now, as marketing consultants to service businesses, I can also tell you that if a consultant, attorney, accountant, or any other business professional needs to meet with prospective clients in their office, they will appreciate a better appearance. So if your cleaning services can provide this better than anyone else (or at least if you tell them about this first) you will get the business or at least be highly considered for it!
Whatever the case may be, establish what makes you different and have you are best suited to meet their needs.
Do you see where I am going with this? Your initial marketing questions asked how you can get more business by passing out flyers or sending faxes to small offices. Truthfully, that is simply not going to work. You are not looking at the overall big picture of why anyone would either want to hire a cleaning service or to hire your particular cleaning service.
You must make AN OFFER.
Here are some examples:
Marketing message/sales offer to a business that does NOT currently use a cleaning service
“If you have never considered using a cleaning service before, allow us to show you how XYZ Cleaning, Inc can make your store/office more presentable to customers and how this newly improved appearance will affect your cash register/bank statement.
If you are weary of trying new things, don’t worry. Use us FREE for one month and if you are not completely satisfied with the results, if you are not completely confident that it makes a difference to your customers, if you are not completely aware of how it raises the morale of your employees, then you do not have to using us again.
But if YOU DO see a great improvement, we’ll make you a great deal on our services, simply because we want your long term business.” Marketing message/sales offer to businesses that DO currently use a cleaning service
“I understand that you currently use ABC Cleaners, LLC. Now you may or may not be completely happy right now, but I want to make you a no-risk offer you can’t refuse.
The truth is that you likely get consumed in your day to day activities in running your business, overseeing operations, managing employees, and handling customers. Therefore, there may be little “imperfections” your cleaning service is making that goes unnoticed by you. But don’t assume for one minute that your customers or potential customers won’t notice. And remember, first impressions DO count!
So here’s our offer. Have us come in the morning after your regular cleaning service cleans your office. We will do a thorough inspection with you present and look for anything they may have done a less-than-satisfactory job on. Then we’ll show you why you probably over looked it for so long, but why your customers will take notice and how they will think differently about you because of it. Now, if everything is already 100% completely clean and presentable, we’ll thank you for your time and then be on our way. But, if together we find lots of “little things” that are carelessly being done we will clean/fix it for you for FREE.
That’s right, use our services as a compliment to what you are already paying for. Compare the quality of work we do to what you are already paying for. If you can see the difference in what we do for you, compared to what you are already paying for, then consider us as your new cleaning service.”
Develop your marketing message
Once you understand the true needs your potential clients have and the unique and competitive solutions you can offer, only then should you develop your marketing copy — your sales pitch.
The two examples above incorporate great marketing copy with a strong, benefits related offer.
You can then deliver this through direct mail, telemarketing, or a combination of both.
I would only recommend distributing flyers if you are confident you can place there where they will get read by people who make the decision to hire a cleaning service. So if there is an “Open Bulletin” board in an office building, then go for it. However, they are rare and you probably need permission anyway.
I’d avoid the fax marketing altogether. It’s quite annoying, ties up there fax line, and unless people have already heard of you, they are more likely to toss your message in the garbage.
Try sending direct mail to the decision makers of these target companies and describe the benefits they will experience from using your services.
Even after identifying the businesses that are most likely to need your services, after you have identified a solution, and even after you contacted them with a compelling offer, you still have to follow up.
Chances are they loved the sound of it when they got it. They had every intention of following up with you. But then just got busy. So your follow up call can make all the difference in the world and get your foot in the door … in a very big way.
Then it’s up to you to DELIVER on your promise.
Philippi Marketing & Associates