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The way in which a consumer engages with your brand is one of the major factors that determine your company’s success.
Customer engagement is about giving the customer something meaningful with every single interaction with your brand, throughout the entire customer experience. To be truly effective, engagement must be consistent across all business locations.
That’s what Ron Holt, CEO and founder of Two Maids & A Mop, does well. We talked with Holt about how the 14-year-old company grew into a 55-location franchise, with search engine optimization as one of Holt’s primary marketing strategies. The company is expected to make $15 million this year in total franchise network revenue.
How do you engage with customers?
Holt: Our job is to create an experience loop that continually creates new customers.
The first step is to be in front of a qualified lead as often as possible. We leverage our organic SEO strategy with a digital and social strategy that places our brand directly in front of a potential customer. Reviews are a crucial part of our marketing strategy and most customers hire us because of the right placement and the right reviews. Since the customer finds us in this manner, they also help us reproduce the process as well by providing us with great content and positive reviews.
“One of our primary areas of focus regarding local marketing is search engine optimization. We place high importance on the collection of reviews since search engines include online reviews as part of their algorithm.”
The experience