Are you interested in finding more clients for your commercial cleaning service? While advertising is definitely a key component in expanding your customer base, determining which marketing platforms are best suited for your small business can be challenging, particularly if you are in an industry doesn’t have significant social media appeal. Fortunately, all is not lost. In episode #109, Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks discuss which advertising platforms will be most useful in attracting more customers to your commercial cleaning business.

Executive Summary

2:04—Today’s Topic: How Do I Find More Customers for My Commercial Cleaning Service?

4:22—Google Adwords enables small business owners to create localized advertising campaigns that target potential customers in their specific area.

5:53—Facebook advertising is another option for B2B business owners who want to reach a larger audience within their particular area.

6:34—Traditional forms of advertising, such as radio commercials, offer equally as effective results for a less expensive price. They also enable you to incentivize your services, which can further increase your business.

8:11—Billboard advertising not only serves as a reminder of your business, but it can even reinforce your brand image among potential clients.

10:38—Hiring salespeople to promote your services can generate more work for your business, but only if you offer your staff appropriate compensation.

13:09—When attending software demos, Gene encourages business owners to set clear boundaries with regards to time and topics.


Submit Your Question


Elizabeth: Welcome back to another edition of the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. Today we are gonna be talking about finding more clients. And Gene you always say this is one of the biggest challenges for any small business owner.

Gene: Yeah, of course. I mean whenever I meet a business owner that’s like, “I’ve got enough work, no more, doors are shut on any new customers,” I always raise an eyebrow.

Elizabeth: Yeah, check them into the insane asylum.

Gene: Yeah exact, you’re right. I’ve never met any competent business owner who is not always looking for more customers. Right?

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Getting leads, and getting customers is an issue for all of us. It always makes me laugh too because we were talking to, I was talking to a real estate broker friend of mine who I’ve known for years, and he’s super successful, this guy is. He sells a lot of houses. He was telling me, first of all, I mean he sells multi-million dollar homes, and he sells $100,000 homes. He told me that no deal is too small for him. When you look around there’s billboards out for him, he’s got ads out there, in other words it’s never enough.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: It’s never enough. Right? You look at some people, and you’re like wow, this guy’s really successful, they must be whatever. It’s you’re always looking for more work.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: Do you know what I mean? You’re always trying to maintain that level of success, and grow.

Elizabeth: Your pipeline.

Gene: Yeah.

Elizabeth: You gotta keep it going.

Gene: So the question is how do I find more work? It’s always no matter how well you’re doing, you should always be looking for more work.

Elizabeth: Okay, we’re gonna talk more about this, and some strategies for how to do this after we hear from our sponsor.

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QUESTION: Finding More Clients for a Commercial Cleaning Service

Elizabeth: So today’s question has come in from a small business owner. He doesn’t give us his location, but his name is Ben, and his question is, “What are the best ways to find more clients for a commercial cleaning service?” We’ve talked about how to find more clients a little bit before, but I liked Ben’s question because while it is very specific to commercial cleaning services, it is one of those industries that you can’t just advertise for it, you have to go out, and find those people.

Gene: See, isn’t that funny I have the exact opposite view of that, and I’ll tell you. No, I’m glad you brought that up because different people have different approaches. I mean so the guy’s running a commercial cleaning service so it’s B2B.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: I’m assuming he cleans offices and warehouses and stores, and that’s-

Elizabeth: Crime scenes.

Gene: God knows I mean that’s what he does. Clearly it’s a referral-based business. I think a lot, if you talk to anybody who runs those businesses, they probably get a lot of referrals based on that. But it certainly not a very social media kind of business.

Elizabeth: No.

Gene: I mean you’re not gonna build a community of people that like commercial cleaning services. It’s kind of boring isn’t it? Right?

Elizabeth: Yeah. No, it’s … The reason I say it’s more niche, and you can’t just go out to everyone because if you were to just, say you do a TV commercial-

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: And you’re like, “I can clean your office.” Most of the people that you reach when you’re doing a commercial don’t own an office.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: They’re gonna be like, “Can you clean my house?”

