As much as the industry has changed, many cleaning contractors find that the old-fashioned way of marketing—making cold calls, often by walking into facilities they wish to clean—is still an effective way to secure new customers. However, many cleaning contractors do not like this or any type of cold calling, and many more simply do not have the time to do it.
So what are the alternatives? Some surveys indicate that direct mail—whether by fax, e-mail, or snail mail—has a relatively low return rate. My own experience with direct mail is that it is not effective in our industry. A website, which is now a must for every business, can surely help, but in most cases will bring in only a few new customers. Hiring a salesperson can prove to be effective, but for a smaller company, a quality salesperson can be hard to find and costly.
It is for these and other reasons that many building service contractors are giving social media—YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc—serious consideration. And while social media sites are not a panacea, it appears that they can be helpful in marketing cleaning companies, and their ability to draw more customers in the future is likely to grow. So astute BSCs are wise to take a serious look at the various social media outlets now available and become familiar with how they work, with the goal of finding out whether social media can help build business.
First, the Stats
Typically, statistics reported about the power and influence of social media refer to B2C (business-to-consumer) social media sites. An example of this in the professional cleaning industry would be BSCs that provide residential cleaning. However, most BSCs are in the B2B (business-to-business) market, and this sector, while it is improving, is not witnessing the same positive marketing impacts as is the B2C sector. This means that all of the following statistics, while based on recent, credible studies, must be taken with a grain of salt. View them as a snapshot of the emerging impact of social media on scores of industries and market segments.
According to the 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, released in May 2013, the following trends regarding social media have evolved:
• 86 percent of the marketers surveyed indicate social media is important for their businesses.
• However, nearly 90 percent say they are still looking for effective ways to use social media.
• Interest in YouTube is growing, with nearly 70-percent believing it is becoming much more important for businesses wanting to market their products or services.
• Facebook and LinkedIn are the two most important social networks for marketers. However, when required to pick the platform they think is best, 49 percent selected Facebook followed by LinkedIn at only 16 percent. The rest selected other social media sites.
• Related to the statistic that found most marketers are still trying to figure out how to best use social media for marketing purposes, the study found that 63 percent of the marketers do not think their own social media efforts at this time are effective.
• As to the most significant reason given to be involved with social media platforms, nearly 90-percent stated “the increased exposure [is] the number one benefit,” noting that the social media platforms had resulted in enhanced search engine optimization.
This last point may prove to be one of the most significant for BSCs at this time. If social media helps improve your company’s chances not only of being picked up in key search engines but also of being given a prominent position, that alone can be an important reason for your business to be involved with social media.
Focus on Facebook
Most of us are familiar with Facebook because we use it for personal and family reasons.However, using it for business is totally different. It requires patience and—just as important—persistence. If you do not plan to keep your Facebook site updated, then it is probably best not to have one. A social media site can go stale quickly, becoming a bad reflection on thebusiness that owns it.
The following are 10 tips that should help BSCs use Facebook more strategically and effectively:
1. Identify your customer. When I was a BSC, my company specialized in cleaning architectural offices and law offices. If you target a specific market segment, try to provide content that would appeal to that industry.
2. Maintain a consistent look and feel. Your business Facebook site should have a look and feel similar to that of your website. Also, if you use keywords on your website to help brand your company, use those same terms on your Facebook site.
3. Decide who will be posting to Facebook. It is typically best that only one or two people be directly involved in posting to the site.
4. Specify your location. Most BSCs clean facilities in a specific area or city. Facebook allows you to post your business location. This makes it easier for potential customers in your area to find you.
5. Have a posting plan. Decide how many days per week you plan to post updates on your Facebook site. Three to five is often recommended. Also, some experts suggest having some type of posting routine. For instance, Monday might be “thought for the week,” Tuesday a company/customer photo, Thursday a cleaning tip, etc.
6. Promote the site via e-mail. Once your Facebook site is up and running, notify all business associates about the site, and encourage them to visit it and become fans.
7. Advertise the site. Once the site is up, add information about it to all marketing materials, on your business website, on invoices—anywhere you can think would be helpful. Additionally, Facebook allows you to advertise the site. While this may pull visitors that may not benefit from your services, it does build the fan base significantly and inexpensively. Also, each new fan has an estimated 130 fans on his or her site. Often one or more of their fans will “Like” your site as well.
8. Monitor your success. Facebook is equipped with an analytic feature. Study it and see which types of posts seem to get the most attention, if there is a certain time of the day that gets more attention than others, and if there is a time or posting that appears to generate more Likes than others.
9. Engage. Some say this is the most important marketing attribute of social media. Most forms of marketing are one-way communication, but with social media, current as well as potential customers and others can reach out to you. Be sure and respond and encourage dialogue.
10. Accept and respond. Accept the fact that not every comment posted to your business Facebook site will be positive. Cleaning is a subjective industry, and even the best service will have unhappy customers. You have three choices when this happens: do nothing, respond, or remove the posting. Of the three, responding is typically the best. Experts often recommend apologizing on the Facebook site and indicating you will contact the individual privately to take further steps to correct the problem. However, if a posting is abusive or uncalled for, it may have to be removed. Some businesses have had amazing success using social media sites. About four years ago, Dell Computer wanted to sell out a certain product line and was willing to offer a special discount to do so. To experiment with social media, Dell Tweeted about the special offer early one morning. By the end of the day, Dell had sold about a million dollars’ worth of that product line—and it cost nothing but one Tweet.
I’m sure many BSCs wish they could do the same for their companies. Unfortunately, social media is not a magic wand. But it is likely that its power and potential will grow significantly in years to come. Because of this, the best advice one can offer is to get involved with it now—so you don’t have to play catch-up a few years down the road.
Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor and now president of AlturaSolutions Communications, a PR/communications firm for the professional cleaning industry.