Success Stories

Relationship Marketing Weekly: Carpet Cleaning Company

On this week’s show Kody Bateman interviews carpet cleaning business owners Eirik and Sara Nelson have built their business from repeat customers and customer referrals through creating relationships and earning trust with their customers through relationship marketing.

Kody Bateman: I have a very special guest on this show with us today. I’m very excited to introduce them here in just a second. They’re coming here all the way from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. We have Eirik and Sara Nelson. Welcome to our show today.

Eirik Nelson: Thank you.

Kody: We’re real glad to have you on here. They’re in the carpet cleaning business. This is a unique – I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed a carpet cleaning service before. So this is going to be a fun show to learn about things that you do. Keep in mind everybody, this is a relationship marketing show. We talk a lot about relationship marketing systems. But we want to educate people on how to generate business of any kind to whatever it is that you.

If you’re in the carpet cleaning business or in any service-oriented business, how do you generate new business, how do you retain business and how do you get referral business is what this show is all about. So I will tell you, Eirik and Sara, they’ve got – they’re marketers. I mean these two, they’re hardworking people that have an amazing cleaning service. But they’re marketers first. So we had a little preshow talk and I learned a lot from both of you already.

So coming out of the gate, let’s just get started here real quick. Carpet cleaning, you know, my wife is a cleaning fanatic. She has all these different service providers that come to our home. We have a carpet cleaner twice a year. We’ve got the window cleaners. We got the people that take care of our yard. The list goes on and on of all the different service people that come and take care of our things.

Let me ask you the first question. Your carpet cleaning, are you primarily residential or commercial? Both? What do you do?

Eirik: About 80 percent residential, 20 percent commercial.

Kody: So relationship is a big deal because you’re talking about – you’re cleaning people’s homes and relationship is a big deal. It’s interesting. My wife and I talk all the time about the service companies that take care of our home and the lack of relationship they try to generate with us. It blows our mind. I mean we pay a lot of money to take good care of our place and we’re just shocked that people don’t – that they don’t reach out. I mean they don’t do stuff to stay in touch with us.

Could you just tell us real quickly, what kind of things do you do, once you go in and you provide a cleaning service for people? By the way, I want to come back to how you bring new customers in because you guys are really good at that too.

Once you do get them in and you do provide a cleaning service for them, tell us what kind of things do you do to just stay in touch and create relationship with those people.

Sara Nelson: The first thing I do is maybe two to three days after the service, I email a personal email with their name and ask how everything was, give them an opportunity to let us know if there was anything we could have done better or if they were completely satisfied and just to thank them for working with us. Then we send a thank you card to them directly and then –

Kody: Yeah. Give me an example of one of those thank-you cards.

Sara: Yeah. We figured out a way on your system to put our logo on the front and then on the inside – that’s a different one. But then on the inside, I have just a, “Hey, thank you. Hope everything was great. If it was, tell your friends and family.” Then there’s a coupon that they can give to a friend for a first-time customer.

Then beyond that, when it has been about a year, we send another reminder card and at Christmastime, we send out a Christmas card with – again, with some discounts and things like that.

Kody: OK. So I want to recap. You send an email and with a survey possibility on there and how did you do. You send not one, not two, but actually three cards within a year. Is that right? So you do a thank-you, a stay-in-touch and a Christmas card. Is that correct?

Sara: Uh-huh.

Kody: Now in those cards, in the thank-you and the stay-in-touch and the Christmas card, do you – because you mentioned that you ask for referrals and you give them coupons with percentage off. Do you do that in all of your greeting cards?

Sara: No. Well, in the thank-you one, we say, “Hey, if you were thrilled, tell your friends and here’s a gift for them, a free room carpet cleaning,” no strings attached to someone else. Then when it has been about a year, the one we send has, “If you call within a month to schedule, there’s a 10 percent discount,” which I do find that people use that one. Of all the different things we do, getting them on a yearly routine, people do utilize that 10 percent card.

