Most everyone begins their carpet cleaning business looking for work in the most obvious of starting places. What is not initially realized is that this is the very bottom of the business barrel. You begin cleaning whatever you can. This includes apartments, motels, or whatever else you can find. You see advertisements for the lowest prices for residential carpet cleaning and assume that this must be what everyone else is charging, and how can I do anything different?
So you join the ranks of the “bottom feeders”, fighting over the lowest price to get any work available. “I can do it for less!” “No, I can do it for less!” Who gets burned? Both you and the customer do. You cannot perform high quality work for a low fee. That is a reality. When you work for the lowest price, the “law of economics” says that you must do a hastily performed, low quality job, in order to make a profit and stay in business. This is why there are so many “Bait and Switch” companies out there.
Here is a common scenario: One of your employees sees just how easy it is to get started in the carpet cleaning business, and before you know it, instead of working for you, he is out there competing in the same market as you, for the same customers you are after.
I have a better idea. This idea has worked for me, and I started at the bottom, just like everyone else.
I began with a used machine. I let that cheap used machine buy me a better, used machine. I let that better, used machine buy me a new truck. Now, I am at the top of my field, with the best carpet cleaning machine money can buy (in my opinion). So how did I get there?
You have absolutely no idea what the financial status of your potential customer is. Whether they live in a 1-room shack or in a mansion, you don’t know how much money they actually have. Furthermore, it is really none of your business. Do you want to do the best quality work, charge the highest prices, and make the most profit? Yes. But, how? You need a “niche”. You need to offer something to the potential customer that is different. Something they cannot open the Yellow Pages and find a dozen of or a hundred just like you. Why should a potential client spend more money for your service if you are offering the exact same thing that Mr.Cheap Cleaner is (who is just like you, only he will “do-it-for-less”)?
Now let’s look at some niches. Only you can decide which niche is right for you. It will depend on your talents, the knowledge that you brought to your business, and what you are willing to learn to make that niche yours, and secure it to the point where not only will potential customers call you, but other cleaners will refer you for this niche as well.
My city location is Portland, Oregon. I am famous for cleaning furniture. I have a slogan on my business cards and flyers, etc. that reads: “Furniture Cleaning a Specialty, Not a Sideline”. I had a badge made that says, “The World’s Greatest Furniture Cleaner”. I also have a T-shirt, and a polo shirt, and a cap with the same slogan. I wear these on certain occasions, mainly to local functions where I know there will be other carpet cleaners. I do this so they will know who I am.
Now, with this type of promotion going on, I can and do charge more for cleaning a sofa than any other cleaner in town.
I see ads that say: “sofa cleaned $39.95, with a free chair too”. Certainly these “low ball” cleaners cannot do as good a job as I can. Why? Because, when I charge a high price, I can take my time and be thorough! You cannot be thorough and speedy too.
You can be speedy and charge $39.95, but your cleaning results will definitely reflect it. That same sofa that another company would clean for $39.95 (plus a free chair) will be finished in 15 to 30 minutes. However, I may take 2 hours to clean it and my fee may be as high as $150.00.
The other cleaner may make the same number of dollars per hour, day, week, month, etc. as me, but with low quality work, will they get repeat business? Absolutely not. Will I (having the best results) get repeat business? You bet I will! That is what my business is built on: the highest quality work at the highest prices.
The same principal applies for anything. Lets say you are a “pet urine removal specialist”. What makes you a pet urine removal specialist? The same products and equipment as every one else who does that work? No! You must have Something that is different. You take courses in the subject and utilize some unique equipment and/or chemicals that others do not have. Your results are different than the others and more successful treating the problem that the customer has. You are so successful in your specialty, that you may now call yourself, “The World’s Greatest Pet Urine Removal Specialist”.
Whatever subject you choose, you can be the “World’s Greatest _ _ _ _”. But, you need something to make you different than the herd of other cleaners. When you are different, you can charge more and get more for
essentially the same work. It is all in the perception of the customer.
“Turbo” Truck Powered Steam Cleaning is something NOBODY else has. There are hundreds of Truck-Mounted Steam Machine manufacturers. There are thousands of carpet cleaners who use these machines. Virtually every other cleaner who uses steam cleaning has one. You hear, “Mine is better!”. “No! Mine is better!”. Maybe it is, maybe it is not. The customer does not really care what brand of machine you use. They only want a clean carpet. How you get there is your affair, not theirs.
The IICRC wants all cleaners who use the same type of equipment to do the same quality of work. So, if every cleaner does the same quality of work, why should Mrs.Customer pay for “Higher Quality Work” when it is all the same? Why not pay the lowest price for the same work?
But, if you are different than the herd, and promote a different cleaning system, and can guarantee that you will produce a cleaner carpet than anyone else, using any other system or machine, then the price you will get will be much higher than other cleaner’s. The customer will be satisfied that she got a better job, even though she paid more for it.
The cleaning method you use is up to you. I am not here to tell you to use anything specific (just to be different and promote that difference).
If you promote your Hydramaster, Steamway, or any other machine, you might as well forget it! Next year, you might be running a machine from another manufacturer and where is your promotion for Hydramaster now, when you are running a Panther? Promote you, and promote your different named system. Turbo Truck Powered Steam is only a name.
When I bonnet clean, I do the same as anyone else that bonnet cleans, but I promote it as “Bio-Dry” to my clients. See? Who ever heard of Bio-Dry? Nobody. It is just I. I get top prices for Bio-Dry cleaning. I make much more for it than say Chem-Dry does for theirs. Why? Everyone has heard of Chem-Dry. All the Chem-Dry cleaners are competing against each other, as well as all of the cleaners who use other systems. Who competes against Bio-Dry? Nobody!
Think up your own name for your process. You can name it can be anything you want. Who says different? Who told you what to name your business? You did. Do the same here.
If you want to know what I do for Turbo Truck Powered Steam, that is different than the usual HWE wanding, contact me and I will give you all the details. You may or may not like it. However, using Turbo Truck Powered Steam, I do remove more soils, pet hair, etc. than with regular wanding or even utilizing an Rx-20. I can actually guarantee that the carpet will be cleaner and prove it to the customer, if necessary. Yes, I do charge more for it because it is different!
Another good niche is Leather Cleaning. Put that on your advertising (include Novasuede and Ultrasuede cleaning too). These are very expensive fabrics. The yard goods sell for around $65.00 per yard. It is very easy to clean, actually, as the fabric is made of nylon and polyester (just processed in an expensive manner). They can be cleaned with HWE or other wet processes just fine. Natural suede can be cleaned with a wire brush and some solvent lightly applied to a towel, then wiped across the suede. Charge your clients plenty for this.
You do not have to take a course for cleaning leather, but I recommend that you do. Then, you can buy the products and practice on leather scraps, applying what you have learned.
I would suggest in your advertising something like this: “Fine Leather, Natural Suede, Novasuede, and Ultrasuede Cleaning Specialist.” Since these are all expensive items, this will upgrade your clientele, and the rest of their furnishings. This ploy is like the cleaner who advertises that he specializes in the cleaning of “Kilim” oriental rugs. This separates him from others who say, “We Clean Oriental Rugs”. See what I mean? Now, that is specific marketing to a specific market.
Since most oriental rugs have a name, you could add these to your advertising, like this: “Sarouk Specialist”, “Kilim Specialist”, “Chinese Wool and Hook Specialist”, “India Wool Cleaning a Specialty”, etc.
You get the idea.
Gary Heacock -The Interstellar Crossroads of The Universe- http://www.heacocks.com