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In a conversation with a business owner, I asked if he sent "Thank You" cards to his customers.
He proudly explained that he sent "Thank You" letters instead, and showed me one.
A great opening sentence thanked the customer for using his service. After that, the letter launched into a full page of text proclaiming that his company was the best and listing all the services he offered that the customer should use.
The letter then went on to ask the customer to refer all of their friends. It concluded by saying, "Thank you again for using my company."
In another case, an owner, after telling me about his great quality work, mentioned sending reminder cards six months after each job. I asked if his cleaning only lasted six months, to which he replied that his cleaning normally lasted for a year. He figured he might motivate customers to clean more frequently by reminding them sooner.
Some suggest cleaners should take every opportunity to sell their services. One marketing person stated, "If a marketing piece doesn''t have a ''call to action,'' it isn''t worth mailing out." We often hear that, in order to succeed, we must sell, sell, sell.
But, is it wise to stick a sales pitch in the middle of a "Thank You" letter? Is your credibility damaged by encouraging customers to clean more frequently than is needed? Is there a time to stop selling?
I believe there is.
Success is best achieved when you understand both when to sell and when not to sell. There are times to actively persuade and times to stop and trust the customer to make the right choices.
Three phases of marketing
Understanding the three phases of marketing will help you determine whether sales or non-sales communication is most appropriate.
There is a time to sell, a time to consult and a time to simply remind.
• Phase 1: Call Me
The first is to get consumers to recognize that you exist. You are trying to let them know that you have the solution to their problem.
Advertising is commonly used to accomplish this. A strong sales message informing the consumer that you can solve their problem along with a commanding call to action is critical for success. This is when you must sell.
• Phase 2: Choose Me
Consumers normally narrow their search to just a few companies. If you made the first cut, your job now is to convince the caller to commit and schedule with you. Most business owners attempt to persuade callers that their company is far superior to the competition.
In last month''s article, I suggested a more effective tactic. That is to virtually ignore the existence of your competitors and play the role of an advisor. Your job is to help the customer find the best company for their needs. This often leads the consumer to see your company as the best solution.
• Phase 3: How May I Help You?
If consumers commit to having you do the work, they are exclusively thinking about you.
At this point, other companies are no longer relevant. You should never again mention or even hint that any other companies exist. This customer is yours.
This is when all sales efforts should cease. Your focus should now be on providing an outstanding perceived value and building a loyal and trusting relationship. Your client has gone to a lot of work to select and put their trust in you. That trust will continue until you give them a reason to doubt it. Any attempt to sell something that is not in their best interest will jeopardize that relationship.
Profit on their needs
If you provide good value, clients will naturally want to know what other services you offer. When they discover that you are an outstanding service provider, they hope that you will also meet their other needs since it is so hard to find good help.
It is still your responsibility to inform them of all of your services. Just let them know what those services are and ask if there is anything else you can do for them — no sales pitch. They are already sold on you. If they need any other services they will let you know.
It does not serve you well to continue claiming that you are the "best."
Remember, your clients are no longer comparing you to your competitors unless you bring it up. Your service and professionalism speak louder than anything you can say.
Building trust and loyalty
You can build a solid relationship with your clients by implementing a follow-up system. Do not send advertisements intended to get new customers to existing clients. Sales ads frustrate clients and cause them to doubt you are looking out for their best interests.
A good follow-up system should let them know of when their next cleaning should be, remind them how to contact you, educate them on the services you provide, inform them of any upcoming specials and build confidence that you are an expert in the services you perform.
It can be scary to trust that customers will actually call you without nagging them. However, you will maximize your sales to each customer if you respect them and their ability to make the right decisions. Watch and see how many referrals you can get when you build relationships this way.
The time to turn off the sales pitch is when the consumer commits to using your company. In this kind of relationship, it makes perfect sense to send a "Thank You" card or a holiday greeting without any call to action. They are not going to forget that you clean carpet.
A sincere "Thank You," "Hello" or reminder can be far more powerful to an existing client than your best sales pitch.
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.