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Selling Your Services

Marketing for the 21st Century

by Gabriel Vitale, principal of C and L Sweeper Service
with Ranger Kidwell-Ross

This article is adapted from a presentation given by Vitale at the 2007 National Pavement Exposition.

Gabe Vitale These days, it's more important -- and easier than ever before -- to provide excellent customer service. This article covers the topic of marketing. However, this concept ultimately boils down to finding as many ways as possible to keep in touch with your customers and prospects, and to do so better and more often.

Although some people only provide sweeping services, one of the often overlooked advantages of selling other, related services is that you have increased opportunities to interact with, and develop an increased personal relationship with, your customers.

We ask all our incoming prospects how they heard of us, something that I recommend everyone do. These days, the majority say they found us either via an Internet search or the Blue Book. The printed yellow pages are becoming a thing of the past; the current front-runner for an electronic equivalent appears to be Superpages. (You might use the links shown to see how your company is listed in these. Both of the above links will open in a new window.) We reduce our yellow pages ad every year because the phone book is becoming less important every year.

Because more searches are taking place on the Internet, having a decent website is crucial for developing an increase in business. Internet searching is becoming the norm for finding service providers, including sweeping. Both and have comprehensive local area ad programs, and together their combined affiliate networks cover over 95% of all U.S. searches. (Editor's note: has built many sweeping contractor websites, as well as set up a number of local area search accounts for sweeping contractors through both Yahoo and Google. For more information, contact us and we'll give you a call to answer all your questions.)

Along those lines, at NPE 2007 Ranger reported that's Contractor Locator ad service has shown over a 100% increase in traffic and leads in just the last year. If your company doesn't have a listing in the Contractor Locator area of the website, then they're missing a bet.

Before any of that can work, though, it's crucial to have a nice website that lists all the services you provide, your company experience, etc. Be sure to put the logos of any associations you belong to onto your website. Make it easy for prospects to contact you, both via email and the phone. Use enough photos to make the words not be intimidating to read. Make sure your web page, like every other item you use to communicate with customers, contains up-to-date information in all regards.

It's very important to get your name and your company's roster of services in front of prospects and customers as often as possible. We send out newsletters, have nice brochures, and find information we can tuck in with our invoices. We're fortunate in that we're large enough to have two salespeople. We've chosen people with two different approaches and personalities. One we term a 'hunter,' while the other is more of a 'farmer.' In other words, one is the type of person who goes out and finds new customers and brings them in. Our other salesperson has a personality that makes her great at nurturing existing and new customers, making sure they're comfortable with our company.

Sending emails out to customers is quick, easy and effective. Mall managers love getting email pictures of their shopping centers, either to show them how nice it looks cleaned up or to point out items that need repaired. The latter should take the form of a proposal. Show them the problem, then provide an estimated cost for repair and a timeframe in which you can get it handled for them.

When they get the info on a needed repair, along with a picture and a price, it's very easy for them to forward your proposal on to their boss, if needed, as well as for the boss to email back an approval. Plus, when you make agreements via email it's all documented up and down the line for all concerned.

Whatever you see on a property, send them a notice about it even if it's minor and/or is a repair you can't handle for them. They'll appreciate it. Keep in mind that they, too, are going through the same cuts in personnel and budget as everyone else. They're trying to do more with less, and the more you can help them out the more indispensable you'll become. If you're not using the Web to full advantage, you're not being as effective in your business as you might be.

Another important item: When you make a mistake, admit it and make it right. Whatever it takes; every time, period.

Other ways to touch your customers and prospects in the right way is to be completely professional in everything you do. That includes having your name and logo on the side of your sweepers to having up-to-date business cards to good-looking proposals to having your employee's name on their shirt when they are on the job and/or visit a customer. We list all of our services on our business card; remember, your cards have both a back and a front side! We're also investigating developing a business card-sized CD or DVD that will have a wide range of information on our company. These can self-play when inserted into a computer, and they have room enough for your website and still have room for almost any type of targeted presentation, as well.

We find lots of new business at local and regional tradeshows. These attract the out-of-town property managers, many of whom don't live anywhere near the centers they're in charge of. These provide an excellent opportunity for us to meet and talk to people we otherwise wouldn't have a chance to meet in person. There are some of our clients that we only see at yearly or semi-annual tradeshows, because that's the only time they come into town.

People have asked me how I find time to work marketing and 'touching' calls into my busy schedule. My experience is you have to schedule these activities or you'll never get to them. Make it a regular routine at a regular time, like Wednesday afternoons.

Let's face it, there are always other things to do, fires to put out, employees to train and on and on and on. Unless you routinely schedule time to contact customers, whether to touch bases or to market new services to them or whatever, then it often just won't get done. If you're not doing this type of activity on a regular basis, you'll end up losing your customers to someone who is.

While you're talking to customers, be sure to ask for referrals. There is no better way to get new business than from referrals from satisfied customers. Always ask for them, because you never know who the person you're talking to might have seen or thought of recently that's a prospect for your services. Besides, if you always ask, then your customers come to expect it and are more likely to be thinking about that fact when they interact with someone who could be a prospect for you.

We also use press releases for everything that we can think of. When we get a new piece of equipment, that warrants a press release. Promote an employee, get certified, pick up a large new account; we submit a press release on it. People love seeing 'their' contractor's name in the paper or association newsletter.

Get involved in associations: NAPSA, BOMA, ICSC, IREM, and whatever other types of related associations are in your area. Don't just join: Get involved, get onto committees, make things better. Ultimately, what you're selling is a relationship, not just sweeping. You've heard the saying 'it's not personal, it's business?' Well, it's actually the other way around: It's not business, it's personal. Most of the time, in my experience, that's how people actually make their business choices. Don't you?

We also offer an audio interview on this topic area with Gabe Vitale. Note: The audio interview with Vitale will play without downloading any files onto your computer. If you hear the interview at 'chipmunk speed,' you will need to download the latest version of Adobe's free Flash player.

To listen to our audio interview on this topic with Gabe Vitale, click on this link or on the small triangle inside the circle you see to the left. If you have any trouble accessing the audio, please let us know.

C & L Logo Gabriel Vitale is a past president of NAPSA, the very first winner of our national Award of Excellence in Sweeping, and has been in the industry so long that his website is You may reach him via email sent to

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