Marketing Strategies for Sweeping Contractors

A well-planned marketing campaign is the key to company recognition ... and sales.

A well-organized website can be a great place to educate customers on what your services can do for them.
A well-organized website can be a great place to educate customers on what your services can do for them.

No matter what the state of the economy, marketing should always be a part of your sweeping business. With so many different marketing strategies and avenues to choose from, a little creativity and a budget is all that is needed. It's important to note that not all marketing strategies work for every company. Contractors need to consider the size of their businesses, their target customers, and the amount of their budget they can allocate to marketing.

The first step in creating a marketing campaign is to distinguish between advertising and marketing. Yes, they are different. With advertising, you are selling something, says Dale McCaskill of Southco Commercial Property Maintenance, Darlington, SC. Advertising is often a non-personal promotion of products to both existing and potential customers, adds Chuck Hiatt, sales manager for DSS Sweeping Service, Inc., Dayton, OH. Advertising is looking specifically at what you can do to make a sale.

Marketing, on the other hand, has nothing to do with sales or bidding, says Michael Nawa, vice president of operations for Custom Maintenance Services in Newville, PA. Marketing is the process of getting your company name out and making sure your company is recognizable to your target customers. Marketing is also your opportunity to educate customers about your services and the sweeping industry. It's creating a brand for your company, Hiatt says.

"Marketing is more of a multi-faceted type of program which may include advertising, but it also includes education, communicating with your customers, and making sure you continue to keep your current customer base," McCaskill says.

Marketing can be extremely important when customers do not know the depth of services your company offers. Most sweeping contractors offer more than just a sweeper truck that cleans a parking lot. "Sweeping is the service that gets them in, but they often don't know what else we can offer them," says Tom Kuhns of Capitol Sweeping Services, South Windsor, CT.

As mentioned, not every marketing avenue will work for every company. How do you decide what marketing avenues are best for your company? Start with looking at your customers, Nawa suggests. "Find out why they buy and what influences them, both positive and negative," he says. Here are several marketing strategies that contractors have found successful in their markets.

Print and In-person Strategies

Many contractors agree that equipment is the biggest marketing tool a contractor has at his or her disposal. "It's a traveling billboard," Kuhns says. Having your company name, logo, contact information, etc. printed on your equipment ensures that everyone who sees your equipment sees the company information as well.

But don't stop at just the equipment because your employees can do just as much marketing. Kuhns suggests giving business cards to all of your drivers to hand out if anyone stops to talk with them while on the job.

DSS Sweeping Service has found success with its direct mail campaign, Hiatt says. "Most real estate property managers, chain retailers, and general building contractors have very little time to meet with sales people. A well-planned, multi-phase direct mail campaign can serve to establish an impression that pays off when the prospect is personally contacted at a later date by a salesperson," he says.

Nawa has also found success with mailing brochures. This allows the company to reach its target niche market - shopping centers - and send out marketing materials on a routine basis. To keep its marketing materials fresh, Nawa says they are updated four times a year. "People become numb to what you're sending them. The message has to change so people don't see the same thing over and over," he says. It is also important to update marketing materials if services are changed or added, Nawa adds.

Another in-person marketing opportunity is attendance at trade shows. "We've had a booth at a municipality trade show in Connecticut," Kuhns says. "We bring a piece of equipment to show and usually have a few free giveaways." The benefit for contractors who exhibit at a trade show is they can target a specific audience who is there for a specific purpose. But sometimes the people you are looking to market to are not always the ones attending the show, Kuhns points out. Another consideration is that trade shows can be expensive, he adds.

Getting out and being seen is a great way to market. Custom Maintenance Service does this through community involvement. "We provide assistance to the local food bank through our company name. We provide sweeping services to charity events at no charge. It gets the truck and the name of the company out there," Nawa says.

Technology-based Strategies

If you have it in your budget, a short television commercial is an option. Capitol Sweeping Services uses TV commercials on a seasonal basis to market its catch basin cleaning. The company decided on the day, time, and channels that would work best for them. They then created 10 and 30 second commercials keyed in on a target audience - business people watching TV on a Sunday morning.

Depending on the market and target clientele you serve, electronic marketing may be a good option for your company. For example, having a website for your company can help market you to a much larger audience - anyone can find you.

A more intimate way to market to both existing and potential customers is through e-newsletters. Capitol Sweeping Services says the e-newsletter has been a very cost-effective marketing strategy for them. The company sends it out through e-mail and also posts it on its website. "With e-newsletters you can contact people you did, do, and want to do business for," Kuhns says.

If you're going to do an e-newsletter, think about what content you would like to include. Remember, this is not meant to be a piece of advertising. E-newsletters should have educational value for your customers. Highlight the services you offer. Inform the customer about what the service is, what the benefits are, and maybe even how the service is performed.

Southco has also increased its electronic marketing to include an e-newsletter, monthly updates, and breaking news from the industry. This constant communication of information is helping to establish Southco as "the Source" for its customers, McCaskill says. "You need to keep your customers informed and keep your name in front of them," he adds. "Sometimes they forget easily."

And don't forget one of the best marketing tools, and probably the cheapest: word of mouth.

These aren't the only marketing strategies a sweeping contractor can use. Nawa suggests looking at other industries both in and outside of the pavement maintenance industry. Take a look at how other industries are marketing and what materials they are using. If you see something you like find a way to adapt it to the sweeping industry and your market.

Measure of Success

There is no numerical formula or software that can help you measure the success of your marketing efforts. But that doesn't mean there is no way to gauge what avenues may be working better for you. Capitol Sweeping Services asks all its new customers how they got the sweeper's number. They can tell right away which strategies are generating more leads. If you have a website, there are ways to track how many visitors your website gets, but you may not know if those visitors are in your target audience, or even your service area.

Remember, though, marketing is not about making a sale; it is about building your company brand.

"Success is not how many people call," Nawa says. "It's how many will take your call."

Keep On Truckin'

Most of the time marketing efforts will not bring instant gratification. And some marketing strategies may not bring in any new customers. Consistency is important. "Whatever you start don't stop even if you don't think it's working," Nawa says. "Stay with it as a planned program, just like the services you offer."

"You'll play but you may not always win," McCaskill says. "It's about being proactive, consistent, and working within your budget."He adds that a well thought out and executed marketing plan can make your business look like a big company, which can be especially helpful when trying to establish your company as a leader in the industry.