How to get cleaning business leads…

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by Tom Watson on October 29, 2012

Growing your cleaning business, whether it’s a house cleaning company or a commercial one boils down to one thing. You need leads.

Basically you need to get leads, find the prospects within, then convert them to customers. If you can do that, you are off to the races as they say.

I know that sounds kind of simplistic, but’s that all you are really doing. The place many people get off track is at the beginning, as they don’t even know where to start.

For the record, there are a lot of ways to get cleaning leads. A few would include joining some networking groups, spending some time handing out flyers, advertising in the paper or even cold calling.

Today I’ll go into a different area. We’ll focus on getting leads for direct mail. This is nothing more than obtaining addresses that you can then mail some information about your cleaning business to.

This is a real simple process. In fact I did TONS of this when I first got started in the cleaning business. I did so much that I felt like I was stuck in the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day”. Wake up, get addresses, write envelopes then stuff them with info.

Next dayrepeat process!

Anyway… there are several ways you can get cleaning leads (addresses) to mail to. Starting with the free techniques, you have several options to choose from.

  1. City Directory – Mainly for homes.
  2. Online Options- Mainly for business.

When I first started my business, I was a “blend” between a house cleaning business and a commercial cleaning business. I actually started cleaning homes first then slowly focused on the commercial side.

This meant I used the City Directory quite a bit. So needless to say I was going down to the nearest library where it’s kept and making use of it regularly. I think I spent more time at the library as an adult than as a child growing up!

In case you didn’t know, this book not only contains all the names and addresses of anyone living in your town, but other information about them as well such as household income (in generic ranges only).

All you need to do is ask the librarian for the City Directory. The librarian will then probably ask for your ID which they may hold this until you finish with the book. This is done because the book is easily worth several hundred bucks, maybe more.

Keep in mind you are not allowed to take this book home, you can only copy the information contained within with a copier. You then take the copies home and make use of the information.

All I ever did was look for high-end neighborhoods in my area inside the book then copy the pages with all the names and addresses. I would then go home and take the info from the copies I made and start writing envelopes.

After that you just stuff the envelopes with your marketing and place them in the mail. I usually included a sales letter with a flyer plus my business card inside. This is a real simple process that works provided you have quality marketing material.

Switching gears now, I’ll talk about how I went about getting free leads on the commercial side of my operation. This is not anything earth shattering mind you, as it only involves doing some Google searches for your area.

Basically I just picked a “type” of customer I wanted to focus on. For instance, lets start with real estate offices. They were a favorite of mine in the beginning. In fact my very first commercial account was a real estate office.

Choosing real estate offices when you are new to the business is a good idea because the offices are generally small. This means they are quite easy to bid.  So even if you make a mistake bidding the job, it’s only a small mistake.

Anyway, this technique just involves typing “Realtors” or “real estate offices” into Google ALONG with your zip code. This will generally bring back many results for you to choose from.

All you do after that is take the addresses that you just you found online and start writing envelopes. Then just start stuffing the envelopes with all your material and drop it in the mail. A sales letter and flyer as well as a business card is recommended.

Now we’ll talk about paid leads from a list service. This approach means you will pay a provider for access and use of a mailing list. The possibilities are endless for both the residential and commercial cleaning market.

You can build custom mailing lists that will give you as many potential leads as you wish to purchase. The cost just depends on how many you wish to purchase. The more you get, the cheaper the cost per unit normally.

If you don’t know where to start, a company called NetPostmaster may be of help. They offer free quotes from several different companies. Just fill out a short form to get prices.

The benefit to the paid option of getting mailing list leads is that the process can be a lot quicker. You just download the list in some cases and then do a mail merge and PRESTO, you are ready to roll. No time-consuming hand writing of addresses, it’s all automated.

I’ve done all of the methods above at one time or another. It all boils down to how you want to approach the process. If you are tight on money go the free route, but if you have cash to work with then renting a list may be a real time-saver for you.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to our RSS feed. If you are looking for a blueprint that will show you how to start a cleaning business, then check out my Cleaning Business Start Up Guides. If you are badly in need of a first class website then take a look at my Cleaning Business Websites.

DISCLOSURE: I may be an affiliate for products that I recommend. If you purchase any items through my links odds are I’ll earn a commission of some kind. I only recommend products and services that I have used or think may be useful to those starting or operating a cleaning business.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Francisco Blanco October 29, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Love this info! Thanks Tom!

