By Steve Marsh

To your website and advertising answer the two critical consumer questions… in 10 seconds or less?

Shoppers know they have many companies to choose from and will not tolerate companies that do not have a clear message that answers these questions. They’ll browse right on past.

The first question is obvious: “Does this company provide the service I need?” Most companies answer this one quickly.

It is the second, equally important, question that rarely gets addressed properly, which is this: “What level of service does this company provide?”

The lack of clarity on this question is the primary cause for consumers to consider the next service company on their list.

All service providers are not the same. Smart consumers know this and expect companies to make it abundantly clear whether they provide the level of service and professionalism the shopper is willing to pay for.

Two consumer groups

Consumers fall into one of two distinct groups. These two groups have conflicting wants and needs. Service companies must therefore choose which group they want to attract. Those companies failing to recognize these differences or clearly distinguish which group they desire will send mixed messages in their marketing. Frustrated consumers in this situation will abandon the current advertisement and move on to the next competitor.

Service companies must decide which one of these groups they want and communicate that message clearly to consumers.

For this article, I will label the two groups according to the level of service for which consumers are looking. Once you understand the basic characteristics that define each group, your company can easily shape its service and message to meet the needs of the desired group. Let’s call the first group “basics” and the second “full service.”

The basics group

Basic consumers seek to receive the most service for the least amount of money. They represent about 25 percent of the annual residential carpet cleaning revenue.

They will hire a professional carpet cleaner fewer than 10 times during their lifetimes, which means that they rarely reuse the same service company. They are generally event-motivated (such as moving out or expecting a special guest), and this leads to an urgency to complete the work.

This set of consumers often has limited financial resources or a do-it-yourself mentality. Since these consumers rarely use service companies and are generally in a hurry, they will most frequently resort to an online search or some form of advertising to find service companies. Low price is a leading factor in their decision process.

This consumer group is of extreme importance to startups and growing service companies since it relies primarily on internet searches and advertising to find its service providers. New companies have full access to these forms of marketing and have a competitive chance of winning these customers.

The work generated from this group is much less profitable than the next group, but it is the proper target market for companies that still lack a regular clientele.

A full schedule filled with this consumer group should pay the basic personal and business expenses for new companies. Referrals from these customers often leads to full-service consumers.

The full-service group

Full-service consumers produce approximately 75 percent of annual carpet cleaning revenue. The people in this group often seek out professionals to deal with common household chores and will hire carpet cleaners 10 or more times during their lives.

They generally have above-average income and are willing to pay extra in exchange for more quality workmanship and professionalism. Maintenance is usually the driving motivation for calling such a professional. Waiting for a scheduled appointment is expected.

When possible, these consumers will reuse the same service provider or seek a referral from a reliable source. Consumer referral websites, such as Yelp, are also used to find new companies or to confirm the qualifications of a prospective company. Only as a last resort will these people turn to advertising.

These repeat/referral consumers are by far the most profitable for cleaning companies. The cost to maintain this clientele is minimal, few discounts are required, and they are willing to pay more for reliable service. Developing a clientele consisting of these consumers is the ultimate business goal. These profitable customers are generally difficult for new companies to obtain since an established clientele is required to generate these repeat and referral customers.

Choose a target market

Effective marketing will not happen if companies do not choose a specific consumer target market. Owners must decide which of the two groups is most appropriate for their companies.

Will the company offer basic services at an affordable price, or is it more in line with the model of a full-service company  that provides additional expertise and professionalism at a higher price?

Only when this decision has been made can you establish a clear marketing message for interested consumers.

A clear message

Consumers are impatient and expect answers to their two questions quickly. Does the company provide the service they need, and is the level of service what they want? Display messages that clearly convey what your company does and doesn’t offer. Don’t be afraid to signal to the non-target consumers that your company may not be their best value.

Sending a clear message as to which consumer group your company is designed for will make your marketing efforts much more effective.

In my next article, I will explain the distinct wants of each the full-service and basics consumer groups, along with the marketing themes most effective to help clarify the message.

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 to serving higher-quality customers. To help companies achieve these goals, Marsh created the step-by-step programs Single Truck Success and Be Competition Free. For more information, visit