Carpet cleaning businesses have five main marketing issues. These range from getting found to retaining customers. This report outlines the carpet cleaning marketing issues issues we found and what carpet cleaning business owners can do about it.
About The Survey
We called 178 carpet cleaning businesses along the east coast of Australia in August 2018 and asked them one key question “ What’s the single biggest question or challenge you have when it comes to marketing your business to get more customers?”
The responses of the business owners were written down and analysed. The sample is small but it provides a qualitative result that helps both carpet cleaners and service providers with their marketing.
The Carpet Cleaning Marketing Issues
The survey responses fall into these main groups:
- Don’t know what’s best / most effective in marketing their business
- Don’t know who to trust as a service provider or had a service provider who offered services and under delivered
- Beating the competition and getting the phones to ring
- Educating customers about value vs taking the lowest price
- Keeping customers / getting repeat business
- No marketing problems – getting plenty of business
We analyse these carpet cleaning marketing problems in more detail and provide some guidance about solving the problems. Over time we will produce other posts to specifically address these areas.
1. Don’t Know What’s The Best or Most Effective In Marketing Their Business
Comments like the ones below were fairly typical of carpet cleaning business owners with this primary issue.
“It is in the digital space, understanding how it all works – it used to be fairly good in the old days, fairly big expense in the Yellowpages and it did work very well but that has just about phased out – and the webpage goes reasonably well for us but not to the same degree.”
“Deciding which form to go with – there are so many (ways of marketing) and different things seem to work at different times.”
“Online marketing is complicated – don’t understand much about it.”
The sentiment here is common among new business owners and older business owners who started their business before the internet age.
Potential Solutions: Learn What Works
There are several potential solutions to this problem:
- For those who like to learn and develop a level of expertise, there are many good resources on the web that would enable you to learn more about local marketing. Several are listed below:
- Start with a marketing tactic you are happy with and properly track the results. For example, if you are comfortable with letterbox drops then get a few 1000 flyers printed and deliver them around an appropriate neighbourhood yourself. In terms of tracking properly have a separate tracking phone number on the flyers and if you use a website link drive the responses to a particular page on your website (eg www.yourwebsitename.com.au/special so you can track how many visits there were to that page from the flyers.
2. Don’t Know Who To Trust As A Service Provider Or Had A Service Provider Who Offered Services And Under Delivered
Respondents who fell into this category tended to say thing like this:
“I did have a website but the guy was the worst, he promised he would update stuff and he never did.”
“I signed up with some company who (said) they were going to be the cat’s pyjamas. I paid 4 years in advance to get a discount, and $2,000 for a website and in 2 years I have had about 3 jobs…all the excuses under the sun. Hopeless.”
“For a while you get all these emails from India saying ‘Guaranteed to put you on the first page on Google’, and nah. There are so many scams out there.”
Potential Solutions: Find Trusted Suppliers
Potential solutions to this problem are:
- Join a local networking group like Bx Networking, BNI or similar and find a supplier you and others in the group are comfortable with.
- Get more educated and know what to ask in relation to marketing and SEO. There are plenty of checklists online – just search on Google to find some.
- Insist on proper tracking and reporting To be set up so that you know how many leads you’re getting from the activities that this business is providing.
About the worst thing you can do here is responding to the latest marketing tactic that somebody who rings you from a business that you don’t know offers just because it sounds good or they talk a good job.
That’s even if you get a sensible looking proposal. Make sure that you dig much further into the tactic and talk to their other customers.
In our opinion, you should not sign long-term contracts with suppliers. If people are doing a good job you will get results and you will want to stay working with them they should be keeping your business based on their performance.
3. Beating The Competition And Getting The Phones To Ring
We expected this to be the main group for carpet cleaning business owners, and it wasn’t. Yet it was still important to many. It was interesting that it was phrased as beating the competition rather than getting new leads!
“There are many carpet cleaners – a lot of big competition – so getting people to find us – getting on the first page – getting to the top of the first page.”
“Too many companies – too much competition.”
“Probably the competitors – you know, there’s just such a saturation of carpet cleaners out there.”
Potential Solutions: Marketing Strategy
Solution to this problem essentially sits in marketing strategy.
It’s about choosing a niche you can compete in and then developing one or two marketing systems that generate customers for you in a cost-effective way. The focus allows you or your support people to become an expert in these areas and you can outcompete others.
It’s literally not possible to compete with everybody. And if you try and compete using the same tactics is everybody else then it just becomes harder.