2 Tom Watson October 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Thanks Francisco!

3 Lee Ward October 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Hello,

I started my cleaning service last September and have 26 residential clients and 6 commercial clients at this point. A great way to get information is through your local GIS (tax information). You can search a particular street, subdivision, etc. I gather this information, put it into Excel, merge it with my information and off I go. You can build these databases for further mailings. It is really simple.

Just thought this might help someone.

Thanks,
Lee Ward
Market Street Services

4 Tom Watson October 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Love that Lee! Thanks for posting.

5 Selena looking Cleaning services November 1, 2012 at 6:16 am

I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information.

6 Tom Watson November 1, 2012 at 8:29 am

Hi Selena! I’m happy to help and thanks for the kind words.

7 Candice Santos November 6, 2012 at 1:10 am

Hi Tom, When you send out mailings to doctors offices who do you address them to? Seems like a simple question but I am stumped, as I actually want the right person to open it.

8 Tom Watson November 6, 2012 at 7:38 am

Hi Candice! Try “Office Manager” maybe.

9 Augustine Mayfield November 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I opened my own cleaning service 3 months ago . I have gotten my own web page. I have a yellow page ad, Also an ad with local.com.I was hoping that I would have at least 1 contract job .could you give me some pointers on how to get leads thank you

10 Tom Watson November 15, 2012 at 9:28 am

Hi Augustine!

Ok… you have a common issue. The answer is that you need to do more, as you need to think of your marketing efforts as a river. Mighty rivers have MANY streams feeding into it (which makes is MIGHTY). You have 3!

What you have is a website, that though it is very nice, it probably gets very little traffic because you are not promoting it enough. The internet traffic it gets on it’s own is probably nil. This doesn’t mean get rid of it, it just means you are not utilizing it currently (which can be fixed).

Next up is a yellowpage ad. I had them before, but I don’t anymore. This type medium is similar to the stagecoach. It went out of style when the car came around. A small one may be worth it IF you have the money to experiment but it’s probably not the best use of your money when you are new (more about that later).

The local.com ad I know little about but for the right price it seems like it may be good fit. Again… I know nothing about the cost of that service so I can’t determine much about it.

So to summarize. The website is nice, you just need to drive traffic to it. The other two things you are doing needs to be MEASURED. If they send you PROSPECTS, then they are worth the money and you should keep them. If they don’t, you need to get RID OF THEM. Measure yourself then decide.

When you are new you want to get customers the CHEAPEST way. Once you make some cash then you can EXPERIMENT but in the beginning cash is short so be careful!

Check out this post… http://www.cleaning-4-profit.com/2010/11/17/how-to-find-office-cleaning-contracts-a-quick-start-guide-for-beginners-in-the-cleaning-business/
It has links to other posts that may interst you.

This is anouther one… http://www.cleaning-4-profit.com/2012/07/08/handing-out-cleaning-business-flyers/

11 Vacuum Storage Bags January 2, 2013 at 6:31 am

Awesome information. Word of mouth for me is also a powerful approach for acquiring leads for this type of niche and probably the most outstanding leads you can get.

12 Tom Watson January 2, 2013 at 7:55 am

Word of mouth gets you “pre-approved” in sense by whomever mentioned your company. Thanks!

13 David Williams February 19, 2013 at 11:36 am

You (and others) have mentioned acquiring targeted address’ in a couple of different manners for mailers. My question is then are these bulk mailed? And at what cost?

I recently did my first mailer (oversized postcard) at a cost of about .52 pp. I was able to select my neighborhood which was an easy screening process for targeted customers. This seems like a “fair rate”. The turn around is 6-10 days. I guess the down side is that the minimum is 500. I was able to find a mailing route of 600.

Now taking into a account the variables of how well you designed and marketed yourself on your “flyer”, how many responses should you hope to get. As I recall, Tom you mentioned a couple per 100? Of course that may come in the form of 1 per 200 or 6 in a 100.

Hoping to hear from Tom and others on their experience.

14 Tom Watson February 20, 2013 at 8:30 am

Hi David! I always mailed a 2 page sales letter, a flyer with a special offer of some kind, business card AND magnet (business card size) to my list. I mailed first class, as my thinking was if it looks like bulk mail, it looks like JUNK MAIL.

