ICS Magazine

Advertising Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make

May 11, 2010


Bad advertising choices can quickly kill a company. After labor, advertising is one of the biggest expenses for most cleaning companies. A few wrong choices can lead to thousands of lost profit dollars.

Many cleaning company owners are afraid to advertise. While it’s possible to grow your company by word of mouth only, advertising can get you where you want to be much quicker.

Here are advertising mistakes commonly costing cleaning companies money and how you can avoid them.

Buying Advertising Based on a Sales Call

Never allow a salesperson to choose your advertising for you. When a salesperson calls, the best thing you can do is ask him to send or leave you information. Consider his media the next time you work on your advertising plan; if it’s the best choice to get your message out, call him back. Plan your advertising quarterly and stick to your plan!

No Headline

The vast majority of cleaning-company ads have no benefit-driven headline at the top. David Ogilvy, known as the Father of Advertising, said, “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

If the headline doesn’t catch attention in a meaningful way, you lose. Put a headline at the top of your ad that catches attention and tells your prospect what they’ll get from reading your ad. When you’re stumped for a good headline, one dependable approach is the “How to” headline, e.g. “How to Get the Best Carpet Cleaning.”

“I’ve had the fortune of always having someone who knew to do this for me. After taking programs from some of the marketing gurus I found even more ways to make this work,” Mark Church, owner of Master Care in Roseburg, Ore., said. “I have a small ad in the Yellow Pages that asks a question and then answers it with benefits. I am always being told that people like my ad over the other big ads because I told them how I can benefit them, not how good I think I am. I can truly testify that a headline is a must.”

Not Marketing Online

If you’re not marketing hard online, you’re losing clients. Having a website is a good place to start, but it’s time you take the next step. E-mail marketing, social media, SEO, and pay-per-click are things you should be doing. If you’ve no idea what those terms are, just Google them. And if you don’t know how to “Google,” attend a computer class or ask the nearest teenager.

“I have tried marketing online for years with our website. Unfortunately, not all IT people know exactly what a business needs to do,” Sylvie Lariviere-Traub, president of Four Seasons Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning in Oxnard, Calif., said. “I can say that I have learned a lot and I am still learning more everyday. We have improved our website and have seen results with customers who Googled us.”

Not Making an Offer

Every ad you run should offer your prospect something specific. The ad should break down the offer and tell your prospect exactly how they can take advantage. The offer should be unique and irresistible. Avoid using offers that your competitors use. Instead of giving 10% off, why not give free doormat cleaning with every job? And don’t be afraid to make offers with a few different options.

“Two years ago I had a beautiful full-color insert in the newspaper. My office manager took it upon herself to remove the compelling offer,” Church said. “Bad mistake! Out of 10,000 inserts we got one job.”

Failing to Track Your Results

When a client calls, is your office staff always asking where they are calling from, and how they heard about you? Is this information being recorded so it can be reviewed later? Tracking these results is the only way you can tell if your advertising is working. Many times this can be done by using a unique offer or having a unique code the prospect is instructed to mention when she calls.

Boring Your Prospects

There’s nothing worse than running an ad that looks and sounds just like your competitor’s. If you’re guilty of this, you turn your cleaning company into a commodity, and your prospect will simply go with the lowest bidder.

Open up your Yellow Pages’ carpet cleaning section. I would bet most of the ads could have the logo and phone number changed and it would fit most any other ad. You may as well just spin the wheel and choose whomever the arrow points to when it stops.

No Unique Selling Proposition

What does your company do that differs from your competition? Your ad must say why you are different. And the difference must be a benefit to your prospect.

Boring or Non-Existent Body Copy

Many cleaning ads will simply have a bulleted list of the services they perform. This ain’t gonna cut it! Your prospect isn’t excited about the fact that you do truck-mounted steam cleaning, dry cleaning, or pet odor removal; most every ad boasts those services.

The services you offer are rarely a reason someone will hire you. But they will hire you if you tell them exactly how your company can solve their problems. Don’t be afraid to put this type of information in your ad. When people are interested in hiring you, they want to read about how you can solve their problems.

Irrelevant Pictures and Images

Something many ads lack is meaningful pictures that either enhance the sales message or catch prospects’ attention. But be careful about using pictures solely to catch attention; if the picture is completely irrelevant to the message, your prospect gets turned off.

Making a Boastful Claim, Then Leaving the Prospect Hanging

Here’s an oldie but goodie: “Forget the Rest Try the Best.” Let’s imagine for a second your prospect is intrigued by that statement, and she starts to read more of your ad. What she’s looking for is proof of your bold claim.

If you don’t follow your bold claim with some form of measurable proof, you’ll lose her interest.

Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket

If you’re getting all your advertising from one media, you may get in trouble. What happens when that website, newspaper, or commercial stops working? Your business is sunk.

A common mistake many newbie owners make is putting all their ad dollars in a single advertising medium. This is very dangerous. When you’re trying to grow a company, you have to take action. The key to successful advertising is relentlessly testing several options with the best educated guess you can make.

If plan A fails, move on to plan B until it works. Even the best advertising writers create ads that fail. Be prepared for failure. When you fail, learn from your experience and move on. Test your ads small and never put all your money in one advertising media.

Advertising really isn’t hard. You need to find out who your prospect is and what she wants, and create a message that tells her how you can meet her needs better than any other company. What sometimes is overlooked is the importance of selecting the advertising media that best reaches your prospect with your message.

Stay focused on the goals of your advertising. Then make a wise choice in choosing your media and writing your ad. Don’t make the mistakes other cleaners make.