Adding Elasticity to Your Company Via the Web
The Internet roller coaster we all have been riding during the past few years has made some people wonder if this “dot-com” thing is really “dot-dead.” The answer is that the Internet is here — here to stay — and the sooner you put it to work for your building service company, the stronger you will be.

However, the Internet is passive. Just because your company has a Web site does not mean anyone will find it. A terrific way to get viewers to your site is to get elastic — a Web technology term for enthusiastically reaching out and grabbing customers’ attention.

The best way to do this is via an electronic newsletter. E-newsletters can work well for BSCs both by cementing ties with current customers and by reaching out to future ones.

What it takes to attract attention
An e-newsletter should be short and sweet. No one wants to read a novel on his or her monitor. The best way to accomplish this is to write short and snappy “teaser” sentences or paragraphs that include a linked Web address taking the reader back to complete articles you have on your Web site. In this way, you are reaching out to your readers and bringing them back to your site at the same time.

While there, viewers then can browse and see what else your company has to offer. Things to include are: Testimonials from happy customers; quick and easy ways to contact you; and promotions for special services you provide.

You also can make this an opportunity to educate your viewers about the cleaning industry. For example, information regarding different ways to clean a carpet or refinish a floor will help people understand the work involved and promote your company as an industry expert.

In addition to bringing customers back to your Web site, your newsletter also should provide information that readers can use in their personal lives as well as at their businesses. Briefly discuss topics such as building security, stain removal, avoiding slip and falls, clutter control or even spring-cleaning. If people can use the information at home or in the office, they are more likely to remember where they found it.

Toss some personal articles into your newsletter as well. Years ago, my printed newsletters always had a special issue for Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Thanksgiving. These newsletters reminded readers that work wasn’t everything and often generated a large response.

Looking good
The design of a newsletter is as important as the content. It should look professional and well formatted. Remember that everything on the Internet, including newsletters, represents the people and companies behind it. An initial consultation with a graphic designer can be well worth the investment.

Consider creating an HTML newsletter, which looks like an actual Web page, rather than the straight text often seen in e-mails. You may need some technical assistance to create this design, but it really can pay off. Just look to the high-end candle store Illuminations, which saw its online sales double when it moved from text to an HTML newsletter. Key here is making sure you still have a text version available for some customers whose computers are unable to read the more graphically sophisticated HTML format.

Once you establish a layout, logo and color scheme, stick with them. Familiarity generates readership.

Focus on your purpose
Treat your newsletter as you would any other marketing tool; promote yourself but do it subtly. Instead of flashing banners implying “Hire Me,” place a small article from a customer thanking you for a job well done. This approach has much greater impact.

Realize that newsletters are powerful. They keep you visible. Your customers stay connected to you and learn from you. They find value in your relationship. Newsletters also motivate your prospects to respond. If they have considered contacting you, your regular newsletter makes it easy for them to do so. And finally, newsletters present you as an expert. Your helpful, problem-solving information turns you into their cleaning pro.

Robert Kravitz is a 30-year veteran of the janitorial industry and now serves as Manager of Internet Content for the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA).