Pets! Get them on the invoice.
By Samantha Hager, associate editor
In the carpet cleaning industry, pet owners make up a large part of the clientele base that companies work with daily. With 67% of American households owning a family pet, the need for pet odor elimination services is immense—and it’s not just cat and dog owners who need help. Bunnies, ferrets, guinea pigs, farm animals, and even horses are all pets that can be found in homes across America with carpet practically begging to be cleaned thoroughly and cost-effectively. But how can carpet cleaning companies provide these services in a manner that benefits customers while turning a profit? This is what we at Cleanfax sought to answer by turning to the best and brightest in the pet odor market for a closer look at strategies and cost evaluations that just work.
In this carpet cleaning feature, John Clendenning, Dusty Roberts, Mark Saiger, and Ryan Snook all share their thoughts on how to best market these pet odor projects for business success.
The pet odor dilemma—A ‘cash cow’ for those that get it
Offering pet odor removal services can be a very lucrative decision for a carpet cleaning company—if executed effectively.
According to Dusty Roberts, team leader and president at Luv.a.rug Services Inc., “We have seen a 78% increase in our revenue since we have absolutely mastered our guaranteed pet odor control service.”
Mark Saiger, owner of Saiger Steam Clean, LLC. in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, shared how his team earns daily from pet odor elimination jobs: “Today alone, we probably already had three pet issue cleanings. Every day you look on the schedule, there’s pet issue project after pet issue project. That is one of the things that we see quite a bit, especially during the hot summer months when it’s humid. The urine salts activate and become very aromatic in all the worst ways. So, it’s definitely a valuable add-on service for carpet cleaners if they do it correctly.”
John Clendenning, founder and CEO of Carpet Cleaner Marketing Masters, agrees: “Urine odor removal adds on average 20% directly to annual revenue as a specialty sub-service and provides a sizable bump to the average job revenue.” He goes on to add that marketing to pet owners in general is a good idea because even beyond odor issues, they tend to require carpet cleaning services more often. “The lifetime value of a pet odor removal customer (i.e. pet owner) is significantly higher than the average non-pet-owner customer, so targeting this crowd can bring long-term success to a carpet cleaner beyond just the one-time service.”
Although these testimonies are reason enough to consider incorporating pet odor removal services into your business plan, the market itself has even more enticement. According to Pet Litter, Clean-Up, and Odor Control: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities, 2nd Edition, “U.S. retail sales of pet clean-up and odor-control products reached more than $4 billion in 2019, up from $3.5 billion in 2014, resulting in a 3.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the period.” The same study also forecasted that the pet clean-up and odor-control product market will approach $5 billion by 2024 due to the way in which consumers operate nowadays. Not only are most millennial consumers living in rented homes that must remain clean and stain-free, but they also think of their pets as family members more than any other generation before them. This means that they are willing to pay any price to ensure their rental stays clean and their pets do not become an issue for landlords.
It’s no secret that the usual pet odor removal products found at retail stores tend to only deal with surface-level odor and stains. This is where carpet cleaners have a clear opportunity to stand out by offering a professional solution to a common problem.
As with any business add-on, it takes time to develop the right marketing, pricing, audience, and team for the job. For companies ready to take the plunge, our experts outline five key factors to implement a successful pet odor removal program.
5 key principles to a strong pet odor elimination service strategy
1 | IICRC certification
As Ryan Snook of Carpet Recovery Northwest says, “The first step is to get some training through an IICRC-certified instructor before taking on any jobs.” For your customers, a certified team is one that they feel they can trust. Your customers value training and certification.
Since many companies don’t work to certify their team, this will help you to stand out online from the start. You can also use your certification for advertisements, on your website and social media, and during prospect calls to ensure your team’s experience and value.
There are two IICRC certifications that specifically apply to carpet cleaning: Commercial Carpet Maintenance Technician certification and Carpet Cleaning Technician certification. Keep in mind that being certified as a business owner isn’t enough to convince prospective clients of your company’s experience and skill. Rather, having your entire team trained and certified is the best way to guarantee your value and showcase your dedication to your industry and customers alike.
