- THE MAGAZINE
So here in my little area there is a new cleaner in town. I've been hearing from quite a few customers and referral sources how he basically tells them "Whatever (my company name) charges, I can beat their price." Steve, it sure sounds like this fellow is gunning for me!
So now is when we'll see if my marketing and quality work will pay off or if this “cut-rate/rush- through-the-job” guy will win out!
Steve, I know you totally dominated the small market you worked in. What would you do in my situation with a new cleaner obviously trying to run me out of business?
-Irritated in Idaho
Wow, Irritated, you are taking me back in time! More years ago than I care to remember, a new carpet cleaner came to my town. I met him, and while he was civil to me, I could tell he was both intensely competitive and very insecure. Bad combination! I'll call him "George."
Just like you, Irritated, over the months I slowly started to hear through the grapevine that George was gunning for me. In fact, he was telling people that he planned to run me out of business. (At the time we had been in business for about 10 years and were at around $750K in annual volume with three truckmounts.)
Then several long-standing commercial clients independently told me that George had visited them, told them that he had seen my vans parked outside their building cleaning and that whatever I was charging them he would do it cheaper. Hmmm…
Surprisingly, none of my accounts jumped ship as the offer sort of struck them as weird. (It also helped that George had a rather frightening appearance and an unstable demeanor in person!) So I figured this would sort itself out as it always does and I basically ignored George’s efforts.
Then after a long winter, springtime finally arrived. For many years we had been cleaning a large bed and breakfast on the first week of May. And sure enough, the first of April we had called the B&B up and the job was booked as usual. (I’ll call the owner “Rick.”)
Three days before the cleaning date, Rick called me in a rather perplexed fashion. The conversation went like this:
Rick: "Steve, some fellow named George stopped by yesterday and solicited my carpet cleaning."
Me: "Yeah, he's a new guy in town. I really don't know much about him."
Rick: "Well, Steve, the weirdest thing happened. I told him your company had been doing my carpets for many years and we were real happy. In fact, you were already scheduled to come out on Monday and do the work."
Me: "Well, I appreciate your loyalty, Rick."
Rick: (coughs) "Errr, well, Steve, I don’t know how to tell you this. This guy George got pretty agitated and said that he was trying to break into the business here. In fact, he said he wanted my business so bad that he would clean my entire bed and breakfast for free as long as I didn’t let you do it..."
There was a long pause here...
Me: "Wow, Rick. That's kind of sad, isn't it? ‘Free’ is kind of tough for me to compete with! What do you want to do?"
Rick: "Uhhhh, Steve, I don’t know what to say. You and I go way back but it's been a slow winter and frankly, if I let this guy clean my place for free it will save me almost $1,000. So I told him to come on out. I'm sorry and I did want to talk with you about it personally. I hope you understand..."
Me: "That's OK, Rick. Give him a try. We're real busy anyway and I'll just rebook the day. No hard feelings and I really appreciate you calling me. However, Rick, I will plan to clean all your carpets next year! As a business man you know that with George giving his work away for free he won’t be here six months from now!"
Sure enough, George lasted through the summer and moved on. I heard later that his wife had left him and his children turned against him and he was in bankruptcy. Very sad for all concerned… including George. This is a true story.
Oh and by the way, Irritated, we cleaned Rick's carpet next spring and for years to come. And I did not have to tell him “I told you so.” Rick reminded me. Several times in fact!
So what should you do, Irritated? I guess all of the above was my long-winded way of telling you to stay the course and don’t panic! Instead, focus on branding your company by building “marketing hubs” that refer your services for free!
NOTE: How can a carpet cleaner successfully do this hub marketing? Write me at stoburen@StrategiesForSuccess.com and I’ll e-mail you our “Hub Marketing: Breaking Through Barriers” special report free of charge.
Once you get customers calling you, just keep on doing great work. Above all else, focus on building a professional relationship with each and every client. This in turn will create “customer cheerleaders” that will be incredibly loyal to you no matter who tries to steal them!
Let me know how your story turns out!
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