What Is The Best Way To Market My Cleaning Business To Get It Off The Ground?

This is a question that was asked in one of the LinkedIn discussion groups I belong to, and I have to say, that between the public forums and our private discussion forums at The Janitorial Store and MyHouseCleaningBiz.com, this is our most popular question. Variations of this question have been asked at least once a week since we launched in 2005. Here is how I answered this time.

Question from new cleaning business owner about marketing:

I just started my commercial cleaning business. I have my website and I have taken small steps to market it like flyers and business cards. I want to know some great Ideas from you seasoned business owners that could help me with jump starting my business. 

My response to marketing a new cleaning business:

When first starting out, sending out flyers and other collateral material doesn't do much, especially for a commercial cleaning business. People that hire cleaning companies have to put a lot of effort into choosing their company, usually considering at least 3 proposals before making a decision. For that reason, they are asking their business friends for recommendations and they're looking for a good track record.

That is why it's important to spend a good portion of your time getting out in your community attending networking functions and getting to know people. Even if people don't have direct experience with your service, if they've gotten to know you from networking with you, they're much more likely to refer you. 

This all takes time, and it on average it will take at least 3 months before you see any results from your efforts. But one thing that now helps to expedite building relationships is to participate on social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Whenever I go to a networking event, I always connect with at least 3 more people, and I'm always paying attention to what my connections are saying to see how I can contribute to the conversation.

Besides networking, you need to be working on your online presence. The second way people find commercial cleaning companies is through online searches. If you don't have a presence that is being found, then you're missing all sorts of opportunities.

If you need more help with marketing and building an online presence, we have ebooks that can help.

Free Marketing Ebooks

And if you're looking for help and support for your cleaning business, consider joining us for a wealth of information at:

The Janitorial Store and MyHouseCleaningBiz.com


Can You Grow Your Cleaning Business By Networking Alone?

We've owned two cleaning companies and used different ways to grow each business. With the first company we partnered with a successful builder and got started by cleaning several of his buildings. He also gave us all the construction cleaning on new buildings, which always led to getting that account when the tenant moved in. Cold calling was also successful back in those days, but not so much any more.Can you  grow your cleaning business by networking alone?

With the second cleaning company it was all about networking. We moved to a town where we didn't know anyone so we threw ourselves into every networking event we could find. And that worked very well for us.

These days in order to grow a cleaning company to the $1 million-dollar plus range, I don't believe you can do it with networking alone, and for a few reasons. First, people are busier than ever these days and it's getting harder and harder to connect with them in person. And you're probably finding that you never really get a steady stream of clients from networking alone. They usually come in spurts, so it's better to use networking, along with other marketing strategies to get that steady stream of clients coming to your business.

Also, marketing has dramatically changed in recent years with so much emphasis being placed on social media and having an online presence. Even if you are getting referrals from networking buddies and clients, those referrals are going to go online to see what they can find out about you and your business -- before they pick up the phone to call you.

So if Jane calls up Bob and asks if he knows a great cleaning company and he refers Jane to your company, do you think Jane will automatically pick up the phone to call you? If you said yes, think again. It's almost turned into an instinctive reaction to go online to see what we can find out about people and companies we're considering doing business with. And if they're not finding any information about you or your company, or if the information doesn't position you as an expert at what you do, then they're going to be skeptical if they do in fact decide to call.

Can you grow your business by networking alone? Possibly, but probably not at the rate you'd like. By coming up with a marketing strategy that incorporates several methods for gaining visibility and building trust, you'll have a much better chance at steady growth.

Two Big Mistakes Cleaning Business Owners Make When Buying Pay Per Click (PPC) Ads

I recently had a cleaning business owner ask me about Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC). They were spending a hefty amount of money every month and wondered why it didn't seem to be bringing in any results. So I asked to see a sample of their ad. It looked something like this:

Cleaning Service
Residential & Commercial Cleaning
Lowest Price Guaranteed

Can you tell me what's wrong with this ad? Did it grab your attention? Did the Lowest Price Guaranteed attract you? I took one look and thought, B-O-R-I-N-G!  And mentioning "lowest price guaranteed" sounds desperate to me. It's hard enough to make a good profit in this business, and if you're trying to get business based on being the lowest price in town, you're probably not going to be in business for long.

