Posted in Branding and Marketing, Business Articles

Marketing That Worked on Me – and Why

I’ve spent my entire life studying and employing the devices of successful rhetoric to convince someone else to do or think what I tell them. Marketer is just one title for people who do this. Yep, that’s what marketers do, day in and day out: research what motivates target customers to choose them, and then create the company messages to make sure that happens.

Certainly, marketers have access to a wide variety of media as well as mixed media to deliver and reinforce the messages they want you to accept as truth and actions they want to compel you to perform.

So when a simple, inexpensive mailer campaign sequence is successful with me – who spends most waking moments at least subconsciously dissecting messages for agendas – I stop to really consider why. And if what I can tease out is replicable, I share that information with the company. In this case, I’m examining my reaction to Honest-1 Auto Care, the Mt. Pleasant branch.

IMG_2066In early summer 2017, I received in the mail a classic postcard bulk mail piece advertising several service specials at a local auto maintenance and repair shop. I know it is bulk mail because the address reads my name on the first line and “or current resident” on the second; this ensures that the piece will be delivered in the relevant service area rather than be forwarded to a previous resident with a forwarding order in place.

Now I’m pretty immune to physical junk mail, including advertisements like this. What happened to make me notice it means backing up just a touch. I had paid off my now-ten-year-old vehicle since my last oil change, which I’d always had done at the dealership. But I was ready mainly to establish a good relationship with a shop much closer to home and work; the dealership was at least 30 minutes away in a part of town I rarely have a need to visit. And I had spoken with my mom about some of the shops she’d used and been happy with on our side of town. And she got the same postcard on the same day and called me to point it out.

That’s what it was. That’s what made this very first “touch” successful. All I needed was an oil change, the shop was perhaps 1 mile from my house and did not require an appointment, and I knew it had been there a good long time, so it must have a reasonable amount of repeat business and/or referrals to at least maintain.

Conclusion (touch #1): there is nothing replicable about the success of this first touch from my response as there is no way the marketers could know all of those specific, converging circumstances that made me primed for the response they were trying to lead me to. But it stands to reason that twice a year (on average) an oil change or routine maintenance is on every driver’s mind, as well as the cost and convenience of acquiring those services.

So one weekday afternoon when I had no appointments, I drove the 1 mile to the shop, walked in, was greeted by a smiling service receptionist (touch #2), got set up as a new client, treated myself to a cup of coffee from the courtesy Keurig, and relaxed with my book in a comfy chair for 35 minutes. That’s when the service receptionist shared with me the courtesy inspection results and recommendations from the techs…with absolutely no pressure to add anything to my commitment for that day. But she did promise to email me the report. Further, when I got in my vehicle to leave, the technician had signed and left a simple “thank you” note card on my passenger seat (touch #3). As I had been promised, when I next checked my email, they had forwarded the report and receipt (touch #4). I also had an email (touch #5) asking me to review their services; good on ’em for asking, something most companies seem terrified to do!

Conclusion (touches #2, #3, #4, and #5): while it’s hard to predict the effect of the same service receptionist on various customer personalities – and, give me credit, I was playing nice that day – it’s easy to compliment a clean, comfortable, climate-controlled, quiet waiting area with free WiFi if I had chosen to work or play on social media instead. It’s easy to compliment a clean, groomed, uniformed receptionist who kept a smile on her face even when she was on the phone and not visible to the caller. It’s easy to be pleased to learn that the overt promises they made, they kept in emailing all of the paperwork from the visit. It’s easy to be grateful for the emailed information and even the prompt for a review, both clearly the result of programmed responses and delays in a CRM. These are replicable conditions that are known to inspire confidence and result in positive results.

I really did keep in mind the recommended service – it was a good and simple and necessary maintenance – and I had intended to get it into my budget and schedule. But I’m also glad I was just distracted enough to not get my butt in gear for 2 weeks after that initial visit. Why? Because two things happened within days of each other:

  1. they emailed (touch #6) me a reminder of the recommended service along with an estimate based on my vehicle
  2. they mailed (touch #7) me a “check” for $15.50 to use towards any service. In the memo line, they called it an “Auto Repair Rebate Check,” but it amounts to a gift card.

IMG_2065Now, I’m not a couponer, not even a casual one, but I can live for a month off of the gift cards I receive at holidays – and I LOVE it! For the most part, I don’t bother on items, say $5 and under; chalk it up to convenience – or inconvenience – fees of clipping coupons and purging when they expire. But when you send me a gift card for $15.50 off of a service that’ll run me close to $80, that’s a big deal in my pocket book.

