Know Your Customer, Know Yourself
December 14, 2011
You probably don’t know Paul Kelly. He retired from my company a year ago, having worked for me for the last 14 years. Previous to that, he worked as a professional carpet cleaner since 1985.
Allow me to tell you a little about Paul.
When Paul “retired” a year ago at 65, he went right back to work and joined with his daughter and son-in-law in starting a professional cleaning company. His stated goal was to take everything he had experienced, everything he had taught others and everything he had learned about cleaning and running a business and apply it directly to making his own company a success. His mantra – Be True To Yourself – derived from taking all the positive things he had learned and taught for so many years and applying them, leaving out the shortcuts, and bringing only quality and professionalism to the customer. He would use all the best tools to make this happen.
Paul happens to have been the final keynote speaker at our annual distributor conference this year, and he began his speech by asking his audience, “Who is your ultimate customer?” After a couple of tries, we figured it out: it is Mr. Jones or Mrs. Smith, the homeowner or business owner getting the cleaning or restoration done.
Suppliers are only selling products that ultimately serve the end customer. All products and services are immediately or eventually consumed by servicing that end cleaning and restoration customer. Paul helped us remember that we need to be on the cutting edge of products and services and, just like Paul, to never cut corners, so our ultimate customer always gets the best.
Your business model may be different than Paul’s, but I believe it will serve everyone to consider some of the philosophies and tools he uses. He is amazingly successful and busy after just one year of business. I won’t attempt to explain all of his marketing ideas because, after all, I’m The Gadget Man, not The Marketing Man, but he did tell me that one of his early tactics was to be an expert on just about everything the high-end customer was concerned about.
One of their earliest marketing efforts was to advertise leather care to high-end customers, customers who also had high-value Oriental rugs. This led to cleaning skins (you know, like bear-skin rugs), which in turn led to mounts (yes, the big moose head on the wall). The carpet and tile cleaning was just a natural extension of these other diversifications.
Paul realized from the beginning that he had to get everything possible out of a job. That meant that every carpet and upholstery job needed to have protector applied. Paul knew he could net $400 to $500 per hour while applying protector. His goal was to sell protector on 90% of his carpet cleaning jobs, including commercial jobs. After his first year, he is selling protector on 95% of his jobs.
What is his secret? He includes protector in every one of his bids. To him, it is a forgone conclusion the customers want the best for their furnishings and he confidently assumes they will want the best protector. This confidence is extended when a demonstration is offered to the customer. Taking a small demo kit into each job and demonstrating on real carpet or real upholstery fabric will seal the deal every time (or in Paul’s case, 95% of the time).
Paul didn’t start by saying, “I’ll buy a little pump sprayer or gallon of protector and see how it goes.” No, he bought an electric rechargeable sprayer on wheels that he dedicated to protector application. It was loaded and ready to go on every job. He knew he was going to be selling protector.
By the way, Paul measures everything. He knows exactly where his success is coming from and exactly what he needs to work on every day, every week and every month. Every detail is documented: how much protector he sold that day, how much income came in from rugs that week, and what volume of upholstery cleaning happened last month. Please let me suggest you do the same.
For years Paul taught the value of a giveaway spotter program. Each customer gets a spotter with his name and phone on it. He takes a minute to tell them how to use it, and makes sure they understand the value of this product, as it will not only work on the carpet but is great for upholstery, car interiors and even their clothes. Now some of his customers are calling for another cleaning, yes, but they’re most excited to get another spotter because they have run out.
It was a goal to immediately set his company, Blue Diamond Premium, apart from the pack. He actually has many ways of doing this, but I found his use of the pre-conditioning step to be the most compelling.
Every floor covering, including carpet, rugs, tile and grout, stone, and concrete, gets pre-conditioned with cleaning agent. The next step is to agitate with the counter-rotating brush machine. Paul uses a stainless steel model and keeps it shiny and clean. Only after the brush machine is run over the surface does he move to the extraction process.
Think about the customer viewing this extra step. It is very impressive and is something his competition doesn’t do. However, he doesn’t do it just for show. He says it really makes a difference in loosening the soil and preparing it for extraction. While he takes most of his rugs out of the home for cleaning, he has a video that shows rug washing in a bath of water and cleaning solution, using the counter-rotating brush, that demonstrates to his customers the thorough cleaning of their rugs. The consistent use of the counter-rotating brush sets Paul apart from the competition.
Paul went on to explain how tools of the trade like the carpet drying fan; rotary extractor; Koolglide seaming iron; spot lifting and flood extraction tools; injection sprayers for pre-spray and even mini-air movers for stair drying, give him the opportunity to provide the best service for his customer – the ultimate customer for all of us.
I asked Paul’s permission to include his website (www.BlueDiamondPremium.com) here. As I stated earlier, you may not agree with everything Paul does, but you can surely learn something valuable. He has a short video on the site he says is responsible for 30% of his work. He should know; after all, he measures everything and knows where every job comes from.