Who is your ideal client for carpet cleaning? Can you picture her? She’s busy, affluent and social. She takes pride in her home.

What does she read? Success, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Women’s Health…

What does she do? Maybe she has a successful career. It could be she is a stay-at-home mom.

She plays tennis, golf or perhaps is into fitness, gardening or running. She loves to travel.

The image of the ubiquitous “soccer mom” may come to mind.

Now here is the $54,000 question… “What are you doing to keep your company at the top spot in her mind when it comes to carpet cleaning and related services?”

It takes seven times more money, effort and time to get a new client than it does to keep an existing one.

People have a natural fear of making a mistake, being cheated or overpaying. They react from previous bad experiences with caution and skepticism, making it more difficult to gain trust. Once you gain their trust, you must nurture and maintain it.

Your past clients are the most likely source of future sales and referrals. If you ignore them and expect them to remember you and refer you to others, you are either arrogant or ignorant. Either way, it costs you big money.

People serving people

The fact is that we are not businesses servicing buildings. We are people serving people. Never forget that business is all about relationships.

In both business and personal relationships, there are certain things that must exist in order for the relationship to grow strong and thrive. We need to know, like and trust one another.

Client loyalty cannot be assumed. It must be earned and continually nurtured. If you don’t have a client retention system, the following story should make you very uncomfortable because, trust me, you are losing clients and money each month to your competition.

The company names have been changed to protect the ignorant.

True story

A few years back, one of my old air-conditioning units finally died. I did some research and called “Air Wizards.” They sold us a new system for about $8,500.

The system was installed and worked great. I was a satisfied client.

The following winter, my parents’ furnace died. I referred Air Wizards, and they replaced the furnace for about $4,500. Air Wizards had another satisfied client.

A couple of years later, our second system needed replacement. I’d lost the company info, so I looked them up online. They sent out a representative the same day. It wasn’t until well into the consultation that I realized I had called “Air Magicians” — similar name, but a different company.

The salesman was professional and friendly. They had a great guarantee and zero percent interest. So we bought an $11,000 system from the “wrong” company.

Air Wizards is ignorant and blissfully unaware that this happened. They don’t know I switched companies. They don’t know they lost a valued client and my future referrals.

Why did I leave? They did good work. I liked them. I didn’t move away or die. No, I left because they let me. They allowed the value of our relationship to evaporate. Leaving was easy because the relationship was no longer important to me.

There is a direct correlation between the amount and kind of contact that you have with your clients and the amount of repeat, referral and add-on sales you get from them. Ignorance of this fact cost Air Wizards an $11,000 sale and most likely my future business and referrals.

Keep in touch with clients

I once owned and operated a carpet cleaning company. We were among the highest priced companies in our area, if not the highest.

One of the things we never failed to do was communicate with our clients. Each month, we mailed a full-color, educational, entertaining and engaging newsletter. It was not cheap, but the cost was tiny compared to the cost of losing a client.

In addition, the value of the referrals we got far outweighed the cost of staying in touch. It only cost about $12 per year, per client. We had approximately 3,000 clients in our active database. A little quick math reveals that we invested $36,000 a year on sending newsletters to our clients.

If those newsletters increased repeat sales by just 10 percent, the additional sales would represent more than $120,000 in gross revenue. Of course, our repeat sales were increased by far more than 10 percent. And we enjoyed more add-on sales and referrals from our clients.

Start whispering

Again, if you think you can ignore your clients month after month and expect them to remember and refer you, you’ve got your head in the sand. People refer and buy from companies they know, like, trust and remember.

You must become a master “client whisperer.” Every opportunity you have, you must communicate with your clients.

Your clients must know everything you do, how you do it and why you are different.

Your clients should enjoy dealing with your people. They should feel that your company is a positive presence in the community.

Your clients should believe in the honesty and integrity of your people. They should have faith you protect their interests and will deliver quality that surpasses your promises. They should view you as a trusted advisor.

Remember, when the subject of cleaning and restoration comes up, your clients should easily recall your company name and brand. Here is a reality check: How many times has a client asked you the name of your company when preparing to write a check?

You will make mistakes. When the relationship is properly nurtured, the client can forgive almost any mistake and would do almost anything before they would choose another company… but only if they like you. Your marketing must be likable.

Smart whispering

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in marketing is the overreliance on reminder postcards and emails. Don’t misunderstand. I believe these are a necessary part of the marketing mix.

But your clients want to hear more from you than, “Hey, it’s time to spend money on carpet cleaning again.” To most people, carpet cleaning is — at best — a necessary inconvenience. Your communications should be about your clients, not you.

Give to your clients until they are ready to give back to you willingly, happily and eagerly. Not all will, but those who do will become your most loyal clients. And that’s why I so highly recommend a printed newsletter. Within the pages of a well-written newsletter, you can accomplish your goals. Remember the 3 “E’s” of client-focused marketing: Educate, entertain and engage… not sell, sell, sell.

Educate your clients with interesting articles about your services. For example: How Choosing the Right Carpet Can Save You a Bundle; Breathe Easy Indoors; Pet Odor Problems and Solutions; Treating Common Spots and Spills, etc.

Entertain your clients with cartoons, recipes and articles about health, finances, travel, exercise, kids, pets and nature. Engage them with trivia contests, special offers, referral rewards and thanks, client-of-the-month recognitions and community announcements. Be creative!

Newsletters are designed to establish your expert status, maintain top-of-mind awareness and nurture a relationship of trust.

You may not like to hear this, but client loyalty erodes over time unless you continue to build layers of added value through ongoing communication.

The recognition of your competitors will increase through their advertising efforts in the mail, on radio and even television. If you become complacent you will lose clients to them.

Don’t make your friends into clients. Make your clients into friends. How do you do that? Show that you care about what’s important to them. Remind your clients you are the expert, there to serve. Thank them. Provide useful, up-to-date information. Share a bit of humor.

Again, never lose sight of the fact that we are people serving people, not businesses serving buildings.

I’m not saying you can send out a newsletter and sit back and wait for the telephone to ring with past clients begging you to come out and clean their carpet. It doesn’t work that way. There is a cumulative effect that takes time.

Repeated, consistent, focused contact makes an impression on the mind and builds trust. Don’t look at marketing to your clients as an expense. It is an investment, one that pays big dividends in long-term relationships and profitability.

Ignorance of this this fact will cost you. Give your clients what they need to keep using your services.

Become a client whisperer.

 

Bruce DeLoatch “The Cleaner’s Coach” is the owner of CCNewsletters. For more information on attracting and keeping more clients, you can contact him at editor@ccnewsletters.com or (678)250-6001.