This got me looking at other PPC ads for cleaning companies. Most were similar, in that there was nothing interesting or attention grabbing. And none of these examples addressed any pain or problem that their prospects have. Here are more examples:

Janitorial Cleaning Business
We Service All Types Of Facilities.
Get Your Custom Quote Today!

Commercial Cleaning
Licensed, Insured, and Bonded
Detailed and Affordable Cleaning

Janitorial Cleaning
Professional Janitorial Services.
Contact Us Today.

If you want to attract people that are serious about finding a cleaning company, then they need to feel you understand their problem and that you have a solution for them. You also need a strong call to action. It's no different from any other type of advertisement you create. And you need to do it in a very limited space since Pay Per Click ads have limited characters available.

The second mistake I see cleaning business owners make is that they send people to the home page of their website instead of sending them to a landing page. The cleaning business owner that contacted me said "it didn't seem to be bringing in any results." That's because their ad went straight to the home page of their website so they had no idea what happened once the person clicked through to the site.

What I recommend you do instead is create a landing page that doesn't attempt to get them to buy right away. Yes, that's right - don't try to sell to them right away. That's because you haven't yet built any trust with them. Instead, offer some information of value that is directly related to whatever their problem or pain is. You want to offer valuable information in the form of an ebook, white paper, or some sort of audit so that you can collect their email address in order to build a database of prospects.

Explain that once they receive this valuable piece of information, you'll give them even more great tips on the topic. THAT is when you can start the real marketing to convert them to being a paid client. A word of warning though; once you have their email address, do not start blasting them with promotional emails. The idea is to provide great information that starts to build trust, so that when the time is right, it's YOU they call.

If you were going to spend money on a Pay Per Click ad for your cleaning company, what would YOU say in your ad? Please post your comments below.

Networking Follow Up Has Changed - Are You Falling Behind Your Competitors?

This year I joined a women's networking group so I'm meeting lots of new people. As you know, one of the keys to effective networking is in the follow up. And what I've noticed is that these days the follow up method has changed. It used to work like this:

  1. Gather business cards and send an email, but just to the people you think would make a good prospect, or that might make a good referral partner. 
  2. Set up a time to meet for coffee. This sometimes works, sometimes not, due to people's busy schedules. If they don't see an immediate connection with your business, chances are they'll put you off.

These days, email is occasionally still used, but I'm seeing a shift to connecting via social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook. What I like about this is that when you send an invitation to connect, you'll almost never get turned down. Just be sure to remind them that you met at the recent event in case they don't remember who you are.

In my case, what I've noticed is that usually within a day of attending one of the events, I get at least two or three invitations to connect with someone I met, along with a short follow up message. I also look up people I met but sometimes they find me first. When it comes to Facebook, I send a "Friend" invitation and also "Like" their business page. Now their posts show up in in my news feed and I can begin interacting with them, expediting the "get to know you" process that used to take much longer.

This past week I connected with five of the people at my table of eight, and have already begun interacting with them on Facebook and LinkedIn. I've also scheduled three meetings -- one by phone, and the other two I'll meet before and after the next networking event. I find that scheduling meetings this way saves us each a lot of additional travel time and expense (for the coffee or lunch).

People are busy these days so connecting online may not always seem like the best way to build a business relationship, but when you can see each other at the events and stay in touch online in-between, you've found the best solution for growing your network.

Expand Your Client Base By Eliminating Cleaning Prospects

Are you confused by the title of this blog post? How can you expand your client base by eliminating prospects? Doesn't it make more sense to increase the number of prospects in your database? After all, it's supposed to be numbers game - the more prospects you have the more clients you should be able to gain.

The problem is, many of the prospects you're thinking about working with are BAD PROSPECTS for your business. Unfortunately we learned this the hard way, so maybe we can spare you from making the same mistake.