For example, if you choose to work with real estate agents, then that’s an area that many other carpet cleaners, cleaners and other service providers also try and get into and you could be up against some pretty stiff competition.
The same goes for SEO or Google AdWords.
However, if you have a clearly identified market niche such as a local area, an age group or a type of carpet cleaning, and you use a less competitive way half reaching that audience then you are going to be able to beat your competition. For example, we did talk to one carpet cleaning business that targets older people who are not on the internet. They reached them advertising boards and TVs in the local bowling clubs.
4. Educating Customers About Value Vs Taking The Lowest Price
In our list, there were quite a few carpet cleaning businesses with terms like Super Cheap, Cheap As Chips, Heaps Cheap and other cheap’s in their business name.
The effect of the race to the bottom pricing was an issue for a number of carpet cleaners we spoke to.
We also talked to a number of business owners who were operating carpet cleaning businesses but had very poor functional English. We suspect this also drives a culture of low-cost pricing in some businesses when they can’t market to a wider target audience.
Typical comments from people we spoke to a reflected below:
“Customer knowledge – they don’t know anything about carpet cleaning and just shop around for the cheapest price.”
“I think the price that the competitors say is .. we are trying to be competitive. If the clients have a better price available…sometimes we can’t beat that price.”
“I think the hardest part of any of it is probably educating the customers. It’s trying to educate the customers on why we get qualified and why we spend as much money as we do on qualifications.”
Potential Solutions: Marketing Strategy
Whenever you start thinking about educating consumers you are basically on the wrong track with your marketing. That’s because it’s not cost-effective to educate people. You just have to deal with the reality that some of them are going to go with the lowest cost price.
Dealing with price problems is again a marketing strategy issue.
It relates to undifferentiated marketing where your business is seen as the same as everybody else. This is because:
- You can’t clearly articulate who you’re for and who you’re not for, and/or
- You are targeting price sensitive market areas or segments.
- So the solution to this problem is effectively selecting your market and your marketing messages to the needs of that market.
Furthermore, the use of social proof such as online reviews and Facebook reviews allow you to establish a price premium against the other operators so we strongly recommend that you set about collecting reviews from your customers.
5. Keeping Customers / Getting Repeat Business
It was interesting for us that this wasn’t mentioned more often in our conversations. That’s because most of the businesses who didn’t have any marketing problems seem to be very good at keeping customers and getting repeat business. We felt it was an area that was overlooked by many business owners in favour of focussing on customer getting.
Yet it was mentioned by a few. Typical comments were:
“Getting customers is not hard; keeping customers is hard.”
“I have been doing it for 9 years, so if all the customers came back we would be flooded with work.”
Potential Solutions: Focus On Service
The solution to this problem is pretty simple:
- Do great work.
- Get customer feedback on your performance and fix up any issues that you have in terms of your service delivery.
- Keep in touch with former customers by email and letters and potentially phone calls to remind them about your service and for the most part and you will end up with a thriving business.
No Marketing Issues – Plenty Of Work
It was great to see how many of the contacts had plenty of work and no carpet cleaning marketing issues. . And it was interesting to note that the majority of these had that work from their long-term presence in the market and their customer retention.
Typical comments from this group were:
“For the last 3 or 4 years, we just haven’t had any dramas getting new customers and maintaining a good percentage of our existing.”
“I have been around for a long time so I don’t…I just have repeat work.”
“It’s not too bad actually, because I have been doing it so long. I only work for myself so I don’t have any staff to worry about.”
“No challenges, mainly word of mouth and repeat business I only spend a few hundred a year on advertising.”
“I’m busy enough – been doing it for 20 years so I am at saturation point. I can’t really do any more. I am only a one-man band. So for me, I don’t really want any more work because I can’t fit it in.”
Take Out: Retention and Resell Is Vital
The main take out here was that those business owners who deliver good service and attract repeat business are able to operate their business without spending a huge amount on marketing. This is while they are still able to reach their objectives particularly if they are just operating as a one person business.
Customer retention and resell is an important strategy in the carpet cleaning business.
Our research found many carpet cleaning business owners who did not have marketing problems because they had good customer retention.
For those who did have problems, the problems mentioned we related to:
- Not have enough knowledge of marketing.
- Finding it difficult to find suppliers they can trust and who deliver results.
- Ineffective marketing strategy and implementation.
- A lack of focus on customer retention and resell.