Avoid Ineffective Advertising
Let’s examine the target market for a house cleaning business. The majority of your prospective customers will be upper-middle class, middle age professionals who do not have the time to clean, but do have the financial resources to hire a cleaning company. Other prospects will fall into either the 30 – 40 age group with younger children at home, or the 60 – 80 age group. They are looking for a professionally run cleaning business which guarantees customer satisfaction, and stands behind that guarantee.
How do you advertise to such a broad age group? TV, Newspapers, Radio? Unfortunately, there is such a great variance in interests that it is impossible to reach all prospects with just one of these media. Therefore, an ongoing marketing strategy that incorporates all media sources is optimal.
By keeping your company continuously in front of the consumer you become known to them. When they receive your direct mail piece, notice your car signs in their neighborhood, see your TV ads, find you in the yellow pages and on the internet, you’ve hit all the bases. Chances are you’ll be the first company they consider when they need a cleaning service.
A “brand” is the memory created through a person’s collective experience of a company, product or service. Therefore, your logo; verbal and written promises; physical appearance of cleaning technicians, cleanliness of cars and equipment; customer testimonials — both verbal and written; and finally the personal experience in each home and on the phone “brands” your company image into the public’s mind. Every experience you provide must be consistent with the image you want to create. Branding is marketing, and marketing includes every aspect of public contact.
In order for your marketing to succeed your prospects must be exposed to it when they’re in a receptive frame of mind. You wouldn’t want your direct mail pieces to be delivered Monday through Thursday because some prospects are busy thinking about work and time management issues. Friday and Saturday are the days which your direct mail piece will have a more likely chance of being read.
Similarly, placing a newspaper ad in the Business section would be less likely to attract the attention you desire — your ads should be placed in the Home and Garden section to be read at a time that your prospects are focused on their home. Follow this same principle if you use local TV advertising by running your ads during programs which are geared toward upper-income viewers, at a time that they are relaxed and focused on home life, i.e. food, home, or travel shows.
Television is by far the most expensive form of marketing. Also, it provides the least amount of qualified leads. If you are determined to produce a TV commercial do some research first: Contact all of your local TV stations and ask for samples of commercials they have produced for local companies. Be aware that the stations will not send sample tapes without first determining if you are a valid prospect – you will have to meet with advertising salespeople. Set aside at least two hours each for the appointments and related phone calls from sales people. After you have met with a few salespeople you will know if your budget can handle TV advertising.
If you decide to continue with this venue ask each salesperson for samples of commercials their stations have produced, you may have to insist that this is a preliminary step to their gaining your business. When you view the commercials, note the names of the companies which are service oriented – then call each one and inquire about the results of their TV ad campaign. Ask the following questions:
o Were your ads run during programs that were geared toward upper income viewers?
o Were you certain that your ads did indeed run as scheduled, or were they “bumped” by higher dollar advertisers?
o If your ads were “bumped” from your desired spot, did the station run them during inappropriate programs and charge you anyway?
o After the commercial ran, did qualified prospects call for estimates?
o What was the ratio of qualified vs. unqualified prospects?
o Were the results worth the amount you spent on this form of advertising?
o What marketing vehicle have you found to be the most effective?
Be certain your contract states that if your ad is bumped from it’s spot you will NOT be charged if it is moved to programming you have not pre-approved. Be forewarned that your salesperson has no idea what is going on with your ad, and has no control over it once it has been sent to the lineup personnel. If at the last minute your ad is bumped, it may become a filler ad at 2am on a court-TV rerun.
Finally, record the time slots you have pre-approved so that you can determine if your advertising budget has been working for you or against you. If your ad did not run as specified in your contract, you have proof – use it! Call the salesperson, and if necessary speak to the station manager in order to have the ad run during appropriate programming – and if your contact states such, do not pay for ads which were not properly run.
We have found that direct mail gives the highest return per dollar, and is guaranteed to reach all who you target — if your mail piece is cost effective and your mailing list is accurate. Your choices for direct mail are letters, brochures or postcards. Letters are most likely to be considered junk-mail and will be unopened, and brochures can be expensive to produce. Therefore, the most cost effective direct mail piece is a postcard. Postcards are non-invasive, quickly read, easily saved or carried to work, and are economical. Whether or not the cards are read, they display your logo on both sides; therefore, repetitively sending postcards instills name recognition.
Your postcard should state the customer satisfaction guarantee, services you offer, insurances carried, your website address, and phone numbers. You can have an advertising firm create a postcard for you, or save money by using the pre-formatted cards from MaidDocs.