Gene: That depends because maybe you do a commercial, a TV commercial late at night on ESPN for example, or a local sports channel, which demographically just attracts more people that run businesses-

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Which is a proven thing. Do you know what I mean? Or you advertise … When I listen to for example, if I listen to The Howard Stern Show on Sirius, he has a lot of ads on that show for companies selling to small businesses. I noticed that because I’m in the small business world, and all that. And the reason why because I remember him talking about this one day, he said his particular demographics is he happens to attract a lot of small business owners-

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: I don’t know, freelancers or truck drivers or whatever. They’re listening to him on the radio. So if you find the right demographic then yeah. I think if you’re in a B2B business like commercial cleaning in particular-

Elizabeth: Yeah, so let’s go through your list because I know you have some ideas.

Gene: I think it’s advertising that’s my list. I mean I think it’s advertising.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: I think that nowadays if I was Ben, I would need to create an advertising budget. I would first and foremost be focusing probably on Google AdWords would be my focus.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Google AdWords can be if you get good at it, or you hire somebody that’s good at it you can really localize your advertising. Because you remember this guy Ben is not, we don’t know where he’s located, but if he’s in St. Louis he doesn’t wanna get leads in Albuquerque-

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: He wants leads in the St. Louis area. So he wants to focus, and place ads that are … Look there are a lot of online advertising services, but Google is the easiest one, and the most broadly known. For a relatively small amount of money that he might spend I mean anywhere from five grand, it might be as much as 5,000 a month, depending on how much money he has to spend, he can create campaigns with AdWords.

So that think about it if I’m a business owner, and I’ve opened up an office, or I’ve got, and I’m looking for a … “I need a cleaning service here, what am I gonna-“

What would you do, Elizabeth? If you had a … wouldn’t you go online first, and probably search around for cleaning services in Hartford. Right?

Elizabeth: Yeah, I would Google cleaning services. Yeah, for Connecticut. Yeah.

Gene: Yeah, so you would be using those keywords. So to me it makes the most sense to then say okay well, most people are probably gonna go online, and do searches on Google so you probably wanna have a really good AdWords presence there, which I think would be really helpful. So that’s my number one thing I think I would do.

Believe it or not, Facebook advertising may, or may not be beneficial to you. It would probably be lower down on my list, but I just wanna mention it only because Facebook has excellent tools where you can localize, and personalize your ads. Right?

Elizabeth: You can really target, and there are a lot of small business owners on Facebook.

Gene: 70 million small business pages on Facebook.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: So you can target to the St. Louis area if that’s where you’re from. For people that run their own small businesses, or maybe if you’re a commercial cleaning, and you specialize in just retail stores, you’re looking for Facebook people that have retail stores. So yeah, I think it’s another potential place that you can go to. Not as important, not as, I would still go to Google AdWords first.

Traditional advertising as well, like radio believe it, or not. You mentioned TV ads, but radio is relatively inexpensive. I mean you can pay 500 to three grand a month, and place ads on sports stations and news stations, other local stations, that people listen to as they’re driving around. A lot of business owners listen to that stuff.

Elizabeth: When you do an ad, and I will say I used to intern at a radio station, and when you do an ad with them they will offer up their talent can voice the ad-

Gene: That’s right.

Elizabeth: So you’re saving a little money there. You don’t have to do it yourself.

Gene: That’s right.

Elizabeth: The other thing with radio advertising, I’m wondering how you feel about this. Do you think you do an ad, and you say, “This is Ben’s cleaning service, if you call now, and get a quote we’ll give you a 10% discount off your first?”

Gene: Sure. Sure. Why not? Why not?

Elizabeth: Do you have to incentivize people?

Gene: First of all, whenever you hear those ads, and we hear them all the time, we hear them for a reason, and the reason is, is because they work. You know? I mean I always cringe when I see people having going out of business sales, or liquidation sale, or whatever, and the company’s still there five years later.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: These kinds of things seem to work, and-

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: So they have a psychological benefit. So placing a radio ad with a call to action and some type of deadline to it. You know what I mean? “Call before the end of today, and you’ll get a 10% discount in the first month of cleaning.” That has been proven in study after study that it actually has some kind of a-

Elizabeth: It works. Everyone wants to save money.

Gene: It’s something in our brain. Some synapse fires, and we’re like, “I gotta, I should call because I gotta save money.” So yeah, I do think using those kinds of things is something that you should definitely consider doing.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: So radio advertising, and then the other one is billboard advertising is another one.

Elizabeth: Now how much will that run you?

