Are you using the same old marketing materials, month in and month out? When’s the last time you updated your print ads? Do you use your company’s Facebook page to tout the same “10% off” special, over and over again?
If so, you may want to consider switching up your marketing strategy. The fact is that if you keep sending your potential customers the same message, it starts to become monotonous, and they tune it out. That means that much of the money you spend on advertising could be going to waste. So, if you want to get the most out of your marketing dollar, you need add some variety to your campaigns.
One of the most natural ways to start varying your marketing is to make your campaigns more seasonally appropriate. For instance, you probably already send out holiday and Christmas cards in the winter. But there are three other seasons! In the spring, you can play up the “spring cleaning” tradition in your advertising. In the fall, you can run “back to school” specials and in the summer, you can work off homeowners’ fears that the increase in heat has lead to—well, an increase in odors. (It has the added benefit of being absolutely true.)
Holidays also provide great marketing opportunities. Think beyond the obvious–try a Valentine’s Day cleaning special for singles looking to impress their dates, or a Veteran’s Day special for veterans and their families only. You can also create seasonally-themed branded merchandise—Easter and Halloween candy with your company’s name printed on the wrapper, election day buttons that say “Vote [Your Company’s Name]”, or branded Fourth of July soda/beer cozies.
However you choose to do it, keeping your marketing materials fresh and relevant will ensure that your customers keep coming back.
A few weeks ago, we wrote an article about the pros and cons of using Groupon (“Groupon: Is It Right for Your Service Business?“). The article received a big response, with some cleaners declaring Groupon a fantastic marketing tool, and others saying that it was no more than a scam.
We decided to ask cleaners to share their real life Groupon experiences with us, so that we could give readers a well-rounded perspective on this topic. Last week, Brian Robison of Richardson, Texas’s Priority Carpet and Tile Cleaning shared his very positive Groupon experience with us, in a post called “Groupon . . . Like It or Hate It.” This week, we’re sharing some of the more negative stories we’ve collected.
Done it once, don’t recommend it. Three rooms of carpet takes about an hour, which should be priced at $100. But Groupon makes you offer the service for half, so that comes to $50 and then wonderful Groupon gives you $25.
If anyone using truck-mounted equipment can make ends meet on that, best of luck . . . and don’t tell me about up-sells, etc., because once a coupon customer, always a coupon customer. One Groupon customer I had wondered if I could do two rooms and then come back another day and do the third room. I was ready to show the coupon down her throat. I know you can’t do that but you’re allowed to dream sometimes . . .
–Anders Berg, SwedeClean.com, Phoenix, Ariz.
We had a client who found a carpet cleaning company on Groupon. As the customer said, two guys showed up. They smelled like cigaerettes, they did some work, collected the payment and left. The result was terrible. Then she hired our company (based on referral from her neighbor) to get the work done right.
Groupon is HORRIBLE. They do NOT stand behind the company that is putting money in their pocket for doing NOTHING but sending out emails. We have our policies and they do NOT abide by them. They ask you for your policies, but then when the customer breaks the rules, they just issue a refund like it’s no big deal. The actual customers are people looking for something for NOTHING and they EXPECT everything and anything under the sun from you. Been there done that and NEVER AGAIN!
—Pristine Maids, Crestview, Fla.
Look, we spent $1000 dollars on Savvy Shopper and they put a cheaper cleaning company in the front and us in back. We got a few calls and no regular customers. I don’t mind one-time customers sometimes, but I’d rather have the customer want a cleaning company they can trust, rather than somebody who says, “Let’s see how low we can go . . . “
Some companies will always can be cheaper and that’s okay. I’d rather let those companies have those customers. Because those customers will drop those companies in a minute if they spot another cheaper company.
–Starlene Kirkland, Swept Away Cleaning and Janitorial, Decatur, Ga.
Last week’s Groupon article, (“Groupon: Is It Right for Your Service Business?“), caused so much comment that we’ve decided to keep exploring this topic. Some cleaners seem to love it; others definitely do not.