Then in the Christmas card, we will do maybe three rooms and a hall for a certain price or free deodorizer if you need it or a couple of different things. We’ve gotten a couple of those back, but not –

Kody: OK. Yeah. And you’ve been doing this for quite a while. You’ve been doing it for six years now.

Eirik: Yeah.

Kody: And seen great results. Now, I want to go back to the front side. So that’s what you do to stay in touch with customers. I want to go back to how you generate new customers, how you bring new customers in because you had mentioned –

Sara: Oh, I have one more thing that – another card we may send is if we do get a direct referral, if someone calls, I always ask how they heard about us. If they say, “Oh my neighbor,” whatever, tell me who that is. If that is one of our customers or friend or whoever, I send a card from your system just thanking them for the referral. I send them the email and say, “Hey, thanks. We scheduled,” and then once that job is complete, I send them a thank-you card to the person who referred with a $5 Starbucks gift card in it, which I can send right from your system.

Kody: Excellent, excellent. Now you mentioned to me before the show that with all this activity you generate, about 20 to 25 percent of your business comes from referrals. Is that about right?

Eirik: Yeah, about right.

Kody: OK. So let’s go back to the frontend because you do some really cool things to generate new business, one of which – you know, what’s interesting is you run a very successful carpet cleaning business. But as we already mentioned, you’re really good at marketing as well. In all honesty, it was kind of surprising to me that the first thing you said is that you’ve gotten really good at search engine optimization on the internet, one of the things you do, and you’re a member of BNI, Business Network International. So you do a lot of belly to belly type of networking with people and get referrals or get business that way.

But tell us a little bit about what you do. I mean how – like the online presence that you have, what kind of things do you do to generate that business?

Eirik: Well, in the early days of our business, I had more time than money. So I spent a lot of time trying to understand the ins and outs of search engine optimization. I recognized that it was going to be critical for us to be visible on the internet and fortunately for me, much of our competition that had been around for a long time, they were still riding the wave of what they had been doing for the decades prior. Newspapers, Yellow Pages, maybe some stock Yellow Pages type of a website. Very little if any social media and nothing in the way of a substantial web presence.

So I learned early on that by not only having a website with good content, that we’re updating frequently, but by using all the various forms of social media and especially Google. Asking our customers to give us reviews has been very big and it helps you show up well under Google search engine.

So that has been really, really huge and I’m really glad that I knew to do that early on. Now at this stage of the game, I don’t have time to continue to study that aspect of marketing. So you find professionals that understand that. But it was a critical step in the early days of our business.

Kody: So as an example, if I go to Yelp or a service like that and I look up you guys or I see you guys on there, I’m probably going to get lots of stars, lots of probably four-out-of-five stars kind of thing.

Eirik: All fives.

Kody: Hey, five, five-out-of-five stars. Obviously that has got to be extremely helpful because I’m like anybody else. I buy product and service based on how many stars people have and so I think that’s great. What do you attribute to getting all those – I mean you have to do things to earn those stars. What kind of things do you do as a business that you believe – that you earned those stars for?

Eirik: Yeah. It is the relationship piece. It’s the fact that we truly are honest, ethical, trustworthy people and people know that about us. Sara and I spent a lot of years in the restaurant industry, so we enjoy talking to people. We enjoy building a relationship with the homeowner. We recognize that inviting us into their home is a sensitive thing for people. It’s a very intimate thing to invite some strangers into the home, send them up into the bedrooms to clean the carpets, and we don’t want to take that for granted.

We’re not originally from this area. So we’ve really gone out of our way to be involved in the community, to volunteer our time with non-profits that we are passionate about, get involved in the local school, get involved at the church, get involved in our neighborhood and just be present, be part of this community. So people have come to know us, not just as carpet cleaners, but as members of this community who are always visible, always present, always trying to get involved.

What I’ve learned over the years is that people do business with you because they know you, like you and trust you. That’s not going to happen sitting at home. You’ve got to be out there. I’m sure there’s quite a few people that know us that don’t necessarily like us and that’s OK. There are other options for them.

