People often get so caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of running a business that they forget to look at the bigger picture—How are they going to get new clients, and establish a relationship with the existing clientele?
The industry offers a number of marketing programs created by carpet cleaners themselves. The program founders have already lived the pitfalls and hardships of owning a cleaning business and want to help smooth the road for the colleagues that come after them.
“We started our program because we’ve been through the struggles of growing our own businesses and thought, ‘if we had only known then what we know now, it would have been so much easier and fulfilling’,” said Scott Rendall of BRC Systems Solutions. “BRC Systems Solutions offers a program that contains forms, plans, and written systems templates that, when implemented, help the small business owner achieve his/her goals. The program’s templates are geared toward the carpet cleaning business specifically.” In addition to a 15-day money back guarantee, BRC offers technical support via e-mail or phone. As Rendall says, “We are cleaners and business people ourselves. We love to talk shop and help people solve problems.”
Howard Partridge of Phenomenal Products Inc. started his carpet cleaning business out of the trunk of his car in 1984 and in October 1998, he started his marketing program. “I started it because I felt like there was a void in the amount of information available to carpet cleaners,” He adds, “I modeled the program after my own success and the success that I saw in other professional cleaners. Basically, I went after a niche market—guys that want to do high-end residential jobs—because that’s what I did.” Partridge’s program emphasizes the idea that people are buying the service and therefore, more focus needs to be made in marketing as to why the customer is coming to you—for your reputation, your experience, your certification, etc. He adds that the more a customer is educated about the benefits of the service you are providing, the more value they are going to put on it. In addition to the marketing program, Partridge explains, “I offer one hour, one on one telephone consultation sessions and several different levels of coaching and mentoring. I try to work around what each customer needs individually and tailor it specifically to them.”
In 1974 while attending college, Armand Taddeo of Squid Marketing ventured into the carpet cleaning industry. Twenty-five years later in August 1999, he started Squid Marketing when he noticed from online bulletin boards and various conversations that he had, that there were a lot of questions about important business tools, such as liability disclaimers, sales invoices, and company sales letters. “I had someone tell me about how hard it was when he went to a job and then had to spend all this time asking the lady to move her car so that he could bring in his truck mount, etc. I told him that I had a customer prep sheet—a letter I send out one week before the job—that explains all of that, including moving the car, moving any breakables, etc. I asked if anyone wanted to see it and I got such an enormous response that it was then that I saw what a big need there was in the industry for this kind of help,” Taddeo says. The Squid Formulas program consists of “copy ready” examples of sales invoices, disclaimers, sales letters, postcards, thank you notes, referral program, Oriental rug documents, client information documents, tech/marketing tips, and much more. As far as technical support, Taddeo says, “People can e-mail me 24/7 and telephone as long as they want to. I don’t set any kind of time limit, I am glad to help—even if it isn’t specifically marketing but just questions related to the industry in general.”
An important part of marketing is knowing which group of customers you are trying to reach with your advertising. As Randy Grosse of NuWay Systems puts it, “We have already seen a movement away from marketing just the lowest price to marketing based more on what it is that we as a business can offer the consumer. Now, consumers are much more health conscious as far as indoor air quality is concerned. They are also more product conscious and product savvy. They know what an investment their carpet is and so they want to make sure that your services can make the carpet last longer. This is why we should be educating customers about the benefits they will receive and what they will be getting by hiring you as a cleaner.”
Grosse started a carpet cleaning company in 1981 with his brother and stresses the importance of creating a library of marketing material. “We publish the Carpet Cleaner’s Marketing Library on CD-ROM and the Carpet Cleaner’s Big Book of Marketing Ideas. The CDs include marketing pieces such as newsletters, postcards, flyers, sales letters, and more. It’s a matter of filling in your information to personalize it,” Grosse explains. NuWay Systems’ technical support includes an electronic monthly newsletter and a quarterly tip sheet on how to use the library for the season—what pieces to use for say the January-March season. “You can e-mail, phone, or fax us with questions or get in touch with me directly,” Grosse says.
Hank Unck of Powerful Marketing Solutions has a background that includes a teaching degree in industrial technology and a degree in marketing. “What I liked about teaching was that look in a student’s eye…when their eyes would open wide and their eyes would just light up and I could see that they got it, appreciated the knowledge, and then went on with that knowledge and used it for themselves.” Unck has worked in marketing for more than 24 years and has worked for Prochem for the past 8 years. “You know, I’ve taught adult, community college classes and here’s what it is—there’s no secret to marketing. You need to let people know who you are; what you can do for them, how your services will benefit them; and how they can get a hold of you.”
Unck currently runs his own marketing consultant business and continues to work for Prochem on a freelance basis. “It is so hard for business owners, especially small business owners, they work so hard and they are so dedicated…they work 11-14 hours a day and try so hard to have a business that has value in the end. They work themselves out. What I’d really like to do is to make marketing more available,” he says.
