“Commodity: A product with no noticeable qualitative difference.”

It’s all about supply and demand. When there is a demand, you have the ability to supply what your customers want and need.

That would apply to both cleaning and restoration.

For cleaning, the demand for services may rely on visual interpretation of a surface (Ick, it’s dirty!) or perhaps an upcoming event (The party is this weekend?). Or it could be based on a regular schedule, the absolute best scenario for you.

For restoration, it is event driven. When there is a storm or property damage, restoration contractors are in demand.

Sounds like a service industry, yes? It is… yet some of your current and potential customers may not see it like that. They may view you as — sit down and absorb this — a commodity.

Like milk. Eggs. Rice. Socks. Notebook paper. The list goes on and on. You know, the stuff you can get at Wal-Mart.

How does this happen? It’s partly the interpretation of what we do. Your customers look at your company and feel it is the same as all the rest. Like milk, eggs, rice… you get the picture. Wal-Mart stuff. Sure, there are brands they may prefer, but cleaning is cleaning and water damage restoration is water damage restoration. Everyone does it.

What can you do to overcome this issue of being lumped into the commodity pool? That’s the real challenge.

The first thing is to realize no matter who you are or what type of company you run, you must work diligently to stand out, to be different. It is no longer a game-changer that you are the best, technically speaking. Business owners realize that. In a recent Cleanfax online poll, 83 percent of readers said customer service was more important than technical expertise.

Offering a guarantee isn’t good enough, either. You say you guarantee your work or they get their money back? Double their money back? Regardless, you are one of thousands that offer that type of guarantee.

Having a good price, being on time, leaving a bottle of spotter behind… these are all good, but everyone does it. If you aren’t doing it, you should. Yet how much does it really set you apart from your competition?

Instead, consider who you are and what your company does for people to make their lives easier and better. You start marketing that, and you will see a difference. You will be offering a service they want and need based on a personal touch. Don’t sell stuff. Instead, offer solutions they want and need. Be a consultant, a company they will remember and show loyalty to.

No, you aren’t Wal-Mart. You are  much more than that. Now, let your customers know.

Jeff Cross is executive editor of Cleanfax. He can be reached at JeffCross@issa.com.