Back in the 80's when I was transferred out to Idaho for my retail management job, Steve followed me and went to work in construction. Fortunately, he was laid off from his job. Of course, at the time we didn't think that was such a great thing since we suddenly had to rely on my small salary to support the both of us. But after a few weeks time, the owner of the construction company that had laid Steve off, called him up and asked if he wanted a job cleaning several office buildings that he owned. He was tired of dealing with horrible cleaning companies and wanted someone that could take care of business. In just a few short weeks, we were able to turn Steve's full time cleaning job into our own business.

In order to grow the business, Steve started looking around for additional cleaning accounts. He approached anyone and everyone he could think of. So we ended up cleaning office buildings, hair salons, an auto dealership, a bar, a restaurant, convenience stores, paint stores, and manufacturing buildings. There were a few more, but you get the idea - it was quite a variety.

The problem came when we figured out that some of these accounts were a real pain in the you-know-what. The hair salons didn't have much of a budget for cleaning, so they wanted once a week service and expected miracles when it came to hair removal. Let me tell you, no matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to pick up ALL the hair.

Restaurants and bars became problematic because they were either cleaned very late at night or very early in the morning. So it was hard to find employees that wanted to work those hours. And Steve was already working a lot of late nights, so early morning just didn't work.

So we decided that enough is enough. No more searching for and taking on any type of cleaning prospect that came our way. Instead, we focused our time on seeking out the types of accounts that we loved to do, that fit well into our schedule, and that we could easily staff.

Next, we trimmed the fat. And we did that systematically. As we gained a new "ideal client", we let go one of our clients that no longer fit our ideal client profile. This helped us maintain the income level we needed, while getting rid of the clients that were just not the right fit for us.

So if you're in the mode of taking on any prospect that offers you the chance, I strongly encourage you to start focusing more of your time on seeking out the type of clients that you enjoy doing business with instead of allowing yourself to be sucked into an ill-fitting situation.

Do YOU currently have clients that are not a good fit for your business? Tell us about it by clicking on the comments link below.

Ask Yourself These 7 Questions To Figure Out Why You Lost Your Last Sale

The prospect went with someone else for their cleaning service. Darn it! I know they liked me, and it really felt like it was going my way. But they gave it to someone else!

Instead of licking your wounds, I challenge you to ask yourself a few questions to figure out why you lost your last sale. Let's start with the easy ones.

1. Were you on time or were you late? The RIGHT answer is that you were at least 5 minutes early.

2. Were you organized? If you carry collateral material about your company, a measuring device, notebook, pen, tablet, etc. is it all organized so that you don't fumble around looking for things?

3. Were you prepared? Did you do your research so you weren't asking the prospect to tell you about their company? Remember, it's your job to know! If you called on a residential prospect, were you familiar with the neighborhood and the type of clientele that live there?

Now ask yourself the tough questions. And be honest with yourself! If you don't pass muster with these questions, it's time to do something about it or you'll continue losing out to your competition.

4. Were you able to overcome all the objections confidently? If not, you have work to do. You should be prepared ahead of time for the objections you'll hear so that you have a confident response that will satisfy the prospect.

5. Did you feel as if you were on the defensive through most of the visit? If you find yourself always defending your price, the quality of your service, or other tough questions posed by the prospect, then it's time to work on your confidence level. If you aren't confident that your price is worth every penny, the prospect will see that as an opportunity to negotiate. And if you're not confident about quality control, employee longevity, or a host of other subjects, you'll probably find yourself on the defensive throughout the visit. This will NOT get you the client!

6. Did you appear desperate to make the sale? Too many people, especially those new to the business, are often anxious to make the sale. And the client will read that as desperation. They won't give their business to someone that is desperate for it.

7. Did the prospect ask "doubting questions"? Doubting questions are questions that prospects ask to make sure you have the ability to do the job. For example, they may ask things like:
- How much experience do you have?
- How long have you been in business?
- How many clients do you have?
- How do I know you'll show up when you say you will?
- What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow?
- How do I know you'll send me the same employee to clean every time?

Even though you thought the sale would go your way because you got along with the prospect and they seemed interested, it's not enough. They need to not only LIKE you, they need to trust you and believe in you. And when you're confident in your ability to handle the job at a price that makes sense, then you've got a much better chance to close the sale.


