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 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 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 Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

12 Cleaning Upsells for 12 Months

UpsellingUpselling to your current customers is easier, less expensive and more profitable than relying only on new customers to raise your revenue. Part 1 of 2.

Pull out your annual marketing plan – if you have one. Take a look at the promotions you’ve slotted in for each month because, let’s face it, most promotions line up with the primary holiday each month.

Who’s your target consumer for those promotions? I’m betting you’ve designed your monthly promotions to get new clients on your schedule and even include in fine print at the bottom of the email, postcard, or flyer “New clients only” or First-time clients only.

I challenge you to add a second, concurrent promotion of either an upsell (add-on to an existing cleaning appointment) or cross-sell (add-on or big enough to be a separate appointment) specifically designed to entice your current clients to buy more from you. And I’ll even make it easy with 12 great upselling promotions you can deliver via email or leave behind with your current clients.

January: Refrigerator Cleaning Add-on

Once the New Year celebrations have ended, your clients have refrigerators that have weathered three food-based holidays in three months, and that refrigerator is pretty icky with spills and smells. A simple company magnet with your number makes a great leave behind – especially when it’s holding a simple note with the refrigerator cleaning rate right on the refrigerator.

February: Loyalty (or Frequency) Upgrade

Make use of the “love” theme in the air to focus a campaign on your happiest clients who haven’t yet committed to weekly or bi-weekly service by confirming a primary cleaner or team to take care of them when they upgrade their service. Remember to add a little fine print to allow for a proxy cleaner or team to occasionally visit to allow the primary team deserved time off.

March: Window Cleaning Add-on or Cross-sell

Consider a play on the Luck o’ the Irish and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a window cleaning cross-sell. If you can offer only interior window cleaning, this promotion works well as an add-on to an existing appointment. But if you can offer exterior window cleaning (or whole house pressure washing), often a separate appointment is useful. Add a simple coin chocolate to a printed leave-behind for a bit of whimsy.

April: Spring Organizing Add-on or Cross-sell

As you’re pitching traditional spring cleaning to get new clients, your maintenance routine makes that unnecessary for your regulars. But often by this time of the year, especially at tax time, clutter presents more of a challenge than dirt. If you haven’t offered organizing before, consider starting small with linen closet, pantry, and toy organizing since those are usually focused, contained spaces that can be unloaded, sorted, and reloaded within a few hours.

May: Porch Cleaning Cross-sell

By May, most of the spring pollens around the country have completed their yellow dusting and left porches unusable – at least until someone hoses them down. Keep tabs on the visible pollen activity in your local area and time this cross-sell with enticements of favored outdoor spring/summer nights, but only after the porch or deck has been de-pollened.

Tip: This is a great opportunity to partner with a local pressure washer in a cross promotion, gaining you access to his/her clientele and broadening your reach.

June: Kids’ Room Deep Clean Up-sell

School’s out and many kids get to spend a week at a sleep-away camp during the summer. This can be a great opportunity for parents to have you come in to specifically deep clean just one room – every nook and cranny and even the scariest place on earth – under a kid’s bed. And it’ll probably take you long enough to include laundry service for this highly unique service.

Naturally, any one of these upsells and cross-sells can be re-framed as a “new clients only” promotion, but it’s nice to be able to make your customers feel special when they see that some services are only available to them.

And remember, just because you’re featuring or promoting a particular service doesn’t mean you have to offer a deal or discount. The awareness factor alone is often enough to drive conversions.

Oh, you noticed that that’s only six months, did you? Check back frequently at CleaningBusinessToday.com for the second installment. Type “upsell” in the search bar to see what other resources are available.

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 February 17, 2016 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.
Posted in Business Articles, Content Marketing, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

Top 4 Active Facebook Groups for Building a Better Maid Service

Facebook networking pictureProfessional discussion groups jump from LinkedIn to Facebook.

In the past year, you may have observed the slow death of professional discussion groups on LinkedIn; though a few continue to receive a steady flow of new discussions started, the conversations are often a rehash of old ones.

So where have all of the veteran CBOs gone to keep their edge? Why, to Facebook, of course, where the posts and discussions and ideas flow freer and faster. No longer is Facebook simply the realm of our “social” lives but, rather, is now the critical intersection of all facets of life.

Want to check for yourself? You can find out pretty easily which of the LinkedIn groups you’ve joined over the years are actually active. In preparing this article, I check out my own groups and found only 8 active discussions (active = has at least 1 comment in the last 24 hours) out of 45 groups; in fact only 8 of those groups had a new discussion posted in the last week. Four were in ISSA and two were in ARCSI, so I’m definitely staying in those groups.