I always made my envelope look like a regular letter that they would get from a friend per say. This would provide for better “open rates” instead of going straight to the trash.

For instance my company is called TC Watson Cleaning Service, BUT when I wrote the return address label I LEFT OFF the cleaning service, so it just said TC WATSON. We also hand wrote the customer address field to make it look like personal mail. A LOT OF WORK, but that process worked wonders for me.

Nothing wrong with doing postcards… I just preferred this method because a 2 page sales letter allows me to tell a story about why they should choose ME. A postcard means you really have to SUMMERIZE everything quickly, and if you get something wrong it may reduce how well it performs.

As to response rates… I always hoped for 2 – 4 replies per 100 mailed. This would allow me to close 1 of them with any luck. Of course this may mean that the first 300 mailed get NOTHING , then the next 300 gets you 7 calls. That is just the way it works.

The math does work out well if you can land one account per 100 or so (even one account per 200 mailed in most cases). If you mail to the right type accounts, you would expect to net at least $200.000 to $400.00 + per account.

So lets say you only get ONLY ONE account per 200 mailed. This would give you anywhere from $2400 to $4800 per year income from just that mailing (averaged over the long haul). Not a bad return at all in my opinion.

15 carl gordon March 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm

so me what interested in direct mail leads. Would like to find out more about cost?

16 Tom Watson March 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hi Carl! I fixed the link in this post. It should now take you to a company that sells a list (not cleaning leads), but a business list of companies. Check them out!

17 David Jiang April 28, 2013 at 7:40 am

Hi Tom,

Thank you for every opinion what you share with. That’s very useful to me.
Did you try to use email to get customs ? How different is it compare with mail?

David

18 Tom Watson April 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Hi David! No I never did email as far as trying to generate interest. I will email “current” customers with a special we are running or something else of use.

I really don’t think email works (unsolicited email). What will work is if you are enticing them via a form (or another giveaway of some kind) on your website that collects their email. From there you can tailor a offer that will work.

For instance if you had a cleaning website that offered a FREE REPORT on how potential customers can save money on cleaning services in exchange for their email.

19 Donna May 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I just started my residential cleaning business last summer cleaning rental units on Saturdays. I am looking to expand to residential cleaning and maybe offices (not sure yet) to more than just summer rentals. Thank you for the information on your site. I have learned a lot and may be asking questions as time goes on. I work a full-time job and am looking to expand enough to only do the cleaning.

I would appreciate any ideas as to how to make this transition.

Thank you.

20 Tom Watson May 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Hi Donna! Seems like you are well on your way (and I’m happy you are making use of the site). As to how to transition…. it’s a process. I would get more work, then get a “helper” or two. This allows you to EASE yourself out of the cleaning and focus on GETTING MORE ACCOUNTS. Just go slow and learn it the right way.

21 La'Sonne Amos August 14, 2013 at 7:00 am

Hi Tom I am getting started with a office cleaning business.This is my third attempt but I get better every time except the one thing that gets most people having money to get started with such as insurance,equipment,bidding, proposals and the main thing getting customers.I have set out flyers, business cards,website, google plus thumbtack,etc. Still nothing.What am I doing wrong your advice is badly needed.

22 Tom Watson August 14, 2013 at 8:25 am

Hi! The key is to never stop moving forward, so keep up the effort. As to what is the issues, that is hard for me to tell from here. It could be you need to give out more flyers etc… It could be “who” you are marketing to or some other tiny issue that is derailing the effort you are putting out.

23 Domestic Cleaners November 25, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Great article. When we do flyer drops we do it in around 800 bulk lots and return about 8-12 clients per drop. Flyers are great, online marketing is fantastic as well, we have a steady flow of visitors to our site now and we are working on getting our conversion rates. I wouldn’t be a bad idea to include in this article that when you are on the web, taking the time to personalise sites like free directories is more benefical for your business then copy and pasting your ads everywhere as this will have a negative effect on traffic to your site. Well relevant traffic.

24 Tom Watson November 26, 2013 at 8:23 am

Hi Bullet Cleaners! That’s a GREAT outline for people to follow. A well written flyer distributed in a decent quantity will make the phone ring and lead to sales. Thanks for sharing that! Also… YES, adding unique copy to various directories is a great online approach provided your target market is there.

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