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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

Selling Big on a Small Budget


After 45-plus years in the building service contracting business, one of the questions I get asked most is, “How can I secure the good customers?” This is a universal problem, especially for emerging companies attempting to compete in the market against larger and many times better-known companies. To complicate the issue, most of the time, we are attempting to compete with a very limited or sometimes non-existent budget.

Keeping budget and time constraints in mind, here are two ways that can make a huge impact and secure a major share of the marketplace. I have used both methods extensively and found them to be extremely effective.

Weekly Targeted Mailings

In short, this is a program of sending about 50 information packets to your prospects each Friday and then calling them Wednesday or Thursday the next week to ask for a 20-minute appointment to review the information with them.

Include in your packet information such as:

  • Specific points why your company is a viable alternative to their current vendor. Do you have specific systems and processes unique to the industry that will catch their eye, such as a specialized medical facility training program, a 24/7 call center, special customer e-mail communication system, or an online quality tracking system?

  • Include pictures of your key staff members (even if you are the key staff member) and their years of service to you and/or the industry. Highlight the individuals that would be responsible for their account. If it is you, say so.

  • Include a brief outline of the additional services you offer. This is another way to catch their eye.

I recommend you develop a file-folder holder and place the information in the folder with a cut on it just like a regular file folder. This cut would have the name of your company so when they place it in the fi le, yours is the one that is a “cut above” the rest. Your local printer can help you design the folder. Have it done in your company colors with your company logo prominently displayed.

Other key points to remember when using this method of prospecting:

  • Be consistent in your mailings. Mail them weekly.

  • Do not fail to call the following Wednesday or Thursday (choose a day and stick to it).

  • Ask for a 20-minute appointment. Ask for an opportunity to present a proposal (not bid).

  • Be on time.

Hit List Mailings

These are upscale mailings, done at predetermined scheduled times throughout the year, aimed at your major prospects. These are the 10, 20 or 30 key prospects in your market area that you have determined are the ones that best fit your ability to service. These key prospects are not necessarily the biggest companies in your area, but rather the best ones for you.

The mailings are not just letters but actual, mostly usable items that have a lasting effect so the customer always knows who provided them. I try to mail them around a special event or holiday. For example, around the fourth of July, you may want to send a mailer with the American flag and the message, “Celebrate your independence from cleaning worries. Call our company today for a firecracker of a deal that won’t explode your budget!”

Two of my favorites that have created some of our most effective results were a prescription bottle and a miniature metal trash can. The bottle was filled with individually wrapped jelly beans. On the outside of the bottle, the prescription reads: “Take two jelly beans, call our company, take two more jelly beans, call our company, etc.” Then the warning label reads: “Warning: Our company can be pleasantly habit forming.” In addition, we included some wording that reminded them we wanted to be their PPO (Preferred Provider Organization).

The miniature trash can contained a crumbled up piece of paper with a message to the effect that, “We don’t sit on our can. We do the work right and at a fair price. No trash talk.”

As a side note, these two items became so popular that we ended up using them as calling cards in some places. Imagine a sales representative that leaves a miniature trash can or prescription bottle as a calling card!

Budget about $8 to $12 per item for each mailing. If you have 20 prospects on your list, $100 to $250 will produce a very effective mailer that gets to the buyer. These mailers get where they need to be and don’t go in the trash can (no pun intended).

Some important points to remember when setting up a “hit list” program are:

  • Always do it in good taste. Don’t mail items that can be deemed offensive. When in doubt, don’t.

  • Be prompt. If you are developing the mailer around a certain date or event, be sure the mailer gets there before the event. For example, one year our company sent a small basketball goal and basketball tied in with the NCAA college basketball tournament in March. The wording was developed around “March Madness.” We made sure the mailer arrived on the Monday after selection Sunday.

  • Be sure you have the correct box, package, etc. in which to place the article. Check with the post office for the box you need.

  • Ensure the postage is correct.

  • Remember to put your business card and a business reply card in with the item being mailed. Be sure the business reply card is printed to postal regulations.

  • Find a good advertising specialty company to work with. Tell them what you are looking for and have them keep alert for unusual items that will get the attention of your prospects.

  • Plan ahead—about one year out.

  • Always call a week after the mailing to ask for a 20-minute appointment.

Both of these methods are very effective to get in front of the buyers you want with a minimal investment. I encourage you to consider either or both of these ideas if you are operating on a limited budget for marketing your company and securing new customers. When planned correctly, they are extremely effective.

Dick Ollek, CBSE has been in the building service contracting industry for more than 45 years and has owned his own company for 34 years. He is a BSCAI past president and currently serves as the owner and senior consulting partner for Consultants Inc. Cleaning, LLC, Camdenton, Mo. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www. consultantsincleaning.com.


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