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Best Practices

Marketing Tips for Sweeping Contractors

Seminar Graphic

This information was provided by one of the focus groups at the seminar organized by Uri Ben-Yashar at NPE 2006. This focus group provided an overview on GPS systems as they apply to parking area sweeping.

Topic area moderator was Gerry Kesselring, principal in Ohio-based Contract Sweepers and Equipment, Inc. Presenter was Christy Schmidt, principal of Cincinnati-based Chamberlain Sweeping, Inc.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

Christy Schmidt

Several people provide property inspections as a routine part of their service. These may be either on a complimentary basis or sold as an additional service. Either way, it's a way to keep in touch with customers about additional services they need. For example, lights out, potholes, graffiti, etc.

One caution mentioned by several attendees about the above was to be very careful what is said in your contract about performing this service, especially if it's being done without payment. The example used was if a stop sign was knocked over and then someone was in an injury accident as a result of the sign being gone.

In this case, if your contract stated you would be providing this type of service the management's attorney might be likely to involve your company since you have, as part of your agreement, that you would be monitoring and notifying about such items.

Make the tenants your friends: Contract sweepers are advised to leave their card periodically at the doors of all the outside-entrance tenants once in awhile, along with a request for an assessment of the quality of the sweeping services being provided. This can be as complex as providing a checklist form that the tenant can fax back in, or as simple as leaving a card with a request to be sure to let you know if anything is ever amiss.

Sweeper Parts Online

Sooner or later the tenants will be telling the property manager about any problems they perceive with the sweeping job you've been doing, and it's much better if you learn about it first-hand instead. That way, you can often address any problems prior to word even making it to the property manager. Plus, anyone who's been receiving the cards and/or assessment forms periodically will be likely to defend your company's work and professionalism in the event your reputation is being 'trashed' by some other tenant during a tenants' association meeting.

Another, equally important reason to develop and keep a good ongoing relationship with tenants is that vastly increases your opportunity to sell them on your additional services. Even though sweeping may be paid by the overall mall management firm, many contractors offer a variety of services that are needed by individual tenants, for example pressure washing and graffiti removal.

One of the biggest business advantages offered by sweeping is the frequency the service is provided. This provides contractors with a very competitive opportunity to upsell their ongoing customers with a variety of related services.

Self promotion: One of the ideas everyone liked was Gerry Kesselring's business card which, as you can see by the graphic below, lists every service their company provides on the inside of the card.

Kesselring Business Card Interior

The consensus was also to leave the back of your card blank so you can write information on it, your cell phone number, for example, or the date and time you have agreed to come back to them with an estimate. Especially if you provide other services in addition to sweeping, be sure to list them on any service assessment form you hand out. This will often jog the memory of those reading the material so they'll call you when there's a need for any of those particular services.

Association networking: If you are not involved in groups where your customers interact, you are missing the boat. If you investigate, you will probably find there are a number of associations in your area whose members are composed of potential clients. These include the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), Chambers of Commerce, builders' associations, property maintenance groups, gated community managers, etc. Target one or more of these associations for membership and then get active in them.

Network within your naPSa membership via ongoing contact with other members. For example, all naPSa members may be partnered with a mentor, who is typically a sweeping contractor in another area of the country.

You can also use other naPSa members as references for your company. For example, if you have a friend with a sweeping company in Memphis and he is currently doing work for a property management company that is new to your area, ask your friend for an introduction. This type of personal introduction from someone else in your industry can be very powerful.

Demo your services: Before any of us considers purchasing a new sweeper, we ask the manufacturers/dealers for a demo. When you are selling to a new property, why not offer to sweep 1/2 the lot? If they like the results, they agree to pay to have all of it swept. If they choose not to, what have you lost?

A demonstration can be a very powerful way to get new business. Especially if the current contractor is doing a poor job with poorly maintained sweeping equipment, clearly illustrate to the property manager the difference in your higher level of professionalism.

If you are confident the current contractor is doing a poor job, offer to take the property manager for a 15-minute demonstration ride first thing in the morning after their lot was cleaned the previous night. There's nothing like a first-hand demonstration to get your business to the forefront in the prospect's mind.

Use your invoices as a marketing opportunity: You already are paying the postage to send your invoice, so insert something else into the envelope. Add a comment to the bottom of your invoice. Use bright stickers on the invoice to announce a new service. On a quarterly basis, include an assessment form. Provide a listing of all the services besides sweeping that you offer. Offer upcoming specials for spring cleaning, winter preparation and off-season discounts.

Use pricing to differentiate yourself from a competitor: If your customer will take the time to understand that a parking lot sweeper costs $65,000-$70,000 and that, in addition, there are many other operating costs involved, they will be much more likely to understand that it is simply not feasible for a company to sweep a lot that everybody agrees will take 1 hour for only $30-$40.

If you sell on low price, you'll have that contract for only as long as someone else who's even hungrier doesn't come in with a lower bid. Especially with nighttime parking area sweeping, you have a true opportunity to sell on the professionalism you can provide. Property managers are usually quite concerned about what happens no their properties at night when they aren't there.

Most will welcome -- and gladly pay a premium -- for someone who they truly believe will do a great unsupervised job of cleaning and be their 'eyes and ears' on what's going on at the property at night.

Sometimes, this factor can even be a way to sell nightly sweeping, instead of fewer nights per week. In addition to the added cleanliness and resulting lower likelihood and liability for slip-and-fall accidents, there's someone on the property who has their interests in mind each and every night.

Other favorite PR techniques: Make sure your contact information, including company name, telephone and web address are on all of your sweepers, too. This is a highly visible form of advertising that every contractor who wants to grow should be taking advantage of. There are enormous benefits to this.

Some contractors who are not in areas where they have noise complaints nonetheless buy sweepers equipped with noise shrouds simply because the shroud provides a billboard area for their truck signage. If you have a logo, include it on your sweeper, as well.

The same goes for every other piece of literature you have in your company. It all should be logo-ed, and have all the contact information about your company. Always include your website and email address on letterhead, business cards, invoices, etc. On the sweeper, just list your website and not your email address (which should be easy to find on your website).

One high-visibility suggestion is to put your 'billboard sweeper' into parades. This costs little, yet puts you in front of an enormous number of people (many of whom own businesses). Some contractors also offer a free sweep once a month to churches, in return for a mention in the church bulletin.

Get involved with groups putting on local events, like Keep America Beautiful, non-profit Walk/Runs, etc. It's very inexpensive to do some free sweeping. In return, you typically get listed as a donor/sponsor of the event. These are all relatively free ways to get your name out into the business community.

Involve your employees in your marketing effort: Make sure each employee has business cards they can pass out. This is a way to increase the 'universe' of people in which your company can become known, and also provides a card for employees to give out if they are approached for information while on the job. It has the additional benefit of tying your employee more in with your company; increases professionalism; add responsibility and accountability to them and their work product.

The final recommendation to come from this seminar group was to go to local and regional tradeshows where potential customers will be attendees and rent a booth so you can acquaint them with your services.

If you have any questions about any of the above ideas, feel free to contact the Team for a further explanation.

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