As a marketing consultant, Unck offers his services, in addition to a number of free hours of telephone consultation, after a project has been completed. He also wants to develop marketing plans that can be made available online. “They would be very affordable, of course, I wouldn’t charge my normal rate, and people could e-mail me and I can help them and then they could download what they need to have in the way of marketing plans. They could just download the blueprint they needed and then fill in the blanks so to speak.”
Several marketing company representatives expressed a similar sentiment to Unck’s—that most cleaners know a lot technically but are not as knowledgeable on how to market themselves.
Joe Polish of Piranha Marketing started out as a cleaner and faced the same problem. “I began my marketing program in 1994. This was after a couple of years of frustration over being a broke and exhausted carpet cleaner, knowing all the technical aspects of the craft but not making any money at it. I ran myself into debt trying to learn all that I could about marketing to help myself create advertising that would help my business grow, and finally I developed and fine-tuned a turn-key system of marketing techniques that turned my cleaning business completely around,” said Polish. The Piranha Marketing System is a fully guaranteed system of tested and proven strategies that show professional cleaners how to market their businesses through use of direct response marketing comprised of audio interviews with guest experts, videos, and marketing manuals that feature ready-to-use examples and step-by-step marketing strategies. In addition to Piranha’s Coaching Club Mastermind Program that focuses on advanced marketing techniques, the company also offers its annual Piranha “Boot Camp.”
When asked what technical support Piranha offers, Polish explained, “We sell ‘memberships’ that allow our members access to the many tools we offer via our web site www.cleanersnetwork.com, our coaching programs, seminars and conference call, and one-on-one consultations to improve specific advertising material for their company.”
Manufacturers also offer marketing programs and support. As Angela Smith of Jon-Don puts it, “We saw a need in the late 1980s to not only teach our clients to clean, but also to improve their marketing and management skills. We developed a program called “Openings to Opportunities” that by 1995 had evolved into a package that included a five-day, intensive course called ‘Strategies for Success’.”
Jon-Don’s marketing program includes “Strategies for Success,” whose members receive more than 800 pages of systems and procedures to help them build a “real business,” and as Smith explained, “marketing techniques that focus on creating Cheerleader Customers, customers that market your services for free just because they are so surprised and enlightened by the level of service you have provided.”
Smith adds that, “Every ‘Strategies’ member is given free, lifetime membership to our TIPS program. Every three months they receive two or three new written procedures to insert in their ‘Strategies Operations Manual.’ Each package also includes 8-10 ‘Quick Tips’ submitted by other members. All ‘Strategies’ members have free, unlimited consulting access to Steve Toburen, CR, Jon-Don’s Director of Training. Our technical staff is also available at no charge.”
Bridgepoint Systems started offering marketing support to cleaners when it saw the need for high-quality, affordable literature. “We started our marketing program 15 years ago and it’s been a continuous evolution. We found that cleaners couldn’t afford to have nice literature or pieces to hand out, so we thought that if we could offer these marketing tools to cleaners in bulk and then offer personalization, it gives them the ability to have attractive literature without the normal cost of printing,” said Doug Taylor of Bridgepoint Systems. He went on to explain, “We offer education as far as our Profit Builder Classes and our marketing catalog, in addition to our line of marketing literature such as postcards and brochures. We also have our Bridgepoint Systems Cleaning Network and the Building and Marketing Article.”
Acknowledging that each company has different needs and goals, Doyle Bloss of Steam Way International described how the company began its marketing program, “Each customer had different areas of strengths and weaknesses. Some needed help with organization and paperwork, while others just wanted to add some new marketing punch to their presentation. That is how the SelectTeam was organized. It includes a complete set of marketing and management support programs. They can choose to use or participate in all of them or pick specifically the programs they want.”
The SelectTeam Program includes preprinted color brochures, advertising slicks, business management forms, insurance programs, business analysis and computer projection programs, in addition to customized training, a consumer referral network for members, and cooperative yellow page advertising. With numerous other offerings, the program also includes video and computer CD-ROM based training programs and access to software programs.
When asked about the future of marketing, Bloss responded, “We think there will be a realization that marketing programs are not competitive, but complementary. We encourage our members to examine all of the exciting programs that are out there. Recently, I did a little research. If a cleaning company joined every marketing program in our industry and joined a national and regional trade association, the total cash outlay would be less than one semester of tuition at a private college. Excellent, usable information abounds in our industry, and it is relatively inexpensive to obtain. It is getting company’s to implement it that seems to be the challenge.”
Like Dorothy’s path down the yellow brick road in the “Wizard of Oz,” the biggest step is always the first step. Part of the pathway to success is realizing when you could use a helping hand and where to turn to find it.
Whether you want to improve your company’s chance of success in the cleaning industry and pump up your company’s marketing capabilities, or just solidify a marketing strategy you have already put into place, you will find many people in the industry ready to help you achieve your company’s goals.
As Leo Burnett, founder of Leo Burnett Co., a well-known, worldwide brand-marketing firm, once said, “Advertising is the ability to sense, interpret, to put the very heart throbs of a business into type, paper and ink.” (As quoted by Joan Kufrin, Leo Burnett: Star Reacher (1995), Chicago, IL: Leo Burnett Company, Inc.).