Preemptive marketing


Traditional advertising is geared to consumers currently looking for a carpet cleaner.

Advertisers place ads where consumers might look when they are ready to have work done. You end up spending a lot of money to be placed in a crowd of your competitors all battling to get the attention of consumers.

Do you see why this is a hard game to win? Avoid the crowd and expense by doing “preemptive” marketing.

Preemptive marketing builds professional relationships with quality-minded consumers before they need your services.

This introduces your company and builds loyalty so that consumers don’t look any further. Win over consumers before your competitors have a chance to promote low prices or their supposedly great service.

Gain the edge

Quality consumers are frustrated by companies’ lack of professionalism rather than their lack of cleaning ability.

If the consumer believes that you will provide more professionalism and quality, then you win a new customer. Now, all you need to do is stay in touch. When the time comes to have their carpet cleaned, they’ll call you.

Most of your competitors don’t see the value of staying in touch with past customers, let alone with people they haven’t worked for. They don’t realize it is a good idea to invest in consumers before they need your services.

It’s all in the timing

While your competitors are waiting for the consumer to be ready to buy, you will establish a trusting relationship with quality-minded consumers and win them over before they need your services.

Quality-minded consumers usually have their carpet cleaned every 12 to 24 months. Preemptive marketing persuades them that you are a better company and locks them in before their next cleaning. This gives you the ability to build a loyal clientele before you actually clean for them.

Preemptive marketing is the most efficient and profitable approach, with long-term benefits.

How it works

They’re cleaning for a customer when one of her friends comes by. Your customer gives you a glowing endorsement and the friend sees what fantastic work you do. The friend asks for your business card and tells you that she will call you. You figure you have a new customer, but unfortunately she doesn’t need your services now. There is really no chance she will remember how to contact you months from now when she finally needs her carpet cleaned.

Cleaners let dozens of potential customers slip through their fingers this way every year. Preemptive marketing goes one step further to lock in this customer.

Instead of just offering the consumer your business card, give her a copy of your current consumer newsletter and ask for her name and address so you can include her on your mailing list. Let her know she will learn more about your company and will be able to contact you when she is ready to use your services.

By staying in touch with your newsletter, you are locking in a new customer.

Advantages of preemptive marketing

Your presentation is “competition free.” Your competitors aren’t paying attention to consumers not currently looking for their services.

You have the opportunity to introduce yourself, present persuasive evidence that your company is superior and build the consumer’s confidence that they are right in choosing your company for the next cleaning.

Companies that offer lower prices or different methods of cleaning never get the chance to be heard. Preemptive marketing opens opportunities to persuade otherwise close-minded consumers.

Consumers who have their carpet cleaned regularly and are willing to pay extra for quality have stopped using traditional advertising to find cleaners.

These consumers have used professional carpet cleaning services for years and are disappointed in the cleaners they found through traditional advertising.

The companies they tried all claimed to be “the best” but didn’t produce the service and professionalism they desired. These consumers have given up the hunt and have settled for the best of those they’ve tried.

When the time comes for the next cleaning, these consumers will use the same company as last time or search for a reliable referral unless they have developed a new, trusting relationship with you.

Preemptive marketing is an efficient way of building a profitable clientele.

Preemptive marketing is a precision target approach. Traditional advertising depends on exposing your ad to thousands of consumers in hopes of finding the small number currently looking for a cleaning service.

In contrast, preemptive marketing does not depend on that small window of opportunity when consumers are actively looking for a cleaner; instead, it builds professional relationships ahead of time so that when the time comes for cleaning, consumers are locked in with you.

Preemptive marketing only requires a target market of about 1,000 quality-minded consumers per van, making your marketing more focused and cost effective.

Three ways to use preemptive marketing are:

  • Prospecting
  • Client follow-up
  • Referrals.

These are the ways to develop professional relationships with consumers before they have a need for cleaning.

For the fastest growth, attention to all three is critical. A company could grow using only one of the above, but it will be slow.

For example, a company could grow from referrals only, but without the other two, or traditional advertising, growing a profitable clientele could take years.

Let’s break down all three effective ways to use preemptive marketing and to build a better business.


Prospecting builds a professional relationship with people you have not yet done work for.

There are three main sources from which to grow your prospect list.

1. People you know: These are people who recognize your name.

The average person knows approximately 250 people. Assuming you have a good reputation, these people would much rather call you than a stranger from an ad if they wanted their carpet cleaned.

Capturing these consumers for their next cleaning requires them to know that you’re in the carpet cleaning business, how to contact you, that you are competent and that they have permission to ask you to do work for them.