Conclusion (touches #6 and #7): CRMs are an outstanding tool, especially for automated follow-up marketing (aka repeat sales) in industries where sales interactions take place months apart. Time limits on “coupons” are excellent, necessary even, but I’d argue that 60 days from the visit is too long a period to generate the action desired; I’ve delayed long enough to receive a second reminder.

I’ve been pleased with this company’s communication, programmed and delivered by a simple CRM with simple automated marketing. It’s a powerful tool – that automated marketing. It makes it easier for a marketer to switch up the gentle and the aggressive messages for the best opportunity to generate that desired response from a variety of customer types. Naturally, if my interpersonal and/or service experience hadn’t matched up, I surely would not have been as receptive to the reminders or the coupon/check.

I’m scheduled to use my coupon/check the last week of August.

NB: The initial postcard indicates that marketing is generated by the corporate office in Marietta, GA, the coupon/check lists my local shop in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

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Posted in Everyday Musings, Lighter Topics, Published Writing, The Old Days

My Love Letter to Mt. Pleasant, SC – featured on LowcountryLoveLetters.com

Check out my guest post at LowcountryLoveLetters.com where I write about how the changes in, the growth of my small-town Mt. Pleasant, SC, is an opportunity for long-time natives to activate our history, not simply hold it sacred and separate from collaboration with our newer neighbors to shape our town’s future.

Thank you to Angela Wicke and Emily Gildea for inviting me to carefully consider what loving my small town really means in a tangible and shareable way.

Posted in Business Articles, Small Business Tips

NY fourth state to add paid parental leave to employers’ FMLA obligations

NY Parental Leave graphicFMLA and paid family leave affects small businesses with 50+ employees this year or last year.

While a large percentage of cleaning businesses are too small to be covered by Family and Medical Leave Act requirement, those with 50+ employees for at least 20 weeks of the year do. According to the NPR’s Jennifer Ludden, “the only federally mandated leave covers just half of the workforce.” Currently, the Department of Labor does not require the leave to be paid, so most workers can’t afford to take it. For business owners, the financial burden on a company is limited to hiring and training a temporary replacement or divvying up the duties for a short time.

But an increasing trend may change that as New York because the fourth US state to mandate paid parental leave, the most generous of the packages. In addition, the city of San Francisco has also mandated paid leave at full wage or salary.

As cleaning company and maid service owners consider growth goals, keep in mind the FTE benchmarks for additional costs. In an industry where 90-95% of the workforce – in the field and in the office – are women, the costs are likely to be higher than in other industries where the mix is more balanced.

Here’s what cleaning business owners should consider tracking now to prepare for this cost in the future:

  • # births/adoptions by employees
  • average weekly wages of those employees
  • cost of hiring a replacement
  • cost of training a replacement

The latter two are recommended key performance indicators for any service business. The former are designed to help businesses establish a baseline for budgeting and bill rate increases when a similar mandate is implement in your state or nationwide.

Originally published May 4, 2016 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer

Ladybug winners announced: an Iowa green cleaning company and a teacher and young adult author

600600p3069EDNmain1947Ladybug-winners-announced-600-x-250Advanced Vapor Technologies and Cleaning Business Today reveal the winners of the Ladybug Giveaway.

Drum roll please… The winners of the Ladybug Steam Vapor Giveaway are:

Stephanie Nesseth of Absolutely Clean

For the before-and-after photo with the most votes: Stephanie Nesseth of Absolutely Clean in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was the clear winner, with over 2,100 votes.

Jolene Buchheit

In the random drawing of people who voted: Jolene Buchheit, a teacher and young adult fiction author is the winner.

Congratulations to both winners and thank you to all of our 18 photo contest entrants and over 4900 votes!

The Ladybug Steam Vapor Giveaway is over, and whether you won this time around or not, owning a Ladybug is a win-win for both you and your customers. It’s a win for you, because the Ladybug is an incredibly efficient tool that can make your cleaners more productive and generate income for your cleaning service. It’s a win for your customers, because the Ladybug uses simple tap water. There are no harsh chemicals, so the Ladybug cleans and disinfects in a way that is non-toxic. For more information about the Ladybug Steam Vapor System from Advanced Vapor Technologies,click here. Or to learn how your cleaning company can use the Ladybug to make your business more profitable, watch the video below. And congratulations again to our winners.

Originally published May 2, 2016 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

3 companies use steam vapor cleaning to make more money – and win a free Ladybug

600600p3069EDNmain1925Ladybug-steam-vapor-trio-600-x-250One amazing before-and-after photo is all it takes to win a FREE steam vapor disinfection system and start making more money cleaning.

