How to “selectively target” customers when you first get started in the business…

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by Tom Watson on November 24, 2013

When I was new to the cleaning business my goal was to target certain groups of potential customers. This made the process a little easier to grasp.

After all, when you first get started in any new business it can seem overwhelming at first. To attack this problem you need to simplify everything from top to bottom. This is where selective targeting comes into play.

So in practice, this means you’ll want to identify the accounts you would like to work with, then put a plan in place that gets you in front of that market. This is really nothing more than deciding WHO to target then HOW to get in front of them.

How “Selective Targeting” works with houses

When I was new to the business my goal was to start with smaller accounts. This way if I made a mistake in bidding or hiring it was only a small mistake. This “start small mentality” meant I needed to target potential customers that fit that description. This is why I started cleaning houses to begin with.

I felt like I could handle that plus if I messed up, it wasn’t like I was cleaning the local school district or anything. It was just a house for crying out loud! Anyway… when I was cleaning houses all I ever did on that front was to seek out nice looking expensive neighborhoods and either go door to door with flyers or do a mailing via direct mail.

This is about as simple as you get! Go to nice neighborhood and get some info about your business into their hands. If you have a good flyer and sales letter then added some decent phone skills when that call comes in, you’ll get some people to give you a shot at cleaning their home.

How “Selective Targeting” works with commercial

When I decided to move into the commercial side of the cleaning business I used the same approach that I had used successfully to find house cleaning jobs. But instead of looking for high-end neighborhoods I went on the hunt for smaller commercial units that allowed me to get some experience.

At the end of the day I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, so I zeroed in by looking for certain types of properties. Specifically I was marketing to every single real estate office near my service area. Then I targeted chiropractors, shipping companies, churches and interior design properties.

The common thread that runs through them all is that they are on the smaller side. I didn’t want to make any big mistakes on bidding the jobs so I worked at only marketing to smaller properties that I felt I could handle. My goal was to learn as much as possible AS EASILY AS POSSIBLE. I didn’t want any unwanted pressure!

Once I got comfortable bidding smaller type properties, then cleaning them properly, I felt a much more comfortable going after some bigger places to clean. As an example I went after larger units like doctor offices which come in endless varieties of specialties giving you plenty of options.

You can market to your run of the mill family practice to start with then from there you can go to specialty doctors like kidney care, eye care, back specialists and orthopedic practices to name a few. “Medicine” is BIG BUSINESS so you’ll likely have plenty of medical offices to market to.

I’ll wrap this up by making mention that starting small and GETTING THAT RIGHT builds a strong foundation. Learn how to do the small stuff like clockwork THEN move into larger units that are a little more complex. This way you get to grow without the headaches and pressures that doing it the other way present.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to our Cleaning 4 Profit RSS feed. If you are looking for a step by step blueprint that will show you how to start your own cleaning business, then check out my Cleaning Business Training Courses. If you need a great website or would like to upgrade what you already have then you may want to take a look at my Cleaning Business Website Packages.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tracy Bailey November 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Very helpful information and perfect timing for where I am with my business! I absolutely feel like I’m right on track. Thank you!

2 Tom Watson November 24, 2013 at 3:36 pm

You are very welcome Tracy!

3 Steph November 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I love you’re information. Great article. Thank you!

4 Tom Watson November 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Hi Steph! Thanks!

5 Rob November 24, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Hi, thanks so much , this information will assist greatly as I’m looking forward to sign a first contract with one of the statutory organization.

6 Tom Watson November 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Congrats Rob! Make that one customer HAPPY then REPEAT the process.

7 Anthony November 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Hi Tom,

Can’t really thank you enough for this great article. Many thanks for your great concern for us. May God continue to bless you with more wisdom.

8 Tom Watson November 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Hi Anthony! I’m happy to be able to help.

9 Mauritz November 25, 2013 at 12:45 am

Always find your info helpful,my problem is I want to start tendering next year and how do i price a office building,per hour wont work!.


10 Tom Watson November 25, 2013 at 10:20 am

Hi Mauritz! Happy to hear you enjoy the info… Anyway, explaining how to price a cleaning job is not something I can sum up in a paragraph. I have an entire chapter dedicated to that in my courses (

11 Brandon November 25, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hi Mr. Watson,

First and foremost I would just like to thank you for creating this website, and sharing all of your valuable knowledge and experience with all of us. You have really given me the motivation and confidence to expand my small commercial cleaning business.

I have a quick question that I wanted to ask you. How should I go about soliciting floor care services to different physical retail stores, e.g. Advance Auto Parts, Walgreens, Goodyear, etc..? Do I have to go through their corporate offices, or can I just speak to the Managers that are working in the stores? Thank You

12 Tom Watson November 25, 2013 at 11:09 am

Hi Brandon! I’m very happy to be able to share what I know. I certainly don’t know everything, but I’ve learned a few things over the years. Anyway… I would go to the individual store managers. That way if it is a headquarters type of decision, they will let you know (and maybe give you some guidance on who to contact).

As far as “how” to do it, I would think that is either get dressed up and try to stop in the store itself. Just ask if you can see the manager to drop off some info. They may not let you, but just ask if you can leave info for that person if they don’t give you access.

