Get to the Source – part two


Read part one of this article here.

Wouldn’t it be wild if new companies could just flick a switch and start a steady flow of new customers?

This would eliminate their biggest challenge. Customers are the lifeblood of a service business, and if that flow were well established, success would be all but assured.

Source-based marketing is the process which creates this steady flow of new customers. It takes a bit more effort than just flicking a switch, but the end result is the same. Why not make it your goal to fill in the profitable customer gap from the very start of your company? There is no good reason for this process to take years as it has for so many in the past.

Facing this challenge from the beginning can bring about business success in a matter of months.

Wishful thinking

A common misconception is to think startups only need one or two ways of getting customers. This may just be from wishful thinking or possibly from listening to established companies that say their jobs come primarily from repeat customers and referrals.

The problem with this thinking is precious time and money are lost while looking for the one or two perfect sources that will supply all of the customers needed.

Few new owners think through the issue of where all of the needed customers are going to come from. In their previous positions as employees, the customer problem always belonged to someone else. They never had to think about how it got solved. Now as an owner, the responsibility for this has shifted and is now totally up to them.

Unlike established companies, which already have a clientele from which to draw repeats and referrals, startups must look to other sources for their jobs. Typically startups are going to need to find 10 to 20 profitable sources from which to establish a large enough flow of customers.

Having a lot of sources is critical during the earliest days of business and drops in importance as a clientele is established, which then increases the number of repeats and referrals. The sooner this is completed the sooner the profit comes in.

Profitable sources

Plenty of consumers need carpet cleaning services. But new companies must do the work so the public is aware of their existence and how to contact them. Establishing sources quickly is a way of connecting the dots between your supply and their demand.

A source is how people find out about or learn about how to contact a service company. It is the answer to the question: “How did you hear about us?” The source could be “from the Internet,” “I saw your van,” or maybe “Yelp.”

The sources that work well for one company may not work for another. Therefore each company must test the sources to determine which will work for them. It generally requires testing about 30 sources in order to find the 10 to 20 good ones needed. If you need more customers, establish more sources.

Some sources may prove to be large producers providing 15 to 20 jobs per month, while others only produce a trickle of three or four jobs per year. The small ones can add up, so, as long as they bring someone in, do not disregard them. The point is to find enough profitable sources of all sizes to create the needed flow of customers quickly.

The master list

The process of finding the sources is relatively easy.

First: Brainstorm to compile a master list of 30 to 40 ideas of how consumers find service companies. Ask people who would qualify as your target market how they would go about finding a company. Also ask around the industry to find what is working for other companies.

Second: Select the top 10 options from the list, and test each one to determine how many sources it will produce. Then determine how expensive it is to get customers from that source. (I will cover this testing procedure in my next article.) Do not wait for the test results of one before starting to test the next one on the list.

Third: Repeat the process on the next top ten sources from the master list.

Fourth: After you have tested at least 30 sources, choose the most profitable ones to continue using and maximize the productivity of each of those. Some of tests may prove to be failures, and that is to be expected. This is part of the process.

Get it done

I understand that many owners would rather just flick a switch without having to do all this testing. Unfortunately that is not the way business works. The company owner is responsible for making sure consumers know his company exists and what it has to offer.

In upcoming articles, I will discuss how the sources should be tested and how to determine which are most profitable for new companies.

The threat of exhausting your customer supply will chase you down relentlessly. Tackle it first with a proactive plan to find the customers you need in the quickest way possible: Source-based marketing.

For part three, please click here.


Steve Marsh is a 40-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. He helps home-service companies quickly establish profitable clienteles and then progress on to serve higher quality customers. To help companies achieve these goals he created the step-by-step programs Single Truck Success and Be Competition Free. For more information, visit


Cleanfax Staff

Cleanfax provides cleaning and restoration professionals with information designed to help them manage and grow their businesses.

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