Gene: So billboard advertising it depends on the location, the size of the billboard, where you’re-

Elizabeth: What about like in Manhattan?

Gene: Yeah, right so you’re in the middle. Again if you’re out somewhere in the rest of America other than San Francisco or New York City, it’s probably a couple thousand bucks a month is probably what it’s gonna cost you.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: But even, I get back to the realtor friend of mine again this guy is … He’s selling 10 houses a day, or whatever. But I drive around the city, and there’s his big ugly face on like a half a dozen billboards. I see him all over the place.

Elizabeth: Do you use this guy?

Gene: I do.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: Yeah, I’ve used him for so he sold our home, and helped us buy another one, and I’ve referred him. He still gets a lot of his business through referrals.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: But what the billboards do is they do, they’re just a branding and a reminder, and people driving by on the highway, they see it and they’re a lot of business owners, and they think about you. So I guess the gist of this conversation is that for this business, commercial cleaning like, yuck, it’s not like you’re, that is not a very sexy business, but it’s a needed business, I think that you’re to get leads you’re advertising. I think that’s where you’re, what you’re doing.

Elizabeth: Okay. How do you feel about doing a referral campaign with your current clients?

Gene: I think that’s wonderful to go out there, and ask them for if you give me a referral. My issue with referral campaigns is because I’ve tried all this stuff in the past. Number one is a lot of clients, they’re not just thinking about you anyway I mean they’ve got their own problems.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: You can say to them, “Oh my gosh, I’ll give you 50 bucks, or whatever, or $500 if you,” and people are not. Unless you really wave a huge amount of money in their face, which you’re probably not, it rarely gets that kind of attention.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: And secondly there is … I don’t know maybe it’s just me being arrogant, but there is this little smell of desperation when you do that like, “Oh please, please, please tell your friends because I need the work so badly.” And I know that’s not likely not the case, but there is that sort of hint, that perception of that, and so that kind of I’m not too crazy about that.

Elizabeth: Okay. What about upselling your current clients on other services?

Gene: Of course you can go, but again commercial cleaning is commercial cleaning-

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: So it’s kind of tough to do that. The only other thing that you can do is that if you leverage off your current client base like for example, say you are doing commercial cleaning for a company in a corporate center, if you hire a salesperson, if you can strike a deal where you pay low salary, and high commission. And you say to the salesperson go, and knock on doors, “Hey, we’re doing services for ABC company on the second floor, we would love to do the same thing for you.” If you are generous with your salespeople, and let them get a good taste of the cash flow, you can find some hungry people, that are willing to go out there, and do that.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: Sometimes people make the mistake when you hire salespeople of just paying them too little. They have to have a huge amount of sales to really make a decent living-

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: Instead of saying you know what, why don’t you say to them, “Listen if you sign this customer on, for the first year you can take 25% of the billing,” something really lucrative.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: And then after that maybe it ratchets down a little bit. But still something where the salesperson is getting an ongoing cash flow for their efforts. You’ll find a lot a people hustling if you offer them more money.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: And so you might be giving up some money short-term to make money in the long-term. And I think that, that, and remember I always thought if you pay a salesperson well enough where even if your profits are nominal for new clients over a period of time, those new clients are providing you with not only chargeable work, but also potential references-

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: That can bring in other clients where you’re not paying a salesperson that commission. So having a good salesperson out there is another way to generate that work.

Elizabeth: Great.

Gene: Okay.

Elizabeth: Okay. So here’s our list. I’m gonna run it down again for everyone. One, Google AdWords-

Gene: Yes.

Elizabeth: Where you can highly target people by location. Two, Facebook advertising, which may, or may not work for you depending on where you’re located, and how much-

Gene: Again we’re talking B2B companies. Right?

Elizabeth: B2B company.

Gene: Boring commercial cleaning. You know?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: That’s boring.

Elizabeth: Radio advertising, which is actually pretty I don’t know I think, I feel like you get a good bang for your buck there.

Gene: Correct.

Elizabeth: Billboard advertising.

Gene: Yes.

Elizabeth: And then finally hiring a salesperson on a fairly generous commission.

Gene: Correct.

Elizabeth: Great. Okay, we’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.


Elizabeth: Okay. And we’re back. Gene, what’s your Word of Brilliance this week?

Gene: So my Word of Brilliance this week, Elizabeth, is demos.

Elizabeth: Demos.