Sponsored ArticleThe “green” movement is strong, no matter which of the common words you use to describe your way of being green: natural, organic, healthy, sustainable, safe, non-toxic, etc.

What if you could truly strip your cleaning procedure down to just one ingredient: simple tap water? That’s what cleaning business owners across the US are doing: simply reducing the potential for error and harm to the lowest possible denominator.

You read that right! Water, specifically tap water, is the only ingredient that powers the Ladybug series of steam vapor cleaning and disinfecting systems by Advanced Vapor Technologies, the most widely-adopted chemical free* cleaning tool across the US.

Now, you’re wondering just how these folks can possibly be competing on time and price with traditional apply-and-wipe cleaning procedures, right? Well, let’s hear it in their own words – and find out how they plan to win a FREE Ladybug to help them grow even more.

Amy Wiggs King
2 Green Chicks of Norman, OK

Ladybug-dolly-photo-300-x-300A little over a year ago we learned about the AdVap Ladybug with TANCS, and we have been able to upsell and use it for hard-to-clean areas: first-time cleanings, ovens, showers (especially with hard water buildup), grout and the list goes on!

When our cleaning chicks started working with the Ladybug, Chick Christine wrote her middle name “Dolly” in an oven vent! The amount of grime that can be steamed away is amazing, and our clients love the results. And since we are a green cleaning company, we love that the system only uses water and no harsh or unnecessary chemicals.

Mona Gatens
Windsor Maid Service of Houston, TX

I spent nearly 30 years in healthcare before opening Windsor Maid Services, so the plan for my company from the very beginning was to use equipment and products to make my clients homes healthier. We focus our marketing on the healthy benefits of our cleaning methods, and subsequently many of our clients have small children, compromised immunity, are post-surgical or are severe allergy sufferers. We are delighted to have found the AdVap Ladybug dry vapor steam cleaners with TANCS as they are a primary piece in our healthy homes initiative. Having the ability to disinfect surfaces in clients’ homes without using chemicals that they might be sensitive to is a huge benefit to us.

Another advantage of the dry steam vapor system is that there aren’t any chemicals involved; there also isn’t any residue. This makes our maintenance cleaning quicker and easier, saving us money in payroll expenses.

The Ladybug is also an extremely effective cleaning device with the ability to far surpass many more traditional methods and tackles the hardest of jobs. We’ve never found any other device, tool or chemical that can tackle really badly baked on ovens and showers and tubs that are severely hard water stained anywhere near as effectively as the Ladybug does, and it does so completely chemical free – no harsh or mild chemicals or vapors for my staff or clients to inhale!

Troy Knight
Castle Keepers of Greenville, SC

Before starting my business, I committed to being a green, eco-friendly company, and there are a lot of ways to be “green.” Our focus is to use products and processes that are less toxic and have lower VOCs than many traditional cleaning methods. Specifically what this means is that we started off building our cleaning procedure on the use of deionized water and dry steam vapor to enable us to incorporate a chemical-free process into our cleaning for clients who prefer non-traditional cleaning methods.

Without the DI Water Kit and our AdVap Ladybug with TANCS, we’d be running inventory weekly and purchasing supplies likely monthly – forever. It’s just too easy to see the savings of a one-time equipment purchase, especially one that just uses the same water supply we’d have been using if we had to dilute chemicals or in the rinsing phase of the cleaning procedure. Since we get to skip those steps, that’s time we get back in our pockets – either in cash savings not paid out to labor or to re-invest in other, more productive activities like marketing and ongoing staff training.

See more from Troy and The Steam Lady Diana Henley in this webinar about why and how companies have made a successful and profitable transition from standard or eco-friendly chemicals to a steam-powered cleaning procedure.

But you’re ready to find out how you can get your hands on the amazing AdVap Ladybug for free, right? Who wouldn’t want a chance to have this top-of-the-line, $2000 piece of premium cleaning and disinfecting equipment!

It’s so easy – and we hope you’ve been gathering as many before-and-after photos of your Ladybug cleaning jobs:

  1. Submit your best, most dramatic before-and-after photo of something you’ve cleaned with your Ladybug – only one submission per person, so make it really, really good!
  2. Come back and vote every day – on your own submission or a friend’s!
  3. Share your submission daily to remind friends, family, and clients (if you’re a business) to vote – folks can vote once a day!

Contest opens MARCH 29th and voting remains open until APRIL 29th! Good Luck!

Be sure to follow Advanced Vapor Technologies and Cleaning Business Today on Facebook for contest updates and the second half of our 2-month education series on the benefits of adopting the Ladybug with TANCS® to maintain a healthy home for yourself and for your cleaning clients.

