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It''s that slow time again. The work load is half of what it was in the fall.
Many cleaners now have more time than money. Shifting from the busy to the slow season requires a change of strategies.
There are things you can do to boost your revenue and take advantage of having extra time.
For a low cost and big return, sending reminder cards is one of the best ways to generate more work.
If you have not been sending annual reminder cards consistently, now is the time to start. Past customers are the easiest consumers to sell to, but they need your help to remember when to clean and how to contact you.
A simple reminder is enough to motivate many of them to call.
Customers who used you last year during the winter are prime candidates to use you again during this slow time.
Do not allow them to slip into your busy season. Reminder cards encourage customers to repeat at this time of year, when you need them most.
Even if you regularly send reminder cards, this is the time to again remind customers who have not called. February and August are the ideal months to send reminder cards to all customers who have not used your services in the last 18 months.
Consider offering generous discounts on secondary services to past customers.
For example, offer a 25 percent to 50 percent discount on upholstery cleaning to all customers who have never used that service. This brings less-used services to the customer''s attention and helps motivate her to call. This is an opportunity to capture work that slipped by when you were busy.
Avoid discounting primary services, such as carpet cleaning, to past customers. These discounts will motivate a customer to use you sooner, but they do not generate additional revenue. Such discounts sacrifice most of your profit in exchange for the small advantage of doing the work a little sooner.
Increase referral rewards
Double or triple your standard referral rewards during the months of January through April.
Bonus referral rewards often motivate people to go out of their way to find you new customers. You get a great return for your investment and promote your referral reward program at the same time.
Notify customers of incentives and discounts through announcements in your newsletters, small fliers distributed with customer invoices, postcards and in conversations with customers.
Friends and family discounts
All discounted work for friends and family should be done during these slow months.
Look back to see who you have given discounts to in the past. Send them a note explaining that you offer a "friends and family" discount on your services if they schedule during your slow time. Tell them that you will gladly work for them at any time during the year, but the discounts will only apply during your slow season.
This is your chance to be generous to friends, family and neighbors. Is there anyone else to whom you can extend this special offer?
You can make a difference. Give, or give major discounts on, your services to charities, non-profit organizations and other worthy causes.
Maybe you can''t afford to be as generous with cash contributions to these groups, but your services are just as valuable to them.
Challenge yourself to give away hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of your services to deserving organizations. Find another cleaner to compete with to see who can offer the most donated work.
It is amazing what blessings and gifts tend to come to operators who are generous. The more you are out there cleaning, the more opportunities you will have to meet new people.
Use your time wisely
This slow season allows you time to do those important things that have been delayed because you were busy servicing customers.
It is easy to fritter away this valuable opportunity. Planning is critical to maximizing your benefits.
How much time do you expect to have? Brainstorm and create a list of projects to work on. Prioritize the list. Break the list into bite-size tasks and post it where you will see it daily. Check off the items when they are completed. If necessary, get a supportive friend to help hold you accountable.
Your list might include:
- Repair, maintain and clean all tools, equipment and vehicles
- Clean and organize your shop
- Catch-up on data entry and prepare your taxes
- Organize and systematize the office
- Take business and technical classes and seminars
- Plan your marketing strategies for the year.
It won''t be long before the work load picks up again. It makes sense to do these things now while you have the time. They are less likely to get done when you are busier.
This is the time to take a vacation and extra days off.
Clear some days on your schedule for guilt-free time off. There is no greater waste than pretending to be busy. Mark the days off on the calendar and plan ahead, to make the most of them.
There is a seasonal slow period for residential carpet cleaning. Most cleaners experience this slowdown between December 15 and April 15. Typically, the gross sales of these four months are approximately half of the average of the other eight months.
This slow season is a natural part of business. This may be an unpleasant reality, especially if you are new to this industry, but attempting to ignore it is a mistake.
Often, cleaners budget from month to month. When the slow time arrives, panic sets in and the opportunities the season provides are lost.
Finding new customers during this time of year is far more difficult. It is like attempting to sell home air conditioning systems during the winter. It can be done, but it is a lot easier to do during the warmer months.
Don''t let yourself be caught unprepared next year. Plan ahead.
It is critical to budget for the entire year with the slow season in mind. It is hard to hear owners complain, year after year, about struggling to survive the slow time.
As you become more successful and learn to use this time wisely, your appreciation for the slow season grows. This time of year can be an opportunity to catch up, relax and prepare for future growth.
Start planning now for next year''s slow time. Those who do will enjoy their business much more.
Steve Marsh is the creator of the Be Competition Free Marketing Program. He is a 30-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an IICRC-approved instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. Marsh is a marketing and business consultant who provides a turn-key program for attracting better customers. For more information, log on to www.BeCompetitionFree.com.