Gene: As in software demos.

Elizabeth: Okay. Not demolition derby.

Gene: No. I had to sit through, I was forced to sit through from a client because I was brought in at a late stage, through a software demo, and I was literally about to jump out the window.

Elizabeth: You tried to pull all of your hair out.

Gene: I literally, I had no hair left I mean I just I couldn’t, I was trying plucking out with tweezers. I just right, have we all been through really agonizing software demos in our lives? It is just, and they never seem to end, and yet we all still need to sit through these demos because buying software is an important part of anybody’s business.

So I just wanted to share just a couple pieces of advice on taking back control over your software demos, when somebody’s gonna demo to you, an application, how to make it the most productive as possible. So here’s my advice. Number one, give that person 30 minutes to do a 30 thousand foot overview of the software you’re looking for.

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: So that’s your first demo. The whole objective of that demo is to let the salespeople show you what they’re gonna show you, and how their software’s gonna change your life, and how it’s gonna, all of your problems will be solved. But you limit them to 30 minutes, and the whole objective is for you to walk away saying, “Okay, I like the look, and feel of that, I like the salesperson, I like the general direction that this software is going.” You don’t have to get into details yet. But that first demo it should serve for you to disqualify, or not that software. If you make it past that first demo that’s when you schedule your second, or third demo.

Elizabeth: Your deep dive into.

Gene: That’s your deep dive. That’s exactly right.

Elizabeth: Okay yeah, that’s really good advice.

Gene: Yeah.

Elizabeth: I just had a situation where we weren’t even looking to hire anyone, but we wanted to see capabilities of what some of our vendors’ competitors could do.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: And I had to sit through so many demos.

Gene: And it’s agonizing.

Elizabeth: And by the end of it I was just saying we only have 30 minutes-

Gene: Yes.

Elizabeth: So just give us the bold statements.

Gene: Yes. Yes.

Elizabeth: I just don’t wanna sit here, and listen to this whole thing. And now of course, I’m still getting emails. This was in January.

Gene: Yeah.

Elizabeth: I’m still getting emails from the salespeople saying, “Have you changed your mind?”

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: And I feel so bad for them because it’s a tough job.

Gene: Yeah. It’s funny that’s another whole thing because I do that, I’m in the software business.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: I mean I will email following up demos, but if people say we’ve gone some, another direction then I’m done at least for another six months, or a year-

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: I might check back to see how you’re doing. Yeah.

Elizabeth: It would be as a salesperson it would be crazy to not check back in-

Gene: Yes. Absolutely. Of course.

Elizabeth: In a year, eight months, 10 months.

Gene: Because people do whatever. But on this topic of demos, if you’re receiving demos from vendors, that first demo 30 minutes long, give me the 30,000 foot overview, take a deep breath, let the salesperson do their thing. But your only objective is to look first of all, look at the company, the salesperson, and then the product from a 30,000 foot view-

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene: And say, “Okay, I like what I’m looking, I like what I’m hearing, this is worth a deeper dive, or not.”

Elizabeth: Okay.

Gene: And if it’s not worth a deeper dive, in America in 2018 we have a lot of choices.

Elizabeth: Yep.

Gene: So our job is to eliminate, and try, and narrow it down to just a couple.

Elizabeth: Okay, great advice. So that’s gonna bring us to the conclusion of another exciting episode-

Gene: And it was a fantastic one.

Elizabeth: Of the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. We’re gonna be back next week. I think you guys are really gonna enjoy this. We’re doing an interview, and it’s a woman who wrote an article for us called, “When Should I Fire this Client, and What Should I Say to Them?” I think that’s gonna be very exciting.

Gene: I like it.

Elizabeth: In the meantime, please leave us comments in the show notes. We’d love to hear from you about how you advertise your business. Please leave us a review on iTunes, actually I think iTunes is now called Apple Podcast. But either way Apple Podcast slash iTunes please leave us a review, leave us comments, let us know if you’re enjoying the content, if you have any topics you’d like us to cover, if either Gene or I is annoying you. We have gotten a couple comments-

Gene: No, that we’re annoying people?

Elizabeth: That we say like too much.

Gene: Oh, I see. Okay.

Elizabeth: I think it’s probably just me. But anyway we’d love to hear from you so please leave us a review on iTunes slash Apple Podcast, and we’ll talk to you next week.

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