The people you know should be the easiest group of new consumers to win over.

If you don’t know many qualified consumers because you’re young or new to the community, tapping into the sphere of influence of a friend or relative also works.

2. Networking: These are the new people you meet casually or through formal business networking opportunities.

You meet people at social gatherings or on job sites who are interested in your services, such as the example mentioned earlier.

There are also formal networking opportunities. Business lead groups or city Chamber of Commerce mixers are designed to help you network and educate people about your services.

These are great opportunities to meet a lot of people. Be sure to include them on your prospect mailing list to help them remember your contact information and learn more about your services.

Networking is the fastest way to add qualified consumers to your prospecting list.

3. Farming: This process develops a professional relationship with a select group of consumers you don’t know.

Farming is different from advertising because you emphasize building a relationship with them instead of selling to them.

Farming informs consumers about you, your company and how you can meet their needs.

Consumers learn to recognize your company and that you are interested in developing a long-term professional relationship.

Proper farming persuades consumers that you have a more appealing company than the ones they have tried in the past and that yours is worth a try.

Client follow-up

Good client follow-up is more than repeat selling to existing customers.

It builds loyalty, educates clients about other services your company provides, encourages referrals, optimizes the frequency your clients use your company and ensures that clients always have your contact information.

Past clients have already been impressed with the service you provide.

Follow-up allows you to strengthen that relationship, demonstrate that cleaning is more than a commodity and develop his or her confidence that you are the expert they can rely on.

This is also the opportunity to express appreciation for their business.

The more customers that stay loyal and repeat, the fewer new customers you will need.


Referrals are a natural result of providing quality service and good value. The number of referrals significantly increases if you:

  • Let people know that you want referrals
  • Recognize and thank them for efforts they made to send you referrals
  • Reward people for successful referrals
  • Provide tools to make getting you referrals easier.

Similar to the previous two ways of doing preemptive marketing, getting referrals requires building relationships with clients and other people who can refer you.

Once again, this is done before a cleaning opportunity arises.

Consumer confidence is critical in getting good referrals. Confidence is developed by having used or witnessed your quality work and professionalism or by getting to know you personally.

Referrals are the best source of new, quality-minded consumers. Since referrals aren’t restricted only to past customers, but can come from anyone who knows you, they can be a powerful tool for building a solid clientele.

Tools for preemptive marketing

Professional relationship building — not sales — is the goal in preemptive marketing.

Tools that reflect this purpose are most effective.

The best tool for developing a professional relationship is a consumer newsletter.

Since the goal is to build an image of you as the expert, well-written articles relating to the services you provide are best.

A professional — yet personable — style of newsletter that gives the impression that you wrote it is the most effective.

Generic newsletters containing trivia, recipes and articles unrelated to your services are not as persuasive.

Bear in mind that “experts” don’t sell, they “advise.” Keep the sales pitch to a minimum.

Ideally, the consumer receives a newsletter consistently every two to three months.

Other valuable tools are annual reminder cards, customer “Thank You” cards for after the job and “Thank You” cards for people who send referrals.

Consider implementing a referral reward program to aid in motivating additional referrals.

Quality-minded customers

Preemptive marketing works best for companies who want to build a clientele who regularly has carpet cleaned and who are willing to pay extra for quality.

Budget-minded consumers who are event-motivated don’t usually have their carpet cleaned frequently enough for this type of marketing to pay off.

Traditional advertising is better suited for building a budget-type service business.

The most difficult aspect of preemptive marketing is sacrificing our instinctive habit to “sell.”

This marketing approach understands that the consumers we are trying to win are already sold on carpet cleaning.

You need to convince them that you are more professional and reliable than other companies they have experienced.

Preemptive marketing persuades quality-minded consumers that your company can confidently and reliably manage their service needs.

Eliminate competition

Preemptive marketing is a powerful way to eliminate competition. This strategy approaches quality-minded consumers when they are open to change.

It takes into account that these consumers may already have a decent cleaner but are looking for more quality and service. This strategy accepts that these consumers ignore advertisements and require an introduction to get their attention.

As mentioned before, preemptive marketing builds a professional relationship with both prospects and customers before they need your services.

This means you have to change your message and printed materials from selling carpet cleaning to persuading them you are an expert and a professional.

Implementing a preemptive marketing strategy is the best way to build a profitable clientele with no competition.


Steve Marsh is the creator of the Be Competition Free Marketing Program. He is a 30-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an IICRC-approved instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. Marsh is a marketing and business consultant who provides a turn-key program for attracting better customers. For more information, log on to

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