How can I compete against the ‘Big Boys’?

competing-successfully-against-big-cleaning-companiesQuestion: How can I fight the national franchises?

Steve’s answer: DON’T!


I have to say I am seriously struggling with my business. I have many great national franchises around me here in Duluth that keep me from getting jobs. In fact, I used to work for one of them! I started from scratch and saved up money to get a portable unit. I had a van with it that I had to sell to put food on the table. I am a bachelor degree holder who basically has no financial means to pay for a marketing consultant and leads. Steve, I am greatly in need of sound advice. I know I have to attend courses (even though I have the experience) to get certified. What is your wisdom for me?

Digging Out in Duluth

It is one of the great misconceptions in our industry that if you know how to clean carpet then you know how to run a carpet cleaning business. Duluth, the ‘big boy’ national franchises are some of the best marketing firms within our industry. Their marketing budget is huge and after so many years in the industry they have developed an incredible ‘brand awareness’ among consumers.

But you didn’t write to me to hear a lesson on the cleaning industry! Remember, you don’t need (or even want to be) a national company. Sure, they have an overwhelming presence. But as you well know lots of people don’t like the ‘big boys’ and want the ‘little guy’ who is local to work for them. So don’t let yourself be intimidated!

The most important issue you face right now is stimulating (promoting) business. Without money that limits you so you need to get ‘creative’. One option is to go out and do the dreaded ‘face to face selling’! A Phoenix carpet cleaner recently wrote me with much the same challenges you face and HERE are some answers that may help you. Some general ruminations…

To generate fast cash flow you can try apartment complexes. They may be cheap but usually you can generate fast cash. Plus CLICK HERE for a great way to tie an apartment complex to you forever AND you’ll make huge profits too!

Start calling on churches and offer to clean their sacristy or their ‘cry room’ for free. Hopefully when they see your work they’ll have you clean other areas. Call on people that you give business to such as your bank, insurance provider, etc.

Stop at used car dealerships and clean up their worst cars for free. Go door to door with a great deal to consumers or offer the free room cleaning. In many cases this will get you additional work.

Stop at a small, local companies and offer janitorial services. Surprisingly this can be a good way to generate steady cash flow while you are growing your business.

Also call small janitorial companies and offer to sub-contract the carpet cleaning in their buildings. Many janitorial companies don’t specialize in carpet cleaning so they welcome the help. Our Value Added Service for Technicians seminar instructor Jeff Cutshall has built his business by subcontracting to janitorial companies.

At this point YOU are the company and it is only through your personal efforts that you can generate business. Before you go to bed at night plan a route for the next day. Hit multiple stops and do not return until you have at least one cleaning job. I called this my Dedicated Sales Morning and it does work!

You may also pick up a part time job to give you some cash flow and schedule your jobs around the job. There is no shame in this. But remember the more time you spend “workin’ for the man” the less time you have to sell your services and grow your business. So it is a balancing act!

Remember that no one wants to buy from a desperate person. So even when you aren’t real busy you want to give the impression you are. So get out the and talk to people! As SFS instructor Chuck Violand always says, “Luck favors a body in motion.” Now here are some specific ideas:

1. Drumming up residential work door-to-door. There is no faster, cheaper and more effective way of finding residential work QUICK than knocking on doors. BUT you need to do it right or it will be very discouraging. Instead of me retyping stuff HERE is a seven-step system I shared with a Rochester, NY cleaner.

2. Regular contract commercial work is an often overlooked sector. (I tell every SFS class that too many carpet cleaners “fight over the low end residential market like starving dogs over a picked over bone!”) Remember to include at least 3 price/frequency options on every quote. (Even if they don’t ask for them.) And HERE is how to “break through” on the larger accounts where you can’t get the Property Manager’s attention.

3. Real estate agents! Sure, many cleaners say they are cheap and disloyal. Not so! Cheap? Why? In most cases the money isn’t coming out of their pocket- they are just referring you to their listing home owner. Disloyal? Maybe but only because the cleaner has not given them a compelling reason to keep using their service. So you need to change things up. First…

A. An inexpensive (free would be better) way to reach out to Realtors and get their attention. HERE is a free way to email real estate agents and I promise you every single email will get opened! Now you must…

B. Explain to the agent what is in it for them. (All an agent wants to do is sell their listing fast. So HERE is how you will help them sell the house while making them look great to their customer!) This will keep most agents referring your services but if you want you can…

C. Start up a “referral punch card” for agents. HERE is how you do it… (You can track their referrals manually too.)

Duluth, if you implement what I’m suggesting you WILL see results. It will take you having the “fire in the belly” but hey- that’s capitalism! 🙂 Please write back and let me know how you are doing!


PS Duluth, I will say any of our SFS training options would be HUGE for you. And you can even attend our SFS: Business Transformation for free by CLICKING HERE!

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