Carpet Cleaning Business Management

How to Get OPM

“Three groups spend Other People’s Money: children, thieves, politicians. All three need supervision.”

– Dick Armey

Gordon Gekko made the acronym “OPM” famous in the movie Wall Street by going after “Other People’s Money.” But you need to focus on a different OPM: Other People Marketing…for you!

All carpet cleaners have to get the word out on their services. Twenty years ago a carpet cleaner’s advertising dollar would usually be split between the newspaper and the Yellow Pages. Today, due to declining readership, these mass mediums are usually a complete disaster.

Focus now on that word “mass.” When you advertise to a large population, you pay dearly for that huge exposure. The problem? You literally are looking for the needle in the haystack!

Think about it: what are the odds of someone reading a newspaper ad and recognizing that their carpets need to be cleaned right now and actually writing down your number and giving you a call?

Pretty slim, right? And yet you are paying for each and every person who is exposed to your message including the 99.9999% who have no need of (or don’t want) your services at that point in time!

In the past, the theory was that this “institutional advertising” would build your brand. And yes, it is a great goal to “emotionally brand” your company. But selling yourself only through mass-market advertising is a very slow and expensive process.

The better alternative has always been the ever-elusive word-of-mouth advertising. After all, when a delighted past customer recommends you this referral confers the “Crown of Third Party Credibility” upon you!

But getting your residential clients to consistently refer you is a tricky proposition, now more so than ever. Why? Because our increasingly mobile population has become more and more disconnected. Think about it: how often do you do more than just casually wave at your neighbors? (I’ll discuss ways to tap in to social networking referrals in an upcoming To Your Success column.)

Plus, it is tough to keep that coveted “Top of Mind Awareness” in even your most delighted customers. (Translation: people forget about you!)

But now imagine having dozens, even hundreds, of business “hubs” out there referring your services and at little or no cost to you! You’ll develop these centers of influence among businesses that serve the same type of clients who already use your services. Marketing expert Bill Yeadon calls this strategy…

Hub Marketing

Your goal? To develop relationships with other small businesses that will consistently send their clients to your company. Let’s look at a few good hub marketing candidates and how to motivate them to refer your services: Veterinarians. Dogs (and cats) really are a carpet cleaner’s best friends! So you should cultivate the professionals who serve this industry. So offer to clean vets offices one time for free to “strut your stuff.” Or give them a coupon good for a free cleaning (and deodorization) of their own living room, dining room and hall. Ditto on pet groomers, pet spas, pet boarding facilities and the big pet superstores.

You should focus on the whole pet culture. Remember, pet owners spend over $50 billion per year on their loved ones. Just how attached are pets to their masters? Forty-two percent of all dogs sleep in their owner’s beds! Even better for you, many of these little furry balls of delight are merrily peeing away inside their owner’s homes! So how can you access this “income stream”? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

Remember that pet owners are a gregarious bunch who love to display and show off their animals. So look for pet walks, parades and shows and offer to be a sponsor. Many times your company can be on-site giving away free food, water or treats to the doggies and kitties and their owners! And be sure to support your Humane Society’s fund raising efforts.

Note: Type “pet charity events” with the name of your city into Google and see how many great pet PR opportunities you have locally.


Furniture and carpet stores. Most furniture and flooring stores have someone on staff who helps clients choose colors and interior textiles. Plus, retailers constantly have problems that you can help them with: spots or shipping damage on upholstered furniture, tracked up carpets due to idiot installers plus their own store needs the carpets maintained. Help them with these challenges and you will become their go-to-guy when they refer a cleaner to their clients.   (In our next “To Your Success” I’ll share some great ideas on how to formalize and streamline a win-win referral relationship between you and a carpet retailer.)

Interior designers. These people work in a very rarified atmosphere. They have close relationships with wealthy and very discriminating customers- exactly the sort of people you want to work for. So get to know designers; become a resource for them. Clean their showroom or home one time for free, then see where your new relationship leads. Or give interior designers bottles of your Lifetime Free carpet spotter (with your logo and contact info on it) to hand out for free to their clients.

Appliance delivery services. These folks bring some very expensive appliances in to some very exclusive homes. In the process they get to know your high-end customer and/or track up their carpets! Either way they very likely may be a source of some very profitable work! (It is often worthwhile to discount your services when you fix a delivery service’s boo-boo just to build a future relationship with the homeowner.)

Real estate agents. Real estate professionals are your contacts to people new in town and/or who often need your services. So make yourself valuable to them. Hint: When you clean the vacant home include a free traffic lane cleaning the realtor can use later to touch up the carpets down the road. Those “Open House” showings can be tough on carpets!


Note: Some carpet cleaners offer real estate agents a kick back (disguised as a “finder’s fee”) for referring them. However, this practice will offend many agents. Instead, help them with your free traffic lane cleaning touch-up offer and they’ll love your forever!

All of these hub marketing referral areas will be huge resources for you. But remember- you only get one chance with any of these professionals. So a few essential reminders:

Don’t expect immediate results. It usually takes time (and repeated visits) to break into the consciousness of your targeted hub business. So keep stopping by and working on the relationship. Hint: The pharmaceutical industry has learned that food is a great way to break down barriers to doctor’s medical practices. So bringing in high-end candy, donuts or other favorite foods is a neat route to the hearts of your hub’s employees, which reminds me…

Don’t just focus on the owner or manager. Your goal is to build relationships with all of your hub’s employees. So on your first visit try and learn all the employee’s names. Write them down in your hub marketing route log where you track your visits, what you discussed and when to make your next visit.

Do the old “quid pro quo.” Obviously, you will want to support those companies who support you. Do so with your own personal buying. Or ask your hub business if they have coupons they would like you to hand out to your clients that need their services. If you do be sure to write your name on it so when the coupon is redeemed you get the credit for the referral!

Above all else, have your act together. If you screw up a client your hub has recommended, then it reflects poorly on them. So make sure you give these precious referrals the deluxe treatment. Even better, blow these referred clients away with your Value Added Service and they will become new homeowner Cheerleader hubs for your services! Remember, nothing beats Other People Marketing…for you!

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Recent Articles by Steve Toburen

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