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“You charge how much?”
“The other company charges less.”
“You’re too expensive!”
These are common consumer reactions to price quotes for cleaning. These responses tend to rattle the confidence of even the most seasoned cleaners, causing many to consider lowering their prices.
And yet, in the midst of all of the pressure to lower prices, there are thriving companies charging two to three times the going rate. How do these companies find customers willing to pay higher prices?
Not by chance
Companies successfully charging top rates did not just stumble into their high pricing. It took determination, guts and a plan for building a company that deserves to charge more.
The owners of these companies know they provide the type of service worthy of top pricing. They also understand there is only a small portion of the consumer market that values a higher level of service and is willing to pay for it.
I am often asked where to advertise to reach higher quality customers. My answer is that advertising is simply not going to work well.
These are customers rarely swayed by advertising — instead, they network, referring one another to the best service providers. The more productive referral sources a company has, the easier it is to build a quality clientele.
High-priced companies have established proven reputations for providing outstanding service. High-end consumers expect their professionals, such as interior designers, flooring and furniture retailers, contractors and real estate professionals to provide quality referrals.
These professionals are an important source for building a high-end clientele.
Professionals are relieved when they are able to refer clients to a company consumers can depend on. If they are giving a referral to a high-end consumer, the high price indicates the quality of work to be expected.
The other major source of new clients is the current clientele. These customers have like-minded friends with similar values. These customers rely on service companies and freely share information about those that perform well. Word spreads quickly when someone finds a good service company.
This process is greatly accelerated by the implementation of a good follow-up system. Staying in touch with customers via newsletters, seasonal greeting cards and annual reminders helps keep the service company along with its contact information fresh in the minds of customers.
These materials work best when the sales message is kept at a minimum and they provide relevant information, reminding the reader that you are there to serve.
Growing the clientele
Companies rarely start out charging significantly higher prices. Building a high-end clientele is a process that requires a well thought-out plan.
A clientele must be intentionally groomed to develop an acceptance of higher prices. Many original customers will be strategically replaced over time with customers looking for better service.
One of the toughest challenges in this process is to resist the urge to raise prices prematurely. Raising the price too soon slows growth. The most efficient way to build the desired clientele is to harness the power of supply and demand.
The objective is to intentionally create a great demand for services by offering outstanding value to customers. When a company is solidly booked several weeks in advance through most of a season they have such value, and it becomes time to raise prices.
New customers and less desirable clients should be the first to experience the price increase. Only after the first set of customers has adapted to the new pricing should the bulk of the clientele have its price bumped up. The number of clients should decrease through this process. If this is done correctly, there should be little attrition among your most valued clients.
The level of service and professionalism should then increase to create a greater demand for service. When fully booked in advance, the prices should be increased again following the same pattern. Assuming a large enough target market, there is no end to this process.
Lack of competition
Major cities present a demand for high-end service companies. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are only a handful of these companies to service hundreds of thousands of homes valued at well over a million dollars. These homeowners are forced to settle for a lower level of service than they are willing to pay for.
There is no magic formula required to claim a share of this market. For a company to deserve higher prices, it needs to provide a greater perceived value. This is created through consistent, quality service and professionalism along with a few little extras.
The company needs an image which clearly distinguishes it from common companies along with a higher level of knowledge, expertise and credentials.
Include a specific plan for acquiring the target market, and you will have the formula for success.
Steve Marsh is the creator of the Be Competition Free Marketing Program. He is a 40-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. Marsh is a marketing and business consultant who helps owners build their companies to attract higher quality customers. For more information, visit www.BeCompetitionFree.com.