Competing More Easily in the Cleaning Industry

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By Rick Link

The first business I both owned and operated was a route-based cleaning franchise. You may remember the Lien Services system. Or, you may not, because they are long out of business.

Beginning with a common business model that hadn't changed significantly in nearly a score of years and was flagging amongst a sea of look-alikes - and frankly, wearing me out trying to hold margins and pay my staff fairly - I decided to switch gears. We flipped the business model and changed the proposition of what we did for our clients. In the process, we developed a Unique Selling Proposition. One that changed us from struggling to growing and making better margins.

This shift to a new and more effective selling proposition made broader sales easier to come by and reduced entry-level barriers to on-boarding new clients.

Why? Because we stopped selling our products and services as they had been sold for years, and began to work as co-managers with our prospects. We applied new techniques to our model - for example, what is now called vendor-managed inventory (we called it AIM, automatic inventory management, a new concept in our field at the time) - to separate ourselves from the also-rans.

AIM resolved a business pain, keeping track of tens of essential business supplies that were easy to run out of, but hard to do without. We did this while providing our standard cleaning services we were already there on a specific schedule to perform. In the process, we also introduced daytime supply management back in the 1980’s with new service methods that extended time between refilling cycles and nearly eliminated supply waste. Prospects were skeptical at first, but as they warmed, our business began to get on the right track again. Margins improved. Life got easier.

Within a few short years, the franchise system had collapsed, but our business model was experiencing some of the best financials in years, and the best revenue. The handful of former franchises that adopted similar unique selling propositions all survived, and several prospered. The rest generally followed the franchisor to a halt.

Cause of Death? Lack of Imagination.

We had become an industry where price was the first thing the prospect wanted to know. Sound familiar? The buyer had already assumed she knew everything there was to know about our services - after all, not much had changed in over 20 years. So we stopped selling our services. We started selling what was unique about what we alone could offer prospects that would solve issues for them (as described above).  And that made an improvement to revenue and margin that pressing for more sales alone had not.

That model is just one of the Unique Selling Propositions we have provided for your free access on this site. We can help you find a good USP, or turn an existing one into a straight-forward, effective monthly marketing process.

I want for you to do better despite the big websites, low prices on too many available brands, and manufacturers who sell direct or to big box stores. I think you can.

Are you willing to invest an effort each month that will continue to compound as it transforms your business?