In order to give you a wider perspective on the Groupon experience, we asked cleaners to share their real life Groupon experiences with us, for an ongoing feature called “True Groupon Stories!” For the next few weeks, we’ll present you with a new Groupon story, and hopefully reading about other cleaners’ experiences will help you decide if this service is for you. (And if you already have a Groupon story–good or bad–by all means send it to us–we’d love to read it. Just shoot it to us at email@example.com.)
Groupon… Like It or Hate It
Very few people I speak with have a “middle of the road” view of Groupon. Keep in mind, when I say “Groupon,” I’m really speaking of all the deal of the day companies out there copying them. It’s like the “Kleenex” of deal of the days. Even the people who have never bought, sold or experienced a Groupon seem to have a point of view. Go figure.
I’m here to give my experience with this strange new company that has everyone up in arms in my industry. I say it’s new because it still has a great deal of emotion surrounding it even though it’s a few years old. Well, here goes nuthin’.
So I was the first carpet cleaning company in the Dallas TX area to use Groupon about 3 or so years ago. It was fairly new in that area at the time and it really had me wondering what might happen. I heard about a Groupon deal on the news where a Nail Salon in Chicago sold something like 17,000 vouchers and was booked for the entire year. THIS caught my attention.
Let’s face it, we all want more customers AND we all pay a price for each. Even if we don’t get said customer, we still pay for them. This is where Groupon differs. You pay for the customers by lowering your prices for the deal instead of hoping that a customer will use your company after seeing your ad.
I liked this idea because I knew once I obtained a customer I could make money from them. If you have enough to offer, you can always offer more. If it’s something the customer wants or needs, then they might as well get it while you’re in their home. If it’s a quality service or product, the customer will come back for more and tell other–and that’s where we win.
My experience with Groupon and other deal of the day companies has been a very positive one. I’ve ran more than I can count in about 7 different states. Sure you will get the low ball customers or “price shoppers,” but you’re going to get those with any ad campaign. With Groupon, you get so many customers at once you just notice those more.
I focus on the positive . . . always. I know that 20% of the customers make up for 80% of the revenue. So why worry? Groupon will even refund money to any unsatisfied customers. You’ve got nothing to lose, really. Just don’t get too many of those or you won’t stay in business very long.
I knew that when I structured my Groupon deal I had to leave room for the upsell. I didn’t want to offer the full package for a discounted price or I wouldn’t have anywhere to go from there. For carpet cleaning, I knew that if I offered a 3 room deal the customer would always have more to do. This is just from my 30 years of experience in the industry. So when I got to the home I always let them know that I was available to do more. Even when I scheduled them over the phone I got them thinking about what else they might need.
I knew that if I only did the work on the voucher, I would lose money over all. Breaking even is losing money in my world. Even if I got a $10 tip I was in the black. Some customers would only have me do the work on the voucher but most would have something more done.
I’m not very shy either. I told every customer how Groupon works, why I discounted my price, and that I wanted to keep them as a customer for life, instead of them getting the next deal that came along from another carpet cleaner. If you’re honest with people, they appreciate it. They also understand it better because I found most customers didn’t realize that Groupon takes 50% of the voucher price.
Really, even if a customer didn’t have more done, there was always the potential of a repeat customer or possibly a referral. So it wasn’t always a loss in that situation either. Remember to continue to market to your present client base and you’ll win in business.
The moral of the story is very simple. If utilized correctly, a Groupon campaign can be very profitable. If used incorrectly it can be devastating. Read the fine print, make sure the deal is structured in a manner that allows you to upsell or make extra money and don’t take your Rep’s word for anything. Like any advertising company, there are good reps and bad so be careful.
Would I run a Groupon deal again? I just ran about 5 of them in the last month. We make money on them every time. Like in gambling, there are only a few sure bets. Groupon is one of them. If you run a campaign with them you WILL get more customers. How you deal with them is entirely up to you.
Stay tuned for more Groupon stories next week!