Connect with Rick Hoverson on LinkedIn
Connect with Randy Zielsdorf on LinkedIn

Originally published March 29, 2016 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

12 cleaning upsells for 12 months – part 2

UpsellingIt’s never too late to implement your upselling strategy. Get yourself ready with these campaign ideas for July – December.

As you’re pulling up to the end of the first quarter or 2016, let’s finish up a year’s worth of monthly upselling and cross-selling campaigns. Remember, you can choose to run your program less frequently – say quarterly for 4 upselling promotions a year – to get started. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself with planning or your staff with keeping up right out of the gate. You can check out the first six ideas here.

July: Christmas in July Pre-paid Service Deals

Instead of competing with all of the Fourth of July themed promotions, pick up a Christmas in July theme and focus on beating the heat with good ol’ Saint Nick at the beach, the lake, or the park – and push your gift certificates or pre-paid cleaning services and programs. Another play on a summer/winter mash-up is to use a design with holiday evergreens made out of watermelons or pineapples.

August: Sweet Thank-Yous

August boasts both National S’mores Day (10th) and National Marshmallow Toasting Day (30th), so play up nights around the fire pit or camp fire and the last days of summer before school starts. It might feel like taking a break from promotions and selling, but I recommend breaking things up with a soft upsell on referrals, something that appeals to your existing clients’ hearts and senses. For this promotion, leave a thank you note along with a S’mores kit; to alleviate food allergy concerns, it’s best to purchase pre-packaged kits. It’s the kind of thing that they’ll talk about to their friends – OH, you could leave a note about sharing S’mores with friends and leave extras!

September: No-Labor Day for Mom

Why does Mother’s Day have to happen only in May? Encourage mothers to celebrate themselves and their labors-of-love by leaving the cleaning to you – especially the extras like refrigerators and carpets and pressure washing and even a one-time special on laundry.

October: Silver Polishing Cross-sell

With two often-formal family meal holidays coming up, many clients will be looking to pull out the good silver…with all of its tarnish. Imagine a leave behind with a Victorian-inspired dinner scene dripping with Halloween cobwebs to start getting clients in both a cleaning and silver frame of mind.

November: Thanks-Giving Referral Promotion

The holidays are one of the easiest times to close sales on referrals from your current customers because the holidays just simply demand a clean and tidy home. So make November an entire month of Thanks-Giving by offering to donate 10% of the cleaning fee to your charity of the month or to the charity of their choice when customer referral gets his/her first cleaning. Extend the promotion to the new client for an immediate upsell: 10% of the regular service fee (weekly or biweekly) to charity when they upgrade to regular service (fine print: donation to be made after the fifth regularly scheduled cleaning is completed).

Tip: ARCSI members should consider the November promotion as a way to create awareness of ARCSI’s Kleaning for Kids charity with the Ronald McDonald House in their local area.

December: The 12 Gifts of Christmas

Folks love gifting others with the items and services that they enjoy the best, so remind your customers of the various “extras” you offer that they’ve found valuable. Run 12 different deals-of-the-day, just one each day: a small discount or 2-for-1 with the offer expiring that same day. Repeat something if you don’t have a lot of extras, and change up the promotion for it if you do. Traditionally, the 12 days of Christmas run from December 25 – January 5, but many businesses use the 12 days leading up to Christmas: December 12 – December 24. Alternatives: The 8 Gifts of Hanukkah, The 7 Gifts of Kwanzaa

Between these and the first 6 months of upsells, you now have a complete annual upselling calendar to keep your existing clients reaching for – and paying for – more. This is an easy program to set up and put on autopilot year after year, with maybe a few tweaks and switch-ups. And don’t forget that a successful promotion begins at least 2 weeks before you intend/expect for folks to need that special service.

CeCe Mikell is the Editor-in-Chief for CleaningBusinessToday.com, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also consults with cleaning business owners on business development projects.

Originally published on March 23, 2016 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.
Posted in Content Marketing, Ghost Writer, Housekeeping

2 Ways to Win the Best Disinfection System Available for Your Cleaning Business

600600p3069EDNmain1903Ladybug-Giveaway-How-to-Enter-600-x-250-REV230 days to find your best “horrible” mess to win a free ADVAP Ladybug 2300 in our Before-and-After photo giveaway

Sponsored ArticleIt’s not often that something truly new is invented that dramatically changes the cleaning process, so when ADVAP introduced its Ladybug with the patented TANCS® dry steam vapor disinfecting system 10 years ago, we knew we had a revolutionary product but that we also had a responsibility to educate cleaning professionals and consumers. After all, military-invented bleach, ammonia, and similar chemical solutions had been the standard for generations, certainly long enough for them to create a space in our memories as the “smell of clean.”