Just remember… don’t try to give a heard sell and get them to sign up on the spot, that won’t work. You are on a mission of “planting seeds”. The other way is to go the direct mail route. Mail a short letter to the manager describing the benefits of your service (shiny and scuff free floor etc…).

13 Brandon November 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Thanks a lot for the insight Mr. Watson! Would day care centers be considered as a “smaller type of property” to learn more of the ins and outs of the business, or would that be considered more as a larger type of an account? Thanks again.

14 Tom Watson November 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm

@ Brandon… very welcome… on the whole, yes, daycare centers are not too big. They can be a decent job because they need cleaning each day they are open in most cases (in my experience anyway).

15 T.Davis November 27, 2013 at 1:16 am

Hi Tom,

Would you add sales tax on a one time cleaning job or just charge the upfront fee? Also,would you prepare a written bid and contract on the same job even if you were already afforded the job? Thanks for your continued support and expertise.

16 Paulina November 27, 2013 at 3:51 am

Well said tom, that’s my current challenge now because I started with the big institutions and the pressure is just not easy

17 Tom Watson November 27, 2013 at 7:30 am

Hi Paulina! The good part to it all for you is you’ll have some real good experience well beyond your years in the business. I moved pretty fast into some big deals as well and felt the weight of it too, so I know EXACTLY how you feel. With all that said… you’ll be fine!

18 Tom Watson November 27, 2013 at 7:36 am

Hi T. Davis! I have to (add sales tax) where I am, you would have to check for your area (an accountant would know that). If a one time job turned into a regular thing than yes, you need a contract for that (it’s falls outside of what you agreed to). If it’s just more work to an already agreed one time upon job then it’s best to put that in writing as well to make sure everyone is on the same page. That’s my two cents.

19 Jeff November 28, 2013 at 10:24 am

How would you bid on a mall job. What is reasonable $15.50 an hour which would limit my profit margin. Or $21.75 an hour which will at least make the job somewhat profitable. I’m buying your book on Friday and love all your information.

20 Tom Watson November 28, 2013 at 11:27 am

Hi Jeff! I don’t know all the facts… but I can say that bidding at $15.50 probably won’t work (just not enough to go around). The $21.75 makes a lot of sense because it gives wiggle room (taxes, insurance, bonding). Hope that helps!

21 Kelle January 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Hi Tom,

I have a question for you about a Marketing Analyst. Did you do one when you started? If so, how did you go about doing one? I am trying to figure out a Business Plan and would like to get all my ducks in a row (so to speak).
Any information you can give would be great. Thanks.

22 Tom Watson January 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Hi Kelle! I didn’t do too much homework on that. All I knew was my market to begin with was houses (that’s where I started, the commercial work came a little later). So in a nutshell I wanted to market to “people who could afford” my services.

This meant nice neighborhoods for the most part is where I spent my time passing out flyers. I also went to the town library and copied tons of pages out of the “city directory”. This is a MASTER LIST of all residents, addresses and their incomes (not down to the penny, but based on census data they filled out).

So anyone who made more than 80,000 was MY MARKET as far as I was concerned. This kept me from marketing to folks who didn’t have the money to hire a service. That approach worked out for me. It was lots of legwork, but effective.

23 Saia February 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Hi dear Tom

thank you so much for everything!
I started domestic cleaning last year. Firs 3 month l worked my self. Then l hired first staff. After 4 month l hired second staff. Next week l am going don’t work myself. Of course, l am afraid a little bit, because my income will go down, but l understand here is no other way if l want to do business. And most horrible thing is my English is not enough strong for conversations. How long did it took for you to hire second staff or to get first commercial cleaning? Thank you, Saia, UK

24 Tom Watson February 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Hi Saia! You are quite welcome, I’m happy to help. It seems like you are doing real good, that’s great to hear. To your question…To be honest… I don’t remember, as that was about 14 years ago and I don’t recall all the details.

What I can say is you are going about it the right way. YES, you take a short term cut in pay, but that is the ONLY WAY to really grow the business and make it fun too (you can’t do EVERYTHING from getting the jobs, doing the cleaning and all the paperwork too).

What I do know (and remember) is that once I got my first few jobs, I just kept REINVESTING my money to get more jobs. I didn’t spend it on myself! This approach lead to me getting many accounts, one right after another.

25 Lisa March 18, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Hi Tom,

I really appreciate the wealth of information I have received from your website. I am interested in knowing the asking price for cleaning apartments for move-in and move-outs.

26 Tom Watson March 19, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Hi Lisa! Happy you have found us. Anyway… have you checked out this post I wrote a while back?

27 Krystle O'Brien March 27, 2014 at 8:37 pm


I’ve been doing this for about a month now and I have tried almost everything to get business. The only job I snagged so far is a firehouse gig for once a week. I’ve passed out flyers to residences and letters to businesses and got only one inquiry. I dont know what I’m doing wrong. My website also got over 500 views in the last 3 weeks and I’ve only received emails from people asking if I was hiring. What am i doing wrong? Help!

28 Tom Watson March 30, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Hi Krystle! Touch base via email and I’ll see if I can answer those questions.

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