By Howard Partridge

In Cleanfax articles, I’ve written much about creating a successful company in this industry, and one certainty is this: A truly successful cleaning business relies on repeat and referral business. Your primary referral source is your pool of past and existing customers.

And if you’re like most people who own a professional cleaning business, you are probably making the biggest marketing mistake of all — other than doing nothing.

The biggest marketing mistake of all is not marketing to your past clients! Statistics reveal that it costs 500 percent more to gain a new client than to keep an existing one. Did you also know that without consistent marketing, many of your clients will forget about you and eventually end up using someone else? It’s a hard fact to swallow, but it’s true.

A few years ago, I participated in a home show with some service industry associates. After surveying a good portion of the attending homeowners, we discovered that they could not remember the name of the cleaning company they had used most recently — even though they were thrilled with the work — even when the service had been performed just two weeks prior. The company did a good job, but it will never be in that home again unless it corrects this huge mistake.

A multi-industry study by the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that companies that increase their customer retention rate by a mere five to 11 percentage points actually increase their profits by an astounding 25 to 75 percent, depending on the industry.

5 steps to double sales

It is my experience that you can double your monthly sales in 90 days or less, without actually adding a single customer.

There are five steps to this:

  1. Get a higher price. One of the reasons to constantly be in front of your past and existing clients (other than the fact that your competitor is marketing to them) is to reinforce your brand message that positions you at a higher value. Translation: A higher price. Constantly remind them of the reasons to always use your services instead of others’, and build the unique experience around your company.
  2. TOMA (Top of Mind Awareness). Just because you did a great job doesn’t mean your customers will remember you. I had $6,000 worth of plumbing done in my commercial building. I completely forgot about the plumber who had serviced my home on occasion. Why? Because he doesn’t have a system to stay in touch. Do you? How many of your customers are gone because of not having a system in place?
  3. Sell more services. You probably offer protector, tile cleaning, upholstery, and other services in addition to carpet cleaning. Marketing to your past clients can dramatically increase your income and profit margin by featuring those services.
  4. Increase frequency of use. Getting your clients to purchase more often is another powerful thing that can add dollars to your business. Educating your existing customers about the benefits of maintenance rather than cleaning causes them to use your service more often.
  5. Referrals! If your clients have trouble remembering your name, much less all the wonderful things that set you apart, what are the chances they are going to be able to refer you? No chance at all. A strong client-based marketing program can dramatically increase your referrals, especially if you have a referral reward program, and teaching your clients how to refer you will help them refer you to the right kind of clients.

Steps to double your business

Send a thank-you letter with a client satisfaction survey and details of your referral reward program immediately after the job. Do the same by email.

Establish a weekly email newsletter. You will educate customers on how to care for their carpet, floors, rugs, etc., and you can offer specials.

Mail a newsletter or postcard every month to everyone that has used your service in the past five years. Educate them on maintenance, feature your additional services, and always talk about your referral reward program. Yes, this will be a big investment, but also one that pays huge dividends.

At my cleaning firm, we mail 15,000 pieces to past clients. Our main location does $3.2 million each year, and more than 65 percent is repeat business. Another huge chunk is referrals from existing clients — that would not happen if we weren’t constantly in touch. Do the math, and you’ll find we cannot afford not to market to our past clients.

Call every client who hasn’t used your service in 12 months. Remind them that manufacturer warranties require professional cleaning every 12 to 18 months and that regular, professional cleaning will prolong the use and beauty of their investments.

Do these things and watch your business grow. Don’t do them, and remain a victim of “failure to implement” or F.T.I. Do them well, and watch your business grow.

Do them poorly, and get mediocre results.


Howard Partridge started his cleaning business from the trunk of his car over 31 years ago and built it to more than $3 million a year. He teaches cleaning and restoration companies to have phenomenal success. Partridge is the exclusive small business coach for Ziglar Inc., the John Maxwell Coaching Team founder, and a bestselling author.