“How can we compete with the cash-under-the-table cleaners?” is a question that I hear at least once a week. And, my short answer is “don’t” compete with them because they are not your competition. Let me tell you my experience with this.
For a while I was in that same spot with my business. When I began my housecleaning business I was charging $15/hour when the top end competition was charging $23/hour, and the under-the-table crowd (independent cleaners working for cash, that are often not paying or underpaying their taxes and other overhead expenses) was charging only $7-$10/hour! As I was trying to grow my business I would periodically lose customers who would say “I can get an independent cleaner for $8/hour, and she’ll come to my house personally.” Well, I couldn’t lower my rates to that and still make money…I was so low below the top competition as it was. I asked myself, “How is that local franchisees and other top-end companies could charge so much, while I got complaints for charging $8 per hour less?” My company’s work was very good, so why wouldn’t my customers be willing to pay more? And then the answer hit me…My customers were not the same customers as those willing to pay the high-end prices.
Anxious to find out how the customers and services differed, I began to research. I got friends to test out the top-end competition and compare job quality, customer service, pricing and other service elements. The end result was that the key difference was not in the service itself, but in the marketing…not advertising…but, marketing. The best companies in town were great at marketing!
Here’s the gist of it. Prospects looking to select a cleaning company, given nothing else to look at will compare services based on price. And, since there are always new naive cleaners coming into the market at all times there will always be people willing to work for less than you can afford to. Trying to compete with that is a “no win situation”. The key is to give your prospects and clients something tangible to hang onto, so that they don’t have to compare you on price.
The following are three simple steps to creating the right marketing that will enable you to stop competing with the under-the-table crowd and start charging what your service is worth.
1. Identify Your Unique Client Benefits
Ask yourself :
Q. What are the 3-4 benefits that your clients could say that they receive from your service? (Don’t include “Price”, “Licensed”, “Bonded” or “Insured” because they are not unique) Some examples might be “Fully Trained Staff”, “Environmentally Safe Products”, or “On-Time Every Time”.
Need some help identifying your businesses unique benefits? Contact me today for help finding out which benefits best describe your business. I have created a list of over 100 unique benefits , and maybe we can think of even more. I can help you identify your client benefits, so that you can begin getting results right away!
2. Educate Your Clients and Prospects on Your Benefits
Once you have written down the 3-4 client benefits that best describe your company you can begin using them to educate your customers in every aspect of your business. You need a marketing plan for how you will get the good news of the benefits of your service out to your customers (for help with this contact me) Think of how many opportunities there are to market to your customers and prospects (there are hundreds).
Here is just a short list:
• Your advertisements
• Your web site
• The way that you answer your calls
• What your answering machine says
• Your pricing policy
• How you bid the job
• Your information materials
• and dozens of more opportunities…
To maximize your marketing opportunities it may take some time; and something more…a little investment. If you’re going to compete with the “Top Dog” companies then your marketing vehicles (brochures, ads, client contracts, customer feedback forms, business cards, web site, etc.) need to look like you fit in with that crowd. So, like me, you may find that it is well worth the investment to have some key marketing materials professionally designed. You won’t believe what a difference it makes! For my business, it made a noticeable difference over night. My new yellow pages ad was pulling double the leads; nearly no clients were wanting to “negotiate” a better price on bids anymore; and, literally nobody compared us to the under-the-table crowd again.
3. Raise Your Prices
Once your marketing is on track, you should be able to begin raising your prices to the “Top Dog” level without much of a problem. “Won’t my existing customers complain?” you may ask. Well, “yes” they probably will. In my case I eventually lost every last one of the our original customers. But, the good news is that it took time to lose the original customers and I replaced them all and more with clients that were willing to pay market value and not compare us to the cash-under-the-table crowd. And, our new customers chose us based on the great service that we provide. What I didn’t realize until I had raised our prices was that the clients getting “too good of a deal” only liked us because of our price, and they did not even notice all of the other great benefits that they were getting. Good marketing benefits and a good marketing plan took care of that problem for us.
So, give these three simple steps a whirl. And, if you would like some help to get your company quicker results contact me today, and I can help you. I know your industry inside and out, and know what kinds of marketing will work for you. I work with top-notch writers and graphics people to be able to offer marketing planning and materials that will really deliver results. Together, we can make your company so different that your customers will WILLINGLY pay more. You can contact me, Renée O’Brien at 206-522-8473, or at Renee@sharpchip.com to get a FREE 30 minute consultation!