Send your customers and dormant customers a marketing piece at least twice each year. During months that business is slow, offer discounts on deep cleaning services for your current customers. Spring cleaning and pre-holiday specials are the best vehicles to renew business with dormant customers and to reach new prospects.
Direct mail lists are available through a number of sources. The most economical lists we have found are the “City Search” discs offered by Hill-Donnelly. Telephone assistance is provided by Hill-Donnelly to teach you how to extract information from the discs and save it as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Other lists are available through many sources which you can locate on the internet. Also, most companies offer the information pre-sorted onto mailing labels, ready to peel-and-stick.
Visit your local post office and purchase a First Class pre-paid mailing permit. The USPS representative will provide instructions on how to set up the permit block. When your postcards are printed you simply count out the number to be mailed, and then deliver them to the bulk-mail representative at your local post office. This saves time (no applying stamps by hand) and looks more professional.
Door-knockers are marketing pieces that are pre-cut to hang on a door knob. Although they are inexpensive to produce, paying your employees to deliver them can be costly. Also, there is the chance that they will toss the door-knockers out and add delivery hours to their timesheet. Therefore, door knockers are not a cost effective means of advertising unless you plan to deliver them yourself, or have an effective tracking method for delivery.
Local service companies are often listed for free on community pages. Find them all and present them with your information. Many offer online submission forms – but if you need to call and personally ask to be listed, it is well worth the effort. Include your logo, website and email addresses in each listing.
Having your own website is desirable. Depending upon the area you are servicing, a percentage of your business will come directly from prospects surfing the web for cleaning service companies. Other prospects may receive a marketing piece or find your ad in the yellow pages, and visit the website before calling. Prospects who call but don’t book a service should be directed to the website as a means to reiterate your phone conversation and to view customer testimonials.
You should be able to find a local web developer in the yellow pages, or better yet, ask other small business owners for a reference. Once you have a few candidates ask them for the addresses of websites which they have developed. Log on to these sites and visit all of the pages to ascertain whether the design and visitor generated forms give an impression that is compatible with the branding you want for your company. When you determine which designs match your needs, send an e-mail to the business owners asking if they are satisfied with the knowledge and service provided by the webmaster.
Many prospects will search the yellow pages for service companies. Some will look you up in the yellow pages when they receive a direct mail piece – just to verify that you are a legitimate company. Most of the information which is on your postcard should be listed in the yellow pages ad. If this is cost prohibitive, then simply state “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and always list your website address.
When considering the type of ads to place, remember that your ad must stand out from the competition. Research all of your local phone books and notice which ads catch your eye. A good bet is a “knock-out” ad with at least 2 colors. The “knock-out” removes the yellow background and leaves a crisp, attention grabbing white field among all the yellow ads. For a lesser cost you may list your company in the yellow pages free listing column with a knock-out and color. Make this ad a minimum of four 4 lines, with color.
Be certain to call your local yellow pages to ascertain their deadlines for placing ads in the next edition. It would be a shame to miss this marketing vehicle and have to wait a full year to be listed.
Yellow knock-outs can be incorporated into your white pages listing. Make this ad a minimum of four 4 lines, and add color if you can afford it. Remember to list your website address here also.
Newspapers are the second most used form of advertising for small businesses, following directly after the Yellow Pages. Your ads should be placed in Home and Garden section to be read at a time that your prospects are focused on their home. Of course Sunday is the ultimate day to advertise, but also the most expensive. Also, most papers publish special sections that may run only once per month or several times per year – budget extra advertising dollars to run your ad in all home or leisure specials.
Double check all written information from the sales department to assure that your ads will be run in the proper sections. Insist on viewing a “proof” of the ad and having a final approval before publishing. Keep in mind that you must accommodate the newspaper’s schedule – if you do not provide feedback in a timely manner your ad will either miss the print or it will proceed without your approval.
Finally — read the paper to be certain that your ad was properly printed and placed. If the paper made an error, you should insist on a reprint in the next comparable edition.
You can measure the success of your marketing campaign by keeping a record of how many estimates are generated, and how many are converted to customers. By tracking all responses according to their sources, you can test individual ad campaigns to see which marketing approach and special offers produce the most profitable results for your cleaning business. Then focus your marketing budget on the avenues which are most productive.
Note: A further discussion of marketing can be found in the MaidDocs Business Owner’s Manual available at MaidDocs.com.
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