2 | Customer education
As Clendenning puts it, “Customer education is the #1 most important thing.” Customer education ensures your clients understand the difficulty of odor removal, which helps to set reasonable expectations about both the costs and success rate of such services. “Having extensive knowledge of the science behind urine odor and proper mitigation techniques and having consumer-friendly resources, such as handouts and videos, goes a long way in setting the proper expectations and helps to counter any misinformation the customer may have received online or from other unskilled cleaners they have called,” Clendenning explains.
For Saiger, customer education starts by notifying clients of this additional service and fee during standard carpet cleaning project calls. “We’re a little bit different where we actually don’t do direct marketing on pet stain and odor removal services. But, as a person calls to book with us, we always ask them if there are issues of that nature because we are an all-inclusive pricing company. We charge a pretty high-end price but let them know there is a specialty service that takes care of pet problems for an additional fee. That has helped us to grow that service exponentially.”
When communicating with customers, our experts add that it’s important to consider carefully what you can guarantee so that you don’t over-promise and under-deliver. This could be the difference between positive online reviews and legal battles. “I start every pet odor job by setting expectations and explaining that I can’t guarantee complete removal,” Snook explains. “We use a UV light to show my clients the pet stains, most of which they had no idea about. We also use a hydroshark moisture meter to show clients that urine stains are damp sometimes months after contamination.”
On the other hand, Dusty Roberts, owner of Luv-A-Rug Services, believes confidence in your team and end results is crucial to standing out from others in the industry, “We actually offer a very bold guarantee. We literally guarantee that people can stick their nose right in the rug and they will smell nothing—absolutely neutral.” If you can deliver on a bold guarantee like this, Roberts advises to embrace your confidence in your team and communicate these strengths to your customers.
Having said this, the key is balance. Take pride in what you can deliver while being careful to inform clients of the variables that can lead to different outcomes.
3 | Packages and pricing plans
With a wide array of budgets and expectations from the average carpet cleaning customer, having a base rate that increases depending on different package options is one of the best methods to ensure your services are affordable for every prospect.
As Clendenning explains, a three-tier pricing plan is a great solution: “I think it is important to provide options. Not everyone can afford full remediation, especially when the problem turns out to be more severe than they expected.Â Having three different packages works well:
- A more topical odor knockdown and odor encapsulation to treat the entire room in a general manner (works well for wet dog smell in the carpet as well) with no guarantee given, but the price is much lower.
- A second package where the known and discovered urine spots are rinsed and then treated from the surface which would entail more time and materials and thus, a higher price. This option would come with a modest 30 to 60-day guarantee that would provide for retreatment of the urine removal product and only charge for the solution cost, not the labor.
- A full remediation where the carpet is lifted, subfloor treated and sealed, underpad replaced, carpet rinsed thoroughly and treated, and drying equipment installed. This service option is much more expensive but comes with a 100% odor removal guarantee.”
To break down additional costs and the value behind the work being done, you must also be able to communicate why you charge what you do and how other variables may increase that base rate. For this, your product usage and service value are the best ways to showcase why your pricing is still cost-effective in comparison to other companies in your area.
As Saiger explains, “We start at a certain rate and we base that off of how much product we feel we’re going to use to do the full job. We tell our customers it does take additional types of specialty products and it takes additional time so it’s not just your standard carpet cleaning. We also explain the time issue regarding these products. Our tech will have to wait around for the products to activate and penetrate. Hopefully, there’s other areas in the home we can be cleaning while we’re giving that bacteria enzyme some time to work, but sometimes it’s a waiting game while the tech just sits out in the van waiting for the product to be more effective and lead to positive results for our clients.”
Similarly, Snook has found that showing the client the damage they can’t visually detect is a great way to prove the worth of your services: “I easily add $200 to most cleaning jobs by incorporating pet odor removal. If you do a visual inspection and show clients the stains that are not visible to the naked eye, this will show your customers why they should do it the right way. Training for your team also helps when explaining why we charge what we charge.”
Roberts believes the guarantee they make is enough to charge what they see fit without having to explain the value behind it: “We do charge usually double for our guaranteed “pet lover” wash. Our bold guarantee is that the customer will fall in love with their rug all over again. If we fail, we are prepared to give the client a 100% no-quibble refund. No client has ever asked for a refund in the last 8 years since we have absolutely mastered pet odor removal.”
Still, it is highly important that you see the job site before guaranteeing any price as, unfortunately, not every customer knows how serious the damage is or how much work may need to be done.
