When we decided to relocate from Idaho to Minnesota it was a very tough decision. Boise has been growing steadily from the time we moved there in the mid-80's until now, and it doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon. That growth created lots of opportunities for our cleaning business because there always seemed to be new buildings to go after, and we became very successful at getting most of the accounts we set our sights on. We developed our niche, built a solid reputation, and our profits steadily grew. So by 2000 and 2001, we had the best two years ever - we were finally making the kind of money we'd dreamed of -- all those years of working our tails off were finally paying off.
When was the last time you sent a thank you note to a customer or potential customer? Did you know that thank you notes are powerful business and marketing tools? Think about it...when you send a thank you note to an existing customer, it goes a long ways towards building a positive relationship. How many customers even think about their cleaning service unless they have something to complain about? Wouldn't it be great to have them thinking, "Well that was sure nice of Jim to send that note thanking us for our business. They sure do a good job!"
And what about using thank you notes as a marketing tool? What do you do when you bid on a new cleaning account? Most of us meet with the prospect, do a walk-through, and then turn in a bid. What about sending a thank you note after meeting with them to offer a simple "thanks for taking time out of your day to meet with me"? Or maybe after you've been awarded a new account, you send a thank you note to express your appreciation at receiving the account. People remember these kind gestures. They realize that it would be easy to simply say "thanks" at the end of a phone call, but taking the time to write a thank you note and put it in the mail is something they remember...and sometimes something they hang onto.
They say that it's the little things that separate the successful businessess from the rest, and this is something that will definitely separate you from other cleaning companies. So who can you send a thank you note to today?
This story comes from an owner of a cleaning business who was searching for daycare for her kids, and ended up finding a new cleaning account! At the time, she was also working a job and wanted to find a daycare nearby. She was familiar with a daycare franchise because she and her husband were already cleaning one of their locations. She found out that they had another location near her job so she went to check them out.
She told the manager that she was already familiar with them because they cleaned another location, and as soon as she said that, the manager exclaimed that they were looking for a new cleaning service! So in her quest for a daycare, she ended up getting a new cleaning account, and was able to add on a couple more locations after that. She said that this also happens to be their favorite account.
Be sure to market your business wherever you go. I'm not talking about trying to "sell" to everyone you meet. Often there are opportunities to mention what you do in conversations - simply share the information without any exectations. You never know - the person you're talking to might have a need (like the daycare manger), or they might know someone else who has a need for your cleaning service.
We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the sale and preparing for the sales call. But how much effort do you put into following up after you've made the sale? Do you think, "I got the job, now I can relax"? Do you find yourself making excuses not to follow up? "I don't have the time...I'm too busy working on getting the next customer...Now that I have the account, it's my employees' responsibility to deal with the customer..."
Making the sale is just the beginning. Following up is what really impresses the customer and goes a long way towards building that relationship. And it's not just the immediate follow-up right after getting the sale. Following up with your existing customers is just as important - maybe even more so because you need to nurture that relationship if you want to continue working with that customer. You never know when the competition might be lurking and if you let your guard down, you just might get blind-sided!
I'd like to challenge you to make an effort to follow up with one customer a day for one week. Sound like that's a lot to ask? Not really. It doesn't take all day to make a quick call, but your customers will remember you for it.
We had our monthly telephone discussion forum this past Saturday, and I asked who had a success story to share. One of our members has an existing business in which he provides building services, but is just getting started in the cleaning side of things in his business. One of his existing clients decided to give him the cleaning account on a 14,000 square foot building - congratulations! What's even better, is that they have four other buildings, so if they're happy with the job he does on the first one, he'll most likely get the other buildings too.
The easiest people to market your business to is your existing clients. Many have multiple locations, some grow into larger locations, and some may need additional services. Don't spend all your time trying to find new customers - continually stay in touch with your existing customers to see what else you can help them with.
Most salespeople will tell you that price is all that matters these days. But is that really true? When a prospective client immediately shifts the conversation to price, do you cringe and feel yourself starting to give in? Are you ready to lower your price in order to get the job?
What would you really rather have - a customer focused on price or a customer focuse on value? A non-profitable account or a profitable one? A customer whom you only speak to when there's something wrong, or one that you have a relationship with?
If you chose the latter in the above questions, then you need to keep some things in mind:
- What do you believe in your own mind? If you don't truly believe in the value you're providing your customers, then no one else is going to believe you either.
- Providing value doesn't mean lowering your price. It means you need to raise the awareness of the value your cleaning service provides to your customers.
- You need to care about your customers if you expect them to care about you. Customers can show great loyalty when they sense that you truly care about their concerns and want to help solve their problems.
- Customers sense self-confidence and are drawn to it. You need to be confident in your own ability as a business owner and demonstrate that confidence through your presentation - hold your head high, speak powerfully, and smile.
- Be humble. Having confidence, as mentioned above, doesn't mean being arrogant. Being humble can be demonstrated with a simple thank you. Tell your customers how thankful you are for their business.
- The last thing to keep in mind is the quality of the relationship with your clients. When you build relationships with people you also build their loyalty. And loyal people are willing to pay more for the value they receive from your services.
Quick update to the posts of a few days ago (post 1) (post 2). Our member started his new account earlier this week and let us know that he made $22.50/hr on his first visit. That's pretty good because the first visit usually takes a little longer due to getting to know your way around and trying to get the cleaning up to speed. He said he'd be able to shave 1/2 hr off his time on the next visit. Congratulations!
I receive a number of email newsletters and recently read a tip by someone who has tried a number of marketing techniques over the years and had some advice on marketing with mailings. He found that sending a huge envelope of materials, or even a detailed brochure was a waste of money unless he had established a relationship with the prospective client first.
Here's what he found works best:
Yesterday I reported that one of our members at TheJanitorialStore.com was awarded his first cleaning account. I asked him more details of how he was able to get the account because this is what is so helpful to people trying to gain new cleaning customers. Here's what he shared:
"I decided to walk into the store to see how dirty the floor was in the corners and ask if they would like to have their floor buffed. They told me that the person who takes care of their floor does not sweep the floor, so I asked them if they'd like a bid on floor care and they said yes. I used some of the ideas that you have in your bid packet, and created a bid for them."
Can you believe that whoever takes care of their floor doesn't even sweep?? No wonder they were open to receiving a bid! That's a great idea to walk into buildings looking at floors or restrooms, etc. to see how clean they are. Chances are, if things look dirty, they might be open to accepting bids.
One of our members at TheJanitorialStore.com just got his first commercial cleaning account. Congratulations!!
The account is at a paint store, which is in a brand new building so it should be pretty easy to take care of. He'll be taking care of their floors and windows. The store has two more locations in the area so they asked him to bid on those locations as well. It's great to get an account with multiple locations. If they don't ask you to bid on all locations at first, they eventually will if you do a great job for them.
This particular member is currently working full time for another cleaning company, and has had the dream of having his own company for quite some time. He has had some success in taking on some residential accounts, but not commercial accounts, which is what he would like. As our member put it, "I'm on my way to becoming free from working for someone else. Thanks Steve for all your help."