Knowing Your Prospects' Issues With Cleaning Companies Is Key to Demonstrating Your Expertise

There is one question that you can ask your cleaning prospects that can help bring about a discussion of the issues they experience with cleaning companies. And that question is:

"What kinds of problems are you facing today with regards to keeping your building (or home) clean?"

This is a good open-ended question that is likely to get them talking. It will also help you to direct the discussion to what you already know about the problems prospects typically face.

For example, you could now say something like:

"Based on my work with a number of other [banks, property managers, homeowners, etc], I find that the top three issues they're facing are:

  1. Finding a cleaning service that doesn't have a revolving door of employees cleaning their office (or home).
  2. Finding a service that provides consistent cleaning services. They start out great but after a few weeks or months, the work goes down hill.
  3. Finding a cleaning service owner or manager that actually knows what's going on in our building (or home) and anticipates my needs.

Which of these three issues is having the most impact on the cleanliness of your office (home)?"

Can you see how combining a good, open-ended question can lead them into a discussion where you can showcase your understanding of their frustrations? When directing your discussion in this way it also shows the prospect that you work with other people just like him.

And be sure to ask a related follow-up question, which will get you the more specific answers you're looking for.

When you ask thought-provoking questions of your prospects and then follow up with what you already know from your experience with other clients; you're sure to make an impression on your prosect that will get him moving in the direction of becoming your next client.

How To Get Into Larger Cleaning Accounts

In a recent episode of CleaningBiz.tv I discussed whether or not you're ready to take on larger cleaning accounts.

After seeing the video, one viewer emailed us, asking specifically how to get larger accounts. My first thought was, well how are you getting your smaller accounts? It's not that much different!

Are you networking in your community? Are you targeting the clients you want? Are you taking care of business with your existing accounts so you can get great references?

That is really the first order of business when it comes to getting into the larger sized buidings. Taking good care of your existing clients. Owners and property managers of large buildings are going to ask for references and they WILL call them! You need glowing reports of the great work your employees do, how quickly you respond to requests, and how well you anticipate their needs.

Once you have that part down, start focusing on the buildings you want to clean and start researching. Is it owner occupied? Is it a multi-tenant building that is managed by a property manager? Can you ask your networking buddies if they have a contact person they could introduce you to?

Taking on larger buildings will not happen overnight. In many cases it will take months to even get the opportunity to submit a proposal. But if you are determined to make it happen and you take care of business with your existing clients, there is no reason it won't happen for you!

Want To Close More Sales In Your Cleaning Business? Take "We" Out Of Your Vocabulary

Here is a sales concept that many cleaning business owners don't often think about. And that is -- "We" is for selling. "You" is for buying.

Think about when you're talking with a prospect. And I want you to be honest here. Do you find yourself saying, "We do this..." and "We do that..."?  How many times do you think you use the word "we" when talking with prospects? I'm willing to bet more times than you think.

The problem is, the customer doesn't care about you - unless you can help them. So in order to stop using the word "we" so much, you need to start thinking in terms of THEM. And the way you do that is to start learning about THIER industry, THEIR business, trends in their industry and who their customers are -- instead of trying to teach them all about YOUR business.

Here's an exercise I want you to do. Take a look at your website, your brochures, your proposals -- any marketing materials you use. Start circling the number of times you say "we". Then work on those sentences and start changing them so they talk about "YOU" instead. Here's an example.

"We are proud to use Green Seal Certified cleaning products in your home or office."

Ok...well the prospect really doesn't care that you're proud you use green cleaning products, do they? So think about how you can re-write that sentence so it uses "YOU" instead of "WE". For example:

"You want your employees to be safe from harmful cleaning chemicals. So you want to use a cleaning service provider that uses Green Seal Certified cleaning products."

So instead of using "we" in that sentence, I used the word "You or your" three times. Get the idea?

If you really want your prospects to buy your cleaning services, start thinking about how you are being perceived by the prospect. If you're making it all about "we", you're lowering the chance that they'll buy from you. In their heads, they're going to start comparing you to your competition, and if they don't like what they hear, they'll move on to the cleaning service provider that really cares about THEM.