Suzanne Howe, founder and MD at Suzanne Howe Communications, is back from the Manchester Cleaning Show, which this year was held virtually. During the event, she spoke to Neil Nixon, the event's conference director, about different PR and marketing techniques that cleaning companies can use for a positive impact on winning and retaining customers. Here’s what they discussed.
A marketing campaign: When, where and how?
The cleaning industry is growing. The British Cleaning Council announced at the conference that the sector is now one of the top 10 UK industries, employing around 1.63 million workers, which is about 5% of the UK workforce. Given that growth, the sector is now more competitive than ever and so as a company, you have to show how and why you are the best in your field. It is, of course, essential that you also do a good job as there are many more options for clients than ever before.
When starting any kind of marketing campaign, it is important for any company to work out its objectives – who is its target customer and how can they be reached? For example, if you offer specialist hotel cleaning services, focus on hotels and hoteliers as your target market rather than everyone.
Where you concentrate your efforts depends on your target. Once you understand where they source material and information and where they themselves focus their attentions, you can do the same. That might include reaching their employees, industry media, stakeholders (owners, directors, etc) and influential industry experts.
How you do it depends largely on how you want to be perceived. Are you going for the corporate feel? Want a more fun edge? Make sure that is reflected in your brand and runs through all your marketing efforts from your logo to your tone of voice to your PR, all of which needs to be consistent. Wherever you pitch yourself, always remember that people buy from those they trust. If you can build that trust through your campaign, it will help enormously.
Know your customer
Any business in any industry should always take the time to get to know their customers. Pre-Covid days would have seen reps visiting them in person but this is less likely these days. But it doesn’t mean relationship building is dead. It’s more important than ever! Familiarise yourself and your team with communication technology that is easily available – arrange virtual meetings via Zoom or Teams. Your customers will be pleased you are taking the time to ‘see’ them and chat. If the cost of this is a concern, weigh it up against the fact that fuel and time expenditure has been drastically cut.
Once you know your customers, you should quickly be able to establish their pain points or problems. Then you can offer solutions, knowing you have a service that is needed.
You can also start and join in conversations on social media. People have flocked to the various platforms over the last few months, so get yourself seen and heard and keep the conversations going. Keep talking and, more importantly, keep listening. You can respond directly or by using PR and news stories, highlighting how you can help. Learn from what they are telling you, change the way you do certain things if that’s what they want. If they are struggling, use your subject matter and sector expertise to help them.
Show your customers you appreciate their continued support by saying thank you every now and again. Especially the smaller clients who are more likely to have had their income flow interrupted.
The Coronavirus effect
COVID-19 has affected every sector across the world, including businesses and livelihoods. But out of it has come a heightened awareness of cleanliness and hygiene, at home, in the workplace and anywhere that people congregate. Companies now feel the need to be vocal and obvious about their cleaning and hygiene regimes, not hiding cleaning teams away out of hours, rather showing them up front, obviously following all government health guidelines. Cleaning teams are frontline workers, keeping amenities and premises open and Covid-secure. They are part of a business’ story of how they became safe and compliant.
Do you really need to be on Social Media?
In short, yes. I’m a huge fan of face-to-face networking. I think it gets brilliant results and I am saddened that it’s not currently possible. But we can’t just forget our contacts in the hope that face-to-face meetings will resume. Imagine what your business would look like if you didn’t make any effort. Not to mention your own mental health. People are important to business and to ourselves and that is where social media comes in.
Social media now has a critical role and can be a powerful tool for any business. It brings new and different elements to media and marketing campaigns and while your social media channels are not the be all and end all, you’d be wise not to ignore them. They are also an extra way to get your news stories and PR efforts out there.
Your social platforms can help you form relationships and have two-way conversations. You can push your message out there and people will talk back. And don’t forget they’ll talk to other people too so your message can ripple out further. This is even before a sale has taken place. You are effectively networking, and your social media platforms are fantastic communications tools.