4 | A communicative, honest, and professional team
While a fair price and customer education will get prospects in the door, the key to retaining them is a communicative, honest, and professional team. Having your team certified by IICRC is a great first step, but as Roberts claims, a mastery of odor control and a dedication to doing the job right is what satisfies customers and makes your team stand out. “You must absolutely master odor control first and then offer a very bold guarantee. Do not fall prey to soap salesmen as I can boldly say that the secret to mastering pet odor control does not come in a bottle,” Roberts explains. “In fact, the majority of these ‘miracle’ products offered to our industry will damage your clients’ rugs and carpet while masking the scent with citrus and other strong scents instead. You have to be able to trust your team to do things the right way and impress your customers in ways these ‘snake oil salesmen’ never have.”
Similarly, as Clendenning explains, taking the time to communicate and show the problem to your clients is how you retain them and stand out in their mind as a professional and honest team: “Sixty percent of the population has a pet in the home, so a good number of your customers are going to need pet odor removal services. If you can explain to them why this is a service they need, use the black lights to show them the problems, and be upfront with them, even if they don’t buy this time, they’re bound to be your client for life. It’s all about doing your job properly and showing them exactly what that means. With the right team on your side, a pet urine removal acquisition can take a regular carpet cleaning job from $400 up to $900 with ease. Many days, our trucks come back with the technicians talking about how they turned small jobs into $1200 jobs solely because the customer needed pet odor services and our team showed them that in a transparent and considerate way.”
With this in mind, take the time to hire honest and professional team members, train them effectively, and work with them to ensure they are being compassionate and transparent with your customers whether it leads to a bigger sale or not.
5 | Effective marketing
As most business leaders are aware, having a great team and excellent prices means nothing without engagement and visibility. If no one knows your company exists because of poor marketing strategies on your end, all the other principles will have been implemented in vain.
Our experts agree that social media, Google ads, TV, radio, and print marketing are all useful when done effectively. On top of this, having great reviews and referrals is another way to build upon your customer base simply through your company’s local image and experience.
One of the most important parts to these marketing campaigns is the messaging. As Roberts says, “It is our job as professionals to communicate to your client that regular washing does not guarantee removal of all odors. All we have to do is properly inspect our clients’ rugs for pet contamination issues and then communicate to them that the rug needs our guaranteed pet decontamination wash. Then, our print, radio, Google ads, and websites all boldly offer our guaranteed pet decontamination service to show our belief in our service and team.”
Clendenning elaborates on this concept by saying that case studies can also showcase your communication and messaging as a brand: “I have found using case studies of real customers, showing the actual ‘before and after’ images, and including the customers’ testimonials or reviews is highly effective. We then promote that post out as a Facebook and Instagram ad to the local community, and simply ask the viewer to comment on the post to get a $50-Off coupon. Google Ads can work as well but comes at a bit higher cost per lead.”
Clendenning also shared that outreaching to local veterinarians and pet stores is a great way to cross-promote with other business owners and attract the right audience in other places they likely visit. But, overall, he recommends that brands simply mention their services everywhere to become known as the best pet odor removal specialists in their area.
Snook adds that networking and having a great reputation has made an impact on his marketing strategies: “I would say that 30% or more of my business comes from Facebook. However, BNI networking group has also been a great referral source for my company and I highly suggest joining a local chapter.
My company has more 5-star Google reviews than any other company in my whole county and that has been terrific for marketing. I learned early on that if you show up on time, set clear expectations, and have integrity when something goes wrong, people will tell everyone they know about your brand without any incentive or discount
Creating strong ads that focus on transparency, building company cross-promotion relationships, and using your past clients’ experiences to your benefit is how you can transform your marketing into an effective tool for customer acquisition moving forward.
Developing your own pet odor elimination service plan
Although adding any new service to your company’s structure is sure to be a serious undertaking, with the right plan and dedicated team, you can easily stand out from the crowd and assure your place as ‘best in show’ in no time. Thanks to the experience and insights shared from these industry leaders, the strategy to create the ‘purrfect’ pet odor removal service is clear. It’s time you ‘unleash’ your company’s full potential and start raking in the ‘big bones’ as the new year rapidly approaches.
Watch the full video interview below:
Samantha Hager is the associate editor of Cleanfax. You can reach her at [email protected].