In our last post, “How and Why to Start an Office Cleaning Business”, the Corvus Janitorial team outlined steps entrepreneurs should take to open a cleaning business and provided an analysis of the industry. In the second entry of our two-part series presenting the facts of operating a business in the commercial cleaning industry, we provide a how-to for acquiring office cleaning contracts along with the considerations that ought to go into the process.
Once an individual has created the foundations of their office cleaning business by organizing the entity, purchasing necessary tools and determining a marketing strategy, it is time to start selling janitorial services. Regardless of which industries a company chooses to service and the cleaning programs they offer, the basic methods and time frames around winning customer accounts is relatively similar. That being said, certain standard considerations exist that all office cleaning owners should think about.
What Facilities to Clean
First, determining what type of facility you wish to target is critical, and when selecting facility types it’s important to think about how facilities and industries differ. For instance, light industrial or manufacturing facilities likely require a less detailed level of service than a medical office or day care facility. The facility cleaning needs change with the organization’s varying purposes. An organization tasked with the welfare of infants will have far different needs than an organization tasked with distributing cardboard boxes. In thinking about what types of customers you want to pursue, think about your skills, strengths and weaknesses…determining what suits your skillset best will help you identify your ideal customers. Some companies may not need or want recurring janitorial services, but they may require special event cleaning after an office party. As with recurring commercial cleaning contracts, special event clean up contracts will have a wide variety of needs, and the entrepreneur must decide which of these opportunities to go after.
Clean Close – Travel, Expenses, Logistics
Second, travel and logistics should play a role in selecting clients to target. Travel time represents a real cost in terms of money and your time and should not be overlooked in deciding which types of contracts your office cleaning business wants to target. It is highly advisable to calculate the cost associated with traveling to client accounts. Moreover, researching areas where your target accounts can be found and selling to areas of closer proximity is very important. Clustering your cleaning accounts in geographic locations that are close to one another will reduce your commute time and the associated costs, as well as limit the chance of a missed clean due to traffic or other unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances.
Types of Office Cleaning Services
Third, creating a menu of the services your office cleaning company intends to provide is important in terms of selling and pricing your cleaning contracts. Variables such as how often per week or per month you intend to offer service will impact not only your time commitment but also the cost the customer will pay for your services. Another variable to consider is the level of cleaning you intend to provide on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis. For instance, you may elect to provide weekly high dusting in your cleaning contracts, or you might decide to provide high dusting every night. In the second case, your cleaning company will be spending more time in the client facility to perform high dusting, thereby driving your personal cost higher – which in turn should be passed on to the client.
How to Get Cleaning Contracts…Tools to Use
Traditional Sales Channels
After you have identified your ideal customer, decided which geographic area(s) to target, and defined your service offerings, it is time to begin selling contracts. Traditionally, the most effective and cost-efficient way to get commercial cleaning contracts is by picking up the phone and dialing, aka cold calling. If you already have a network with local business owners or office managers, tapping this network is a great place to start selling. Once you establish a base of satisfied customers, you can ask them to refer you to other businesses in their building, network, or industry. Word-of-mouth referrals are a strong vote of confidence for your brand and will make selling contracts to new clients much easier. Cold calling, networking and customer referrals can help jumpstart your business, however they cannot ensure consistent, stable growth in the long run.
Marketing a Cleaning Business
Additional marketing efforts are necessary if you aim to acquire a large customer base. Fliers and pamphlets are a time-tested and relatively low-cost method to spread the word about your cleaning company. Contacting and building relationships with real estate agents and property managers is another great way to obtain customer contracts. Classified ads in newspapers are also an effective source to sell cleaning contracts, and classified ads are much cheaper than larger newspaper ads. In the age of the internet, a digital marketing strategy is critical to be a true competitor in the commercial cleaning industry. Increasingly, businesses are turning to the web to find and hire professional cleaners. An established online presence is important to winning customer contracts, and the foundation of this presence is creating a website for your cleaning company. An effective website will showcase your service offerings, provide information about your business, and tell your brand’s story. Make sure to include contact information on your website – inbound web traffic are likely high potential contract prospects.
How to Price Commercial Cleaning Contracts
Frequency and scope of service (or level of service) ultimately will determine how to price a cleaning contract. If you intend to service a restaurant or bar, for example, there is a big difference between cleaning the dining area and cleaning the kitchen. In the latter case, a much more intensive clean will be required, as the customer will expect an absolutely spotless kitchen. These elevated expectations should be reflected in the contract. Ultimately, you should take a consultative approach to understanding client expectations, customizing cleaning schedules, determining the frequency and scope of work to suit the facility needs and client desires, generating a cleaning contract with terms, and outlining conditions and pricing to match the client’s desires.
Collecting Money from Office Cleaning Customers
Finally, creating a billing schedule and agreement represents an often-overlooked aspect of starting an office cleaning business. On the one hand, launching a cleaning company and getting clients can be fun and exhilarating, but the end goal is to create financial security and additional income. Therefore, no process is more important than building policies for billing and collecting money owed from customers.
Generally speaking, office cleaning companies offer “terms” to clients in the cleaning contract. What this means is a cleaning company may ask to be paid at a specified date following the receipt of the invoice that corresponds to delivery of service. For instance, net 30 indicates the customer must pay the office cleaning company 30 days after receipt of the invoice, net 10 indicates payment is to be expected 10 days following receipt of invoice and so on and so forth. Depending on your savings and capital reserves, you should select a payment term that ensures a steady flow of incoming funds which you’ll need to replenish supplies, continue marketing your service and, best of all, set aside to increase your savings. Cash flow is king and establishing terms to meet your company’s cash flow needs is a key to success.
At the end of the day, the success of any business is determined by how much and how often they are able to sell. Above all else, consistency is crucial to building, growing, and maintaining a profitable commercial cleaning business. Therefore, having systems in place for sales, marketing, and collections is highly recommended to any business owner who aims to make a profit. Determining your service offerings and identifying your target customer and market are only the first steps to operating a successful commercial cleaning company. The development of a marketing strategy is ultimately how you will acquire customer cleaning contracts, and you must also build out a system to price contracts, distribute bids, and collect money from clients. Getting cleaning contracts – and retaining them – is by no means an easy task, but with the right systems in place, a commercial cleaning business can provide consistent and reliable income to a hungry entrepreneur.