To check on your Facebook groups, navigate to your groups menu on the left side of your Facebook News Feed; make sure you are scrolled all the way to the top of the page. Hover to the right of the word Groups and click on More. Now you’re looking at a complete list of the Facebook groups you’ve joined or been added to. You can see the currently active one – with recent notifications you haven’t looked at yet – by the number to the right of each group name.

What we learned at CBT is that our Facebook group, CBT Cleaning Industry News is far more engaged than the exact same posts and probing questions to our LinkedIn group.

Toward helping you find your next amazing group to help you move your business forward, here are 4 of the most active and engaged Facebook groups with exclusive or very heavy emphasis on cleaning and maid services:

 

Groove Learning

Started by Rohan Gilkes, owner of MaidsInBlack.com as well as several SaaS platforms and subscription boxes

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is highly focused on digitally automated customer interaction and employee management, and could be a good resource for those maid services adding or converting to online booking from traditional in-home or phone estimates.

Quality Driven

Started by Martha Woodward, owner of DustingDivas.com, and Maria Dorian, owner of WelcomeHomeCleaning.com as well as Quality Driven, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on the quality control and continuous improvement systems you need to ensure that the performance your technicians deliver meets/matches up with customer expectations so that both groups of people are more likely to stay with you.

The ZenMaid MasterMind (Exclusive)

Started by Amar Ghose, owner of Fast Friendly Spotless as well as ZenMaid, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on all aspects of starting up a cleaning or maid service – from how to post recruiting ads on free job sites to handling your first breakage claim.

Turnover. Help for Move In/Out Property Managers and Service Providers

Started by Kayla Storlid, owner of Kayla’s Custom Cleaning as well as turnoverapp, an SaaS platform for maid services

Closed Group: request to join and an admin will have to approve you. This group is focused on helping other cleaning services establish a profitable turn-clean process, whether as an annual division or as a seasonal project, such as with local college dorm and apartment turns before the start of term.

Keep in mind that nearly all online discussion groups – even those on Facebook – are started and operated by individuals who have a product or service to sell. Keep this in mind as you choose new groups to join. There are also a number of groups you can join when you purchase or subscribe to a particular technology or service; these groups are often “Secret,” so you won’t be able to search for them.

As always, what happens online, stays online – forever – in a digital format that someone can always get to no matter your privacy settings. Be social responsibly.
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 January 27, 2016 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Business Articles, Housekeeping, Small Business Tips

10 Best Tips for Winning at College House Turn-Cleans

College move out cleaningCleaning business owners weigh in on how they make college dorm cleaning an annual revenue booster.

As fall term comes to a close, college students across the US are past mid-terms and looking forward to the final stretch before a nice, long vacation break before spring term. And as soon as spring term gets started, that’s when college maintenance departments go shopping for cleaning companies to contract for their annual student housing turn-cleans.

CleaningBusinessToday.com caught up with several CBOs who have turned this “down and dirty” job into an annual summer revenue booster, and here are their tips for getting the bid, preparing for the 48-hour to 1-week “Hell Week,” and surviving to look forward to doing it again the next year.

Kayla Storlid
Kayla’s Custom Cleaning
Madison, WI

Kayla’s Custom Cleaning, LLC has been doing large turnover projects for several years. This year we did over 140 units in 5 days. Each month we complete on average 10-30 units. The key to an effective turn-over is being prepared. You need to be organized! It is crucial to make sure you have enough sets of equipment, plenty of product, lots of extra people to help and a great manager. Your manager needs to have the ability to stay one step ahead of the team at all times and is capable of understanding where everyone is at in the completion process. We have developed an app to automate this process. It saves us a ton of time and money and allows me to manage the entire project remotely.

  1. The key to having a successful turnover is to under-promise and over-deliver. We find it very effective to have a checking team for every unit to ensure quality and make sure no units go missed.
  2. It is crucial that you over-staff and that you do not cut your staff too early in case you run into last minute additional units or several call-ins.
  3. If you keep organized and one step ahead of the game, you can make great additional revenue and your team has a lot of fun. The key to getting the job and not losing it is to never, ever miss a deadline!


