Why Most Cleaning Business Marketing Fails

What makes most cleaning business marketing fail isn’t unique to the cleaning industry; it’s what can make any service industry marketing ineffective – having a limp, lifeless marketing or no message at all.

And, with no compelling, value-creating differences being offered, building owners and property managers naturally and logically assume – none exists.

From there, price or more specifically – low price, quickly becomes the primary or in many cases, only factor affecting the buying decision; fueling the desperate and often ‘business destroying’ chase by building service contractors for more and more work at lower and lower profit margins.

Knowing how dramatic and destructive weak, ineffective advertising can be to cleaning businesses, let’s look at why and how it occurs in the first place.

No Idea What Makes Marketing Work

Many cleaning business owners feel lost when it comes to marketing in general and promoting their own cleaning company.

They’re not alone.

Most small and midsized services of all kinds, such as lawn care or auto repair, find the whole process of identifying, creating and delivering compelling marketing messages and related guarantees – a mystery or at the very least, beyond their reach.

And, many of these same honest, hard working building service contractors quite naturally make the costly business mistake of believing – if they just deliver reliable, high quality service – jobs will somehow come their way, people will somehow find them, somehow.

It would be nice, but ‘somehow’ isn’t a business strategy (or at least one you can count on)

Not Willing to Change to Create Value

Not knowing the principles and practical steps of something like marketing isn’t a crime and like any area of weakness can be overcome – if one finds a way to learn it or pay to have it done for them.

Unfortunately, now more than ever before, janitorial business owners seem increasingly unwilling to invest the time and effort needed to learn how to change the ‘internal reality’ of their company; the nuts-and-bolts policies and procedures, which if altered and controlled could create noticeable differences in service between them and their competitors.

And, it’s those differences which can, if properly promoted can attract, compel and inspire a target market to take action – consistently.

While many business owners may be familiar with the terms (USP) Unique Selling Proposition or (UCA) Unique Competitive Advantage, we prefer to call these compelling ‘difference’ messages (MGPs) Measurable Guarantees of Performance.

We believe an MGP or Measurable Guarantee of Performance is more applicable and delivers more meaning for use by entrepreneurs in service industry companies like commercial cleaning or maid service.

Interestingly, the process doesn’t need to be incredibly complex or prohibitively expensive. Requiring time and effort to layout and implement? Sure, but a relatively small price to pay given the business building value of the marketing message it can deliver.

Truth be told, if most building service contractors were pressed as to what building owners and property managers want most from a potential cleaning company – they could give you an answer, probably consisting some of the following:

  • Consistent, high quality cleaning, attention to details – noticeable
  • Active management; closely supervised work
  • Stable (low turnover), trained, professionally appearing and acting staff
  • Friendly, available, responsive customer service
  • Plus, full value on day 1 and every day thereafter

In some ways – identifying what the target market would love seeing in a cleaning service is the easy part. More challenging is changing procedures and training people to deliver the improved, delightful service benefit promised.

But, that’s the crux of it – opportunity, as they say, disguised as hard work. And, with a significant lack of cleaning business owners willing or able to put in the time and effort needed, maybe an opportunity more wide open than ever before.

The good news is: effective, compelling marketing can almost write itself – when the internal reality within a cleaning business is noticeably, delightfully different than competitors in some important or delightful way.

Finding and Paying for Qualified Help

While doing everything on one’s own, specifically learning sound marketing principles, creating compelling marketing messages and implementing a customized marketing plan may be preferable – it’s not required or in some cases, feasible.

In these situations, in the same way a business owner may pay for accounting or legal assistance to tackle certain business challenges they feel unqualified to do themselves – finding and securing the assistance of an experienced marketing professional can be an effective option.

Unfortunately, while building service contractors are relatively familiar and comfortable with paying for accounting or legal counsel, they are less so with securing marketing help.

Think Announcing vs. Attracting

The cleaning business owner, unaware of marketing principles and unwilling to secure paid professional assistance, often decides to simply post basic business ‘name, rank and serial number’ type information or enter their own generic company website or online sites promising to notify them when a government building is going out for bid.

When a commercial or residential cleaning service is unwilling or unable to create or implement real change, real change and therefore real attraction, what’s often left is simply announcing that ‘you exist and are looking for work’.

That’s right, not very inspiring.

Really – as odd as it sounds, marketing for far too many building service contractors consists of sharing or posting company name, contact info along with a few lifeless phrases such as ‘We’re bonded, licensed and insured’, ‘Free estimates’ or ‘We’re committed to quality or green cleaning’.

And, does there anyone left who thinks any of those messages will get prospects to ‘sit up in their seats and take notice’?

No need to answer – dismal response rates for this kind of dead-on-arrival marketing speak for themselves.

Think Medium Can Replace Lack of Message

When marketing consists simply of ‘announcing one’s presence’, one of the next desperate marketing steps that comes to mind is. ‘I’ll just put it in MORE places.’ Or, they decide to use different advertising mediums.

That’s right, now the cleaning business owner begins to think what could help is – getting their ineffective message out to more people in different places and in different ways, i.e. flyers, business cards, door hangers, brochures.

And, as you can imagine, it generally works equally bad everywhere they put it and in whatever medium they use. But, without any better solution, they figure – it beats doing nothing at all. Well, maybe, maybe not, depending on whether the results cover the cost.

Think Web Presence Equals Strong Positioning

Here again, thinking getting a web site up and running as the key to effective marketing is an easy mistake to make for cleaning business owners who are constantly told – if you’re not online, you’re out of business or will be soon. No surprise, service businesses feel pressured to get a web site now rather than later, no matter if you don’t know what to put on it – or why.

Think Social Media Presence Automatically Creates Anything

As if the pressure to have a website even if you didn’t have a message wasn’t enough, now the incessant ‘water torture’ question is ‘Are you maximizing all the social media sources available today?’

And, again, just as with having a website, nothing wrong with it – not at all. It’s just that using social media, just like creating a website – without an effective marketing message will most likely – fail; if we define fail as not being a vibrant, compelling and consistent source of quality, qualified leads. In the end, Social Media is a medium not a message.

Surrendering, Opting Out Altogether

Finally, some cleaning business owners simply check-out of the marketing game altogether, deciding to wait to hear from national maintenance management companies trying to find local subcontractors to clean one of the buildings where they manage janitorial services.


Success is never easy or guaranteed – in nearly anything, particularly in things that matter. So, it is with marketing.

If cleaning business owners are determined to secure unique, compelling marketing that consistently delivers the results they desire – they will need to learn what works and implement it or find qualified professional assistance to help do so.

If and when they do, they are likely to find a very interested market, anxious to hear more about their cleaning business and the unique services they offer.


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Hi Steve, thanks for you note. You've asked a good question. The complete answer is a bit too long to describe in this format, but, feel free to give me a call at 888-531-4878 M/F 9AM - 5 PM and I can explain.

Best regards,

CleanGuru Support LLC


Hi, nice article with some good points.

I'm the marketing manager for Simpo cleaning which specialises in commercial cleaning in Sydney, Australia. We've tested a number of marketing methods and can confirm they all work but the hardest thing is crafting a message which stands out from the crowd and doesn't sound like the same boiler plate template every other cleaning company uses.

Have you got any examples of messages which have worked for your other clients?