Marketing on social media can definitely build sales if it is used in the right way with a solid strategy. Like other elements of the marketing mix, you’ll need to invest in it longer term to build a brand people will trust and respect.
How do we decide which platform to use? Well, LinkedIn is the platform for businesses, and you can build your customer base here. It is used by professionals – in fact, one in three professionals in the world is on LinkedIn. You can post longer content here, such as white papers and articles, and position yourself as a thought leader. LinkedIn is vital for business and we would recommend it becomes your primary social media platform.
Other platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can all be utilised effectively for your business as well. The most important thing is to find out where your customers are and which platforms they use – then focus your energies there.
It’s more than words: the power of images
Imagery is key when marketing your business and for making social media work for you. Think of your own experience. Are you more likely to stop scrolling when you see a great image or a funny gif? Low-res, poor quality images don’t cut it, especially when we are all bombarded daily. Whatever you’re putting out there, news stories, articles, web pages, it all needs good quality imagery to support the words. And this is true for all social platforms – Instagram especially, but for LinkedIn engagement too.
It’s not just photos that need to be on point. Your company branding might be your potential customer’s first experience of you. If you have good branding, use it - on clothing, your website, social media platforms. If you haven’t got great branding, you need to invest in some. Amateurish images will bring your business down and give the wrong impression. Aim high!
Giving back to society
Depending on the size of your company, you may have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. Even if you don’t, finding a charity close to your heart – and that of your key market – is important. Align your brand values with that of a charity and make sure you have the budget and strategy to properly support them, rather than simply going through the motions. Involve everyone in the company and commit long term.
Any kind of giving back is great for your PR, news and social media stories too. You are showing you care – and that’s why it’s so important you approach it with the right strategy and goals.
Use the full marketing mix
Marketing comes in many guises but essentially it is any of the touchpoints between you and your customers. Not every marketing channel will work for every business so consider:
- Your website – add testimonials, case studies, news stories. They are not easy to get right but can be powerful. Stories build brands! It is vital to keep your website fresh and updated with new content. It keeps Google happy and that will help your visibility. Also try to encourage backlinks from other company and media website as they are great for SEO.
- Good PR – regularly supply your local and industry media with positive and newsworthy stories. Building good public relations goes a long way towards establishing your name and reputation.
- Trade press advertising - it is really important to support the media who are using your PR content and recommend advertising with your key media. Online advertising also allows you to gauge results in terms of impressions and click-throughs. Liaise with the media to understand the best platform for you whether it be printed ads, emailers or banner ads. Make sure your advertising campaign is consistent with your marketing strategy.
- Exhibitions - exhibiting at trades shows is a great opportunity to meet new people, network and get your brand out there. Trade shows require commitment, both in terms of cost and time. Get this right and you could enjoy an impressive return on your investment. Your stand should be well put together, full of useful information and staffed by an engaging and knowledgeable team. This will ensure visitors will stop by to talk, learn, network, and leave with a good impression.
- Networking – find online (and eventually in-person) events that best match your target market. Build your network in that sector and become known by your peers.
- Online marketing – great for brands and products because you can include a call to action with every piece of exposure. Banner ads can be powerful, as can advertising. They do cost money but are also trackable in terms of effectiveness so can be worth every penny. Be sure that any kind of advertising fits in with your strategy and budget.
- Conferences, seminars and webinars – there are many online and virtual options with captive audiences. Look out for those in your target sector.
- SEO and PPC – all businesses should invest in good SEO to help with Google rankings. PPC campaigns can be effective if you have the budget. Also good for studying metrics and analytics on how well your ads have performed.
Marketing for any business can be a minefield. But with a little guidance, a clear strategy and a solid end goal, it could make a substantial difference to your cleaning business. Suzanne Howe Communications is offering a 30-minute free consultation to start you off. We are always happy to help. Please give me a call or drop me a message if you’d like to chat.