Did you know that YouTube is one of the most commonly used search engines—second only to Google?
It’s true—YouTube is bigger than Yahoo. And according to the Content Marketing Institute, YouTube use among consumers and marketers is steadily growing—with no limits in sight.
But what does this mean for you, the cleaning professional?
Well, for one thing, it means that you should create a YouTube channel today. If YouTube is the second-biggest search engine, doesn’t it make sense to make your company visible on it?
And posting videos with links to your web site will help improve your overall search engine results, since search engines take video content more seriously than other content types.
YouTube content can also be posted on your company’s social media pages, which will help get potential customers talking about your company (and spreading the word to other prospects in your area.) YouTube is an especially good method for raising brand awareness among young consumers, who may not pay attention to print or radio ads.
But where do you begin? Here are our best tips for getting the most out of your YouTube Channel.
1. Watch Your Quality
Blurry videos with poor sound won’t make your brand look good. Today, there are a plethora of high-quality digital camera options that make recording good video a snap. Taking the extra time to make sure your videos look and sound good will demonstrate to your potential customers that you care about quality. (Hint: You can make your videos look better by using the brightest lighting you can find.)
We’d also recommend taking the time to edit your videos. Raw video can sometimes look sloppy, and that’s probably the last thing you want your company to project! Find a user-friendly video-editing program, such as Sony Vegas (or YouTubes own editing application), and spend a little time polishing your videos. You’ll find your resulting product dramatically improved.
2. Optimize Your Videos
Many companies post videos to their channels without bothering to write descriptions for them or include links to their company web sites.
Big mistake! YouTube indexes your video descriptions, and these can help improve your web site’s SEO. So adding links to your video descriptions and inside the videos themselves is just common sense.
In addition, well-written descriptions can help pique interest in your content, and make your channel easier to navigate for consumers.
If you use Google AdWords, adding your keywords to your video descriptions can also raise your site traffic.
Once you’ve taken the time to create and optimize a video, you should promote it as much as possible. After all, you’ve already put in the hard work!
Link your video on your website, tweet it on Twitter, post it on Facebook, pin it on Pintrest, share it on Google+. The more you promote your videos, the wider they’ll spread.
The best way to promote your own content is to participate in your online community. Search YouTube for other cleaning-related companies in your area, and subscribe to their channels. If you find other local businesses on YouTube, subscribe to their channels too!
Watch their videos, comment on them, and repost the cleaning-related ones. If you’re proactive about engaging with other people’s channels, you’ll find more people wanting to engage with yours.
4. Post Good Content
If you’ve got an absolutely horrible cleaning job to do, don’t see it as an obstacle—see it as an opportunity. People love ‘Before & After’ videos, and the dirtier the job, the more impressive the end result is. Document the process of completing your worst cleaning jobs—you’ll find it helps make them seem less difficult, and viewers will be wowed by your efforts.
You might also consider making a commercial for your company and posting it to your channel. If you’ve never put a commercial together before, don’t worry. Find cleaning company commercials that impress you, and study them. What kind of shots do the commercials use? How do they accomplish transitions? Do they use voice-overs, or title cards? Do they include testimonials?
If you strive to emulate commercials you admire, you’ll eventually be able to put together an advertisement you can be proud of.
You can also try doing short interviews for your channel. For instance, if you’re a rug cleaner, you might want to interview your local antiques dealer about the history of Oriental rugs. Or, if you’re a restoration specialist, why not interview a doctor about the dangers of mold?
Remember, if you get stumped, you can always ask your online community for suggestions. Have fun!
If you’re trying to establish a new cleaning business (or to expand your existing business’s customer base), it’s likely that you’re considering taking advantage of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. After all, these tools offer ways to directly connect with potential customers—and they’re free!
But there’s a big gap between the abstract idea that Twitter “would be good for” your cleaning business and actually using Twitter to build your business up.
So let’s begin at the beginning.
What is Twitter?
Some describe Twitter as a “virtual networking event,” others as a “micro-blogging platform.” Who’s right? Well, they both are.