But fortunately, there’s a fair amount of people that have come to like us and trust us enough to invite us into their home or business and the cards and the other things have been a way to not necessarily drive new sales, but maintain those relationships, stay top of mind. They may not need carpet cleaning at 11 months, but they might need it at 18 months or 24 months, so the combination of the cards and the occasional posts on our Facebook page, maybe an email once in a while. That way, they won’t forget about us and be searching elsewhere to find a carpet cleaner.

Kody: Excellent. So relationship is a big thing, being present with people, getting out there and being genuine and creating relationships with people. You’re really good with branding too. I love the name of your company. So it’s Eirik and Sara and the name of your company is SarrikClean. Now that’s creative. So it’s Sara and Eirik, right? So SarrikClean, S-A-R-R-I-K, clean, Anybody in Wisconsin, go to This is a place you want to go.

Sara: Only within the Sheboygan area.

Kody: Right, right. So I wanted to mention that because like I said, you’re really good at marketing, good at SEO type of stuff, and I love the branding that you’ve done, SarrikClean. I got to believe you get some attention just off of that name alone.

Eirik: It’s definitely a conversation starter. Sometimes I wonder if it was a good decision. It sounded cute and clever when we started. But now, we’re stuck with it and occasionally, I will have this conversation with folks and time and time again, they tell me how much they – how much they like it. It’s endearing. It’s the husband and wife team. Although our business is growing to the point that we have some employees, we built this brand on literally Sara and myself in their homes, doing the work ourselves.

Even if I’m not on every job, I’m on a lot of them, even if it just means dropping in and saying hi to the homeowners, checking on my guys, making sure that things are going well and then out in the community networking. But it is a conversation starter. I had somebody tell me the other day that he was glad – it’s how he remembered our names. Instead of the other way around, he remembered our names because of the mash-up type of a branding that we went for.

Sara: It also helps that I was on most of the carpet cleaning jobs over the years too or housekeeping or whatever services we offered at the time. So when people call and even if it has been four, five years, between their address and their name and me looking through the customer list constantly or whatever, I will recognize things. In talking to them, I remember that they have a certain type of dog or oh, that – what about that one bedroom that’s over the garage. Are we going to clean that again? Just being able to remember things like that and I think like you said before, just being in the customer service industry. We treat our service business more like a customer service.

Kody: Excellent. You’ve heard it said that features tell, stories sell. You guys are great at telling your story. Just the name of your company alone tells a story. It tells a story that it’s a husband and wife team, committed to what you do, committed to your craft, committed to serving people in the community, created a reputation of that based on the relationships that you do. So it really is.

I mean I want my carpets done by you but I live in Utah. But seriously, it draws me in. Like if Jodi, my wife, was listening to this right now seriously and if you were local, just the story alone of this couple who cares about their customers would draw people in.

You guys have leveraged that very nicely. What’s cool is you’re just you. You’re just who you are. But you’ve leveraged that into a name and I think that’s really powerful.

Eirik: You know, what I’ve learned about – and I’m sure this applies to many industries. I talk to carpet cleaners and related industries all the time in forums and things like that. The carpet cleaners are always talking about their equipment and I think the equipment is impressive to other carpet cleaners. But it’s not what the homeowner or the business owner is looking for. They don’t necessarily care so much what equipment you’re using, what method you’re using, the brand of detergents you’re using. They don’t really care about that. They do business with you because they know you, like you and trust you. You have a reputation. And are you able to deliver on the expectations that you set for them ahead of time, exceed those expectations whenever possible?

In eight plus years of doing this, I can count on one hand how many times people have asked me about our equipment or the method with which we’re – sometimes they inquire. But I believe it’s my job to be the expert and to deliver the results that they’re expecting and the rest of it is about relationship and trust.

Kody: Really good. I will tell you. To wrap this show up, I’m going to do something a little different that I haven’t done in any show before. I’m going to issue a challenge to the two of you and I’m going to have you come back on the show six months from now and we’re going to see what happened with the challenge.

First of all, let me ask you. Before I do the challenge, I want to ask you a question. Right now, you’re getting 25 percent referral business. Would you be interested in increasing that to 70 percent? So instead of 25 percent referral business, you now have 70 percent referral business. Would that interest you?