But as science often does, it shows us better, safer, healthier, easier, and faster ways to accomplish the tasks that are integral to our lives. The ADVAP Ladybug with TANCS® is

  • Better at penetrating soils and microbial films, resulting in a truer clean
  • Safer to skin, eyes, nostrils and lungs than high-VOC chemical cleaners – even the “green,” “natural,” and “organic” ones with scents that re-contaminate indoor air
  • Healthier because more soil and microorganisms are removed and there are no chemicals in use to leave residues behind accidentally
  • Easier to use than the old standard “spray-and-wipe” method of cleaning, which requires multiples: spray, dwell, wipe, rinse, dry and sometimes repeat
  • Faster to disinfect in 2-7 seconds as opposed to 2-10 minutes for most disinfectants – plus the dry steam vapor cleans at the same time, reducing 2 steps (cleaning then disinfecting) into one.

And the best news is that you can win a FREE Ladybug 2300 with TANCS® in our upcoming photo contest and giveaway!

The photo submissions and voting starts March 29, but you’ll want to start getting your Ladybug out and practicing your before-and-after routine. You never know when that great contrast situation – you know, the really gross ones that don’t look that gross at first – are going to show up in your schedule. And you’ll want a good collection of before-and-afters to choose from as your final submission to the contest:

The Ladybug before-and-after submission with the most votes wins 1 ADVAP Ladybug 2300.

And a second ADVAP Ladybug 2300 will be awarded in a drawing from among the votes – and ANYONE can vote, not just Ladybug owners!

Here’s what you can do to get yourself ready to submit the best Ladybug before-and-after photo on March 29th:

Practice Your Photos

To ensure that you capture clear, well-lit photos in a high resolution format, let’s make sure your camera settings are ready. Whether you are using a digital camera or the camera in your smart phone or tablet, navigate to the settings and adjust for these levels:

  • Flash: Auto
  • Filter: None

Oh, and one more thing: to set the scale of the area or fixture select a standard sized item like a yard stick for large areas of flooring or a 12-inch or 6-inch ruler for smaller areas or fixtures like faucets. Other universally sized items that may be used to show scale include

  • Unsharpened pencil
  • Dollar bill or quarter
  • Battery (with the size visible in the photograph)
  • Hand

This will also help you to focus your photograph in nearly the same way for both the before and the after shots.

You want to take at three different shots of the soiled area and later the same cleaned area with your camera/phone:

Physically close up – zoomed all the way out so that every detail appears clearly in the photograph

  1. Physically farther away – to give perspective of the soiled area within the larger space
  2. About halfway in between those two shots – this shot often includes enough soiling detail and spatial awareness for a great contrast in the after photograph

Prepare Your Clients

If you don’t already have a photo release written into your standard service agreement, this may be the time for you to add and implement that.

And if you’re not ready for that step, gain permission from clients before taking photos to take photos and use them for marketing purposes using a simple 1-page release like this one.

Find Your Scene

Arguably, the trickiest part of any before-and-after photo contest is finding the best “before” situation, especially when you don’t always know what you’re walking into.

In general, the places that get the most visually dirty and go neglected for the longest times are “wet” places:

  • Bathrooms – especially kids’ bathrooms
  • Kitchen sinks
  • Exterior door frames
  • Sliding door tracks

Also check your add-on cleaning items like

  • Refrigerator door handles, grills, and especially the seal around the door
  • Oven interior
  • Outdoor grill
  • Deck or porch floor
  • Grout

Get more great ideas here.

Start searching for your best scene today by taking before photos of all of these common areas, even if they don’t look terrible. Particularly in the case of grout, you never really know if it’s supposed to be white or a surprising color instead of that dingy dark grey.

Prepare Your Before-and-After Photo Submission

Use a free photo app on your smart phone or table to create your before-and-after photo. We’ve found these to be widely adopted for just this kind of use, easy to use, and available free from iTunes and GooglePlay:

  • Photo Grid
  • Pic Collage
  • Before After Collages

And don’t forget to compose a great caption for your photo.

Be sure to follow Advanced Vapor Technologies and Cleaning Business Today on Facebook as we embark on a 2-month education series on the benefits of adopting the Ladybug with TANCS® to maintain a healthy home for yourself and for your cleaning clients.

Connect with Rick Hoverson on LinkedIn.

Connect with Randy Zielsdorf on LinkedIn.

Originally published February 26, 2016 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.