In essence, Twitter is a web site that allows you to register a personal or business profile, which you can use to post updates, or “Tweets.” Other Twitter subscribers see your Tweets when they “follow” you; likewise, you see theirs when you “follow” them.
Tweets from the accounts you follow are compiled into a “stream,” which updates in real time. Thus, if your friend Mike is at the hardware store and he posts a photo to Twitter of the expensive new drill he just bought, you’ll see it before his wife does (and maybe that’s for the best.)
All Tweets must come in at under 140 characters, but you can post as often as you want (hence Twitter’s “micro-blogging” label.) You can also use Twitter to post links, videos and other media.
Why Should You Use Twitter?
The short answer: 460,000 Twitter accounts are created every day. In other words, Twitter is huge, and getting bigger.
Many of your customers, prospects and business contacts likely have Twitter accounts—and those who don’t may be creating them as we speak. Why not utilize this free method for keeping in touch with them? You can also leverage Twitter in order to make new contacts and build new customer relationships.
How to Make Twitter Work for You
Tip #1: Stay Local
Many businesses join Twitter and then follow accounts at random, not thinking about which contacts are most likely to lead to actual sales down the line.
If you’re trying to build up your cleaning business’s clientele, then you should only follow Twitter accounts that are based in your region. After all, what use is a Tokyo Twitter follower when you’re located in Denver? You wouldn’t be able to clean her carpets without taking several connecting flights!
In order to search on Twitter for local accounts, you’ll need to use Twitter’s keywords, which are called hash tags. Hash tags are always preceded by the pound sign (#) and never contain spaces. Thus, for example, if you were Bellingham, WA-based and wanted to look for accounts located in your county, you’d search Twitter using the hash tag #WhatcomCounty.
Tip #2: Meet the Press
Whether they write for the New York Times or the Podunk Daily Mail, journalists all use Twitter to keep abreast of the latest national and regional news developments. Nowadays, Twitter is used to break every story from the fire down at the junk yard to scandalous political gaffes.
By following your local media on Twitter, you can motivate them to follow you back. This can result in invaluable press for your business. Some suggestions:
- If a local journalist asks for story ideas on Twitter, submit one about your business’s success story.
- When your company makes a big change, write up a press release about it and post it to your website. Tweet the link to your followers. The press just might report on your news.
- Journalists often tweet about major community changes. By tracking these, you could discover new business opportunities before your competition does. For instance, if you see a Tweet about a new office building going in on Main Street, why not approach the owners immediately with a multi-year contract for cleaning their space?
Tip #3: Demand, Meet Supply
Among the numerous types of businesses using Twitter are vendors and suppliers. Whether you’re a window cleaner, janitor, carpet cleaner or HVAC tech, you can find your preferred vendors tweeting.
What’s more, vendors and suppliers often tweet about exclusive online specials, coupons, one-time deals, stock liquidations and so on. Many of these deals aren’t advertised in traditional media, since even the cheapest print ad is more expensive than Twitter’s $0.00 price tag. That means that by following these accounts, you could save on some major capital expenditures.
Tip #4: Virtual Networking is Highly Cost-Effective
If you’re a small business owner, you’re probably too busy to do as much networking as you’d like to. Intellectually, you know that networking could help your business, but when you’re putting in 60-hour work weeks, it can be hard to muster the energy to get up at 6 a.m. on Saturday to get ready for your local BNI breakfast.
While face-to-face contact with other professionals is vital, virtual networking can help you to bridge the gap between your networking needs and the time you have to devote to them. By following other cleaners, cleaning associations, your town’s Chamber of Commerce members, cleaning certification institutes and other local businesses on Twitter, you can get a sense of what is going on in your community. Furthermore, you can send direct messages, tweet back and forth publically, trade pictures and otherwise interact with potential business contacts. Best of all, it’s a lot less time-consuming than live networking events can be.
At the end of the day, Twitter works the same as any other tool—it’s all in how you use it. We hope our tips help you to make the most of it.