Marketing is constantly evolving, not least digital and social media marketing where platforms jostle for attention and new techniques are introduced all the time. What disrupts the attention of consumers is always changing and small or medium-sized businesses are forced to stay ahead of the game in order to attract and retain customers.
Small business owners often think they lack the in-house expertise or budget to deploy an effective marketing campaign, but they shouldn’t be discouraged. There are many marketing strategies and techniques that a business owner can implement by themselves or with limited support.
The cleaning industry is dominated by smaller companies, with 72% of UK cleaners working for companies that have no more than nine employees. In this blog I’ll provide some insight into the sorts of things you should be thinking about if you want to successfully market your cleaning business.
Market research: know your competitors
If you were to do an online search in your local area you’d find a plethora of cleaning contractors offering both domestic and commercial cleaning services. This makes for a challenge but it shouldn’t put you off – it just means that you’re going to have to give customers a good reason to come to you rather than your competition.
It’s fundamentally important that you understand your competitors, so find out as much as you can by asking questions such as:
- What services do they offer?
- What are their prices?
- How do they market their business?
- What size business are they? (How many staff do they employ?)
- Do they have a unique selling point (USP)?
- What equipment do they use?
- Are their customers mainly domestic or commercial?
- What’s their target market?
You should aim to find out what your customers want and how to satisfy that demand, all whilst considering what your competitors are doing and how you can do the same but better.
Is there something that your target market really wants but none of your competitors offer? If you can crack this you’re well on your way to running a successful business!
Your “unique selling point” (USP)
Ensuring that you have something unique to offer to prospective customers will help you stand out from a crowd of competitors.
A cleaning business has many possible USPs to choose from, but to get you started we’ve made a few suggestions:
- Offer extended hours compared to your competitors.
- Personalise your service to each client, creating bespoke packages.
- Add a bonus service such as dry cleaning or ironing.
- Only use eco-friendly, green cleaning products.
- Offer a more competitive price than other cleaning businesses in your area.
- Offer a loyalty scheme with discounted prices.
- Have staff wear bright, colourful uniforms make customer satisfaction paramount.
The idea is to find out what your customers want, look for a gap left by your competition and then run with it, making sure that you do it really well.
The 4 Ps
The 4 Ps are Price, Promotion, Product and Place. Together they constitute the marketing mix you’ll need to develop an effective marketing strategy, and they should be focused on promoting your brand’s USP.
Make sure that you have a clear plan in mind in terms of what you want to achieve with each of the 4 Ps, and remember to create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timed) objectives for each of these.
If you’re able to stick to your plan you won’t go far wrong.
Before looking for customers you need to decide on your pricing strategy. If you intend to charge more than your competitors you’ll need a strong USP, and your customers must believe that the benefits outweigh the additional cost.
Contract cleaning is generally a price sensitive market. Being 10p per hour cheaper than the next cheapest competitor can be the difference between winning a contract or not. If you’re just starting out as a new business, it’d be wise to start with introductory prices and special offers to attract new customers, to help you establish a foothold in the market.
Once you’ve delivered an excellent service and the customer understands the benefits of your USP, they’ll stick around and offer repeat custom. It only takes a few people to start talking about the quality of your service before people start knocking at your door. Turning your customers into advocates for your business is possibly the cheapest yet most effective marketing strategy of all.
If you’ve done your research you’ll have some insight into how your competitors advertise, and you’ll want to begin getting the word out about your own business.
It’s recommended that you think ahead, perhaps by populating a year planner with the promotions you’ll run over the coming months. Avoid leaving gaps – a constant flow of leads will help you as you build a sustainable business.
Some ideas for promotions:
- Social media pay per click (PPC) ads (Facebook/Instagram is good for consumers, LinkedIn for B2B sales).
- Social media competitions (for example, two hours free cleaning).
- Flyers delivered locally.
- Email marketing campaigns.
- Referral schemes.
Consider seasonal advertising – for example, when students are leaving universities over the summer you could offer a promotion for end of tenancy cleaning. In spring how about offering spring cleaning promotions?
As long as you’re offering something that your competitors aren’t you’ll begin to get peoples’ attention. Even in a saturated market promotions can create a strong brand presence and make you the ‘go-to’ company in your area.
For “product” we really mean “service”, and we need to think again about your USP and how to differentiate yourself from the competition.
To prosper in your market you’ll need to ensure that your cleaning service is better than that provided by your competitors. You’ll also benefit from a focused selling point that encourages customers to come back for more.
Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer – what would you want from your cleaner? What would make you happy? To me the most important thing is customer service. If I had a friendly cleaner with a professional approach, who was reliable and did a great job, I’d be unlikely to look elsewhere.
Learn what your target demographic wants and then do it!
Place is all about geographical location and distribution.
You should consider whether there’s a sufficient number of affluent households in your local area to sustain your business. Or if you’re going the commercial route, are there enough commercial premises such as offices and shops?
You’re likely to be visiting several customers across a range of locations and you may even have a team of cleaners out on the road, in different areas at the same time. If your cleaners are using their own vehicles, think about the additional exposure you could get from having branded cleaning vans.
What about your hours of operation – what time slots do you offer? Could you be more flexible?
If we consider “place” to include where your customers might first hear about you, we can introduce the internet to the equation…
I’m looking for a cleaner, what would my first step be?
First of all I’d ask family and friends, but it’s becoming ever more popular to ask for recommendations on social media such as Facebook. Make sure you have social media accounts set up so your friends can share your profile or page, and prospective customers can easily get in touch with you.
It’s important to make sure you have your own website, preferably one optimised for search so that yours is the website sitting atop the Google rankings in your local area.
It’s also worth signing up to Google My Business as well as other rating directories such as Trustpilot or Yell. Positive reviews on Google My Business increase the Google ranking performance of your website, but just make sure you encourage your customers to leave reviews.
If you already own a cleaning business or are thinking of establishing one, why not get started on your marketing plan today?
Get some ideas down on paper (or on screen!) and remember, you don’t have to use all your ideas right away. You may wish to park a few until you have the time or resources to implement them effectively.
With grit and determination, we’re sure your marketing will be a success and you’ll clean up in your local area.
About the author: Beth Vickers is a Marketing Specialist at the Cleaning Collective, a leading online supplier of commercial cleaning supplies and household products. Many small and medium-sized cleaning businesses rely on the Cleaning Collective to provide their janitorial supplies – on time, every time.