Amy Wiggs King
2 Green Chicks
Norman, OK

This summer (2015) we did our first set of college dorm/apartment turns ahead of the campus opening for fall term students. I had several great CBOs to help me through it, and now that I’ve had some time to reflect on how it went this first year, three things jump out as having made the difference between breaking even (or losing money) and making good money with this special project:

1.      Be Detailed and Meticulous in Your Bidding

When bidding, ensure you include business references that can vouch for the great work you have done and can do for their business. You want to make certain the bid clearly explains if you will be using the client’s supplies and cleaning products/equipment or if you will be responsible for providing the products. Lastly it never hurts to ask if the company you are bidding for has other properties or campuses that need your services.

2.     Over-prepare with your Team

Forecasting how many teams you will need is crucial, as well as deciding how many people to have on each team and assigning them tasks. Having a huge “let’s do this meeting” beforehand really helps as well to set expectations and to answer questions. I made binders for each team that had FAQs to help them while out in the field, things such as “what to do if…,” contact phone numbers, map of apartment complex, checklists for notations (for communicating issues back to client), timesheets, etc. Also ensure you have plenty of supplies at hand for the job and that you have staff to help wash cloths, fill buckets, clean vacuums at the end of each day. And investing in less expensive lightweight vacuums is a good idea; they are much easier to lug up and down stairs – and there will be a lot of stairs!

3.     Over-communicate with Everyone

As in any special project job, communication with the client is crucial to ensure you do not have any issues at the end of the cleaning period; things are so chaotic, and it’s easy to lose track!  My Quality Manager and I had a sign off sheet that we used before we considered the unit “done.” We performed a walkthrough and checked for anything missed. Each night, we emailed updates to the client to provide status of what units were cleaned, what units had issues (broken blinds, needed new burner plates, etc.). I believe this communication is necessary for a smooth transition and to get payment!


Kyle Walker
Real World Services
Logan, OH

I start the marketing process for new college housing cleans at the beginning of every school year. If you think about it, this is really when the housing managers start looking for a new cleaning service, as they have just finished a turn season and know if they are going to be looking to hire a new service next year if they were not happy with the results the previous cleaning company provided them.

I also start marketing to them again in February, as most housing managers want to have a signed contract by the end of March or early April.

Our turn season lasts from April until the first week of September. We begin the hiring process in early March or as soon as we know we have a signed contract. In 2015, I hired an additional 40 staff members just to handle the cleaning of our 600 apartments during this short time frame.

Here are some tips for someone doing this for the first time:

  1. Over-hire by several FTEs.
  2. Always count on people not showing up and calling off sick when you have strict deadlines to meet. (NOTE: this is not specific to college/apartment turn cleans.)
  3. Provide your staff with all of the supplies and equipment to do their job well.
  4. Check in with each tech/team daily to make sure the cleaning list is correct before dispatching the job.

The reason we at Real World Services come out smelling like roses is because we are constantly communicating with our property managers both throughout the year and especially during the turn period to make sure things are going smoothly.

Originally published on November 4, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.

Posted in Business Articles, Content Marketing

Can Small and Large Service Businesses Provide an On-demand “Feel” with Employees?

employee engagement in on-demand service companiesExplore this challenge and more at the ARCSI Workforce Innovation Summit and ISSA Trade Show.

In the services industry at large – cleaning is just one type of service – every business owner is simultaneously managing two significant “inputs”: clients and technicians. And based on the association discussions and various mastermind groups, service-based small businesses are feeling the tension as reality versus legality are changing the ways these two inputs are interacting.

Last month, in the fallout of Homejoy’s closing, two dominant themes:

  1. The consumer demand for the instant gratification and perfection of on-demand services is well-established and, in fact, growing.
  2. The use of independent contractors to staff an on-demand service is rapidly falling out of favor as quick-start entrepreneurs recognize that quality and training are the keys to sustainability in a service business.

So the question remains: can small and large service businesses begin/continue to provide an on-demand “feel” for consumers while operating an employee-based business?

At the Workforce Innovation Summit of the ARCSI Convention, cleaning business owners and managers from across the country will wrestle with this and other questions related to recent changes in federal labor regulation – some of which is in reaction to the rapid development of the on-demand marketplace.

And while it’s classic to cite the:

  • intense networking (and friendship-building) with CBOs across the nation,
  • excellent business education sessions on basic start-up and advanced development topics, and
  • 700+ vendors at the ISSA Trade Show for trying out cleaning products and equipment AND business software and systems

as the main reasons for attending the conventions year after year, it’s the way that the industry keeps up with and engages in relevant conversation about current events that excites me most! I like change…it’s the challenge-creator that keeps me fully engaged with my business and always looking for opportunities that lead to an even better future.

 

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

Originally published on September 1, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.