Eirik: Absolutely.

Kody: I know that’s a rhetorical question. But I have to ask it.

Eirik: Sure.

Kody: So let’s say that I could give you a suggestion that I believe could increase your referral business from the current 25 all the way to 70 percent and if you incorporate this one thing for the next six months, let’s bring you back on the show. You’re going to have to figure out a way to really monitor the referrals that come in.

But let’s bring you back on the show in six months and see how you did. So here is the one suggestion. You mentioned that you have a thank-you card, a stay-in-touch card and a holiday card and in each of those, you ask for referral business and you have a coupon percentage off offering if you come back and get the cleaning done. Is that correct?

Eirik: That’s correct.

Kody: OK. One simple suggestion. For the next six months, do exactly the same thing with your cards, but drop all coupon offers and drop all referral requests. Drop all of that out of your cards and let’s see what happens in the next six months because I believe based on the knowledge we have, that that will dramatically – I don’t know if you get all the way to 70 percent. But it’s going to dramatically increase – first of all, when I say that, what does that – I mean do you think that’s possible? Do you think that’s crazy? I mean what do you think when I say to do that?

Eirik: I do think it’s possible and we’re not really a coupon type of a brand anyway. So I think our industry is notorious for trying to be – kind of like the pizza guy. Like, OK, let’s have pizza on Friday. Let’s go through the Valpak and find coupons. The carpet cleaning industry is similar in that regard.

I never wanted to be known as the most affordable. I wanted to be known as the most thorough, the most reliable and trustworthy. So coupons really don’t fit our model anyways. It’s just something we kind of fell into and I suppose it felt like a – we were willing to give a little bit in the name of attracting some attention from our customers. But it really doesn’t fit the rest of our branding model anyway. So it makes sense and I’m up to the challenge.

Kody: OK. Well, let’s try it. Let’s try that. For the next six months, that’s what you’re doing to do. Drop any request. You’re just going to say thank you. Just going to stay in touch. Hope everything is going well and that you’re enjoying your home, whatever. Then of course a holiday card that goes out and just does that.

That doesn’t mean you might not do a mailer every once in a while with a service or a coupon offering. But in the cards themselves, just drop that. We’re going to bring you back on in six months. Let’s do an analysis to see how we did. Does that sound good?

Eirik: Sounds great.

Kody: OK. Any final words of wisdom? You guys have been amazing. I mean I’ve learned a ton of stuff from you today. Love your energy. You’re awesome. Any final words of wisdom or counsel? Not only for carpet cleaners but for anybody in any business.

Eirik: You? No?

Sara: I don’t feel very wise. I don’t – I just do my –

Kody: You’re more wise than you know. You’re more wise than you know, Sara.

Eirik: I really feel like for the first time in a long time, life is great because we found balance in our lives. We work hard within the hours that we have set aside for work. It’s part of the reason we chose the carpet cleaning industry because I have experienced in other aspects of cleaning that require after-hours type of cleaning, holidays and things like that. Putting an emphasis, a priority on our marriage, on our time with our kids, on fitness, faith-based activities. Just having a well-balanced approach.

We are not – we’re only here for a short time and I don’t believe our primary goal is to work every moment of every waking hour, to earn as much money as we can. Work hard. Give your very best and enjoy the people that God has placed in your life and serve them the best you can and when you find that balance, life gets really, really fun.

Kody: Wow, that’s great. So there you have it. Eirik and Sara Nelson from out of –

Sara: Sheboygan.

Kody: Sheboygan.

Eirik: Yeah.

Kody: Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Thank you so much for being on our show today. I encourage everybody on here. You know, share this with people and if people want to know how – you know, how the Nelsons do their follow-up and how they do this relationship stuff, just get back with the person that shared this show with you and they can show you a system that helps you to do that. Thanks everybody. Take care. We will see you on next week’s version. Thanks guys.

Eirik: Bye.

Sara: Thank you.

Kody: All right.

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