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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

Marketing Your Business in Tough Times

Written by  Lisa Kopochinski

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Many things change: economies, competition, customers’ needs and desires. What does remain constant is that the best way to generate new business, especially in a tough economy, is to service your existing customers well.

While this may seem to be a given, it’s surprising how often business owners forget this basic business 101 principle.

“Challenging environments present great opportunities for demonstrating creativity and flexibility in working with your clients to satisfy their needs,” says Lance Tullius, a partner with Portland, OR-based Tullius Partners. “Doing so will strengthen the tie between you and the customer, and likely lead to opportunities for new and attractive business.”

Adds Russ Zito, president of Pro Clean Maintenance in Reno, NV, “Spending more time with existing clients doing quality control and building/mending relationships should not be overlooked. It is much more difficult to replace an existing client than to consistently ‘do good work.’”

Building service contractors also need to realize that the rules of business have While this may seem to be a given, it’s surprising how often business owners forget this basic business 101 principle.

“Challenging environments present great opportunities for demonstrating creativity and flexibility in working with your clients to satisfy their needs,” says Lance Tullius, a partner with Portland, OR-based Tullius Partners. “Doing so will strengthen the tie between you and the customer, and likely lead to opportunities for new and attractive business.”

Adds Russ Zito, president of Pro Clean Maintenance in Reno, NV, “Spending more time with existing clients doing quality control and building/mending relationships should not be overlooked. It is much more difficult to replace an existing client than to consistently ‘do good work.’”

Building service contractors also need to realize that the rules of business have related field that he felt gave him a jump on the competition. Now he says, there are more service contractors who are educated and experienced in more aspects of the business. “And with today’s technology, they are better able to manage workforce, cash flow, supply ordering and accounting. But there are also alot of start-up mom/pop services that have little or no experience, no insurance or bonding who consistently are low bidders.”

To help combat these challenges, there are things you can do. For instance, improve your marketing materials and update your Web site annually.

“I like direct selling to prospective clients and direct mail as a follow up to these prospects,” says Taylor Bruce, CBSE, president of IH Services Inc., which has its headquarters in Greenville, SC. “But the biggest obstacle today is being able to sell a project face to face. In today’s fast and furious world, buyers don’t want to take the time to actually see vendors. They just want to look at material at their leisure. It takes persistence and motivation to get through to the right people—the decision makers—where your presentation and salesmanship will make a difference.”

To continue to grow, BSCs must be able to show customers that they are not just another cleaning company. This includes demonstrating how they are different, why there are better and how they can better, and more affordably satisfy the customers cleaning and maintenance needs.

Gary Penrod, a consultant in the cleaning business for 40 years, isn’t so sure the rules of business have changed that much.

“Big promises and small delivery still will not work in the long run. Customers want a good reputation and image that is backed up with excellent delivery.”

He says BSCs must be consistent in getting their message out while making certain that the message sent matches the services provided. “Customers do network among other groups, which is a primary reason for reputation being spread. Poor service delivery is communicated among customers at the speed of light.”

Martin Benom, marketing director at WSA Services Inc. in Los Angeles has worked in the cleaning industry since the late 1950s.

“Creating a relationship with both clients and potential clients has always been the backbone of our industry,” he says. “When it comes time to make cuts, it is more likely the client will discuss it with you if you have built a relationship with them. We need to recognize that we are all in this economy together and a client would rather work with you than begin with a new vendor, providing you have served them well and have open communication and are willing to adapt as their economic realities demand.”

Zito, meanwhile, has found it essential to contact every client to ask if they need to reduce their number of service days, or need a reasonable discount (after reviewing cost/profit).

“I even ask if they should consider doing the work in-house. If I do this, I feel the relationship may well be strengthened. I have lost a few clients, but they may come back in the future because they now know I have their best interest in mind.”

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