Many years ago, a cleaning contractor built his business by just parking his car and calling on every office and building manager up and down the street. It did not matter whether the firm was a bank, a school, an office building, or, in at least two cases, a mortuary. This strategy worked and he picked up new clients, but over time he realized that most of the companies that hired him were architectural firms.
Since the bulk of his customers were architectural firms, he began to learn a lot about these clients and their industry. For instance, they can be very fussy. On the other hand, many were quite willing to pay a premium for cleaning services to have their facilities look exactly how they wanted and how they wanted their customers to see them.
In addition to learning the level of cleaning quality these architectural firms expected, he uncovered many other similarities among the firms. In time, this knowledge and experience led to his company evolving into an expert in cleaning architectural firms and design companies. Once the contractor realized his company had a specialty, he changed his marketing strategy: instead of calling on just any business or facility, he focused only on companies in the architectural and design industry and was ultimately quite successful. So, what does this tell us about marketing strategy?
Establishing a Specialty
Part of a successful cleaning contractor’s marketing strategy is to determine exactly what type of clients to serve. Some contractors specialize in medical facilities, others specialize schools and others specialize in office buildings of a certain size. By focusing on particular types of client, you better understand their cleaning needs and challenges, which makes it easier to satisfy them and keep them as loyal customers.
Specializing in one or more types of clients also makes it easier to “price” an account because you can benchmark the customer against other similar ones.
Specializing is just one of several components of a successful cleaning contractor’s marketing strategy. Let’s discuss other marketing strategies cleaning contractors should consider.
"Part of a Successful Cleaning Contractor's Marketing Strategy is to Determine Exactly What Type of Clients to Serve."
Taking Advantage of Inbound Marketing
Let’s face it: While cleaning contractors should always be looking for marketing opportunities, what often happens today is a form of “inbound marketing.” This is when a tech-savvy facility manager has done his or her research online on reputable cleaning contractors and calls you inquiring about your cleaning services.
When you receive such a call, it’s essential you find out exactly how this prospective client found you. If you have been writing blogs on your company website, posting articles on LinkedIn, tweeting, posting on your company’s Facebook page or a combination of all of these and more, you want to know how they found out about you.
If, for instance, the prospect says that he or she found you by seeing a post on your company’s LinkedIn page, keep track of this. Then, if you discover that’s how other potential clients find you, you can now focus your inbound marketing program on those sites that are generating the most interest in and for your company and the services it offers.
Getting the Right Size Clients
As part of your marketing strategy, it’s an excellent idea to establish what size clients you want. You should be able to determine this based on how often the client wants service and how much money this will likely bring in. For instance, some weekend mom-and-pop cleaning contractors specialize in, and prefer small, once-a-week customers and are perfectly happy with the amount of money these pay.
For a much larger cleaning contractor, taking an account that is cleaned only once per week and pays a small amount would typically be a burden. It could even cost a large contractor money to service such an account. No contractor wants to lose money on an account. For a large contractor, these smaller customers may not economic or practical sense.
This also leads to another part of any marketing strategy: Let’s say your service only takes accounts that are cleaned five nights per week or more and sure enough, you get a call from a prospect that wants cleaning five nights a week. Sounds good, right? But then the prospect describes the facility and asks you to give them an estimate of what you would charge either on the phone or after your tour of the facility.
This question poses both an opportunity and a problem. One option is to avoid answering the question by saying that you prefer not to give a ballpark figure and the estimate will be provided in the proposal.
However, an opportunity presents itself if you instead answer with the following: “We clean offices similar in size to this with the same cleaning frequency and our charges typically range from X dollars to X dollars. Will that fit into your budget?”
If the client says that number is too high, and you believe it is a fair amount, that’s not bad news. It means that client is not a right fit. It’s important for contractors to get out of the low-bid game. Your job is to protect the health of the people in the facility as well as the facility itself. The low bid contractor usually cannot do this.
However, if the client says that your charges are in the range they were expecting (or currently paying), it tells you that you have a real, viable customer to pursue. Move forward.
These are just a few marketing strategies to consider, but they are essential ones. By following these procedures, you help ensure that you are getting the right types of clients that make economic sense for your business.
Ron Segura is founder and president of Segura & Associates, an international janitorial consulting company based in the U.S. He has more than 45 years of experience in all segments of the cleaning industry, with 10 of those years spent overseeing the cleaning of more than 4.5 million square feet for The Walt Disney Company. Ron can be contacted through his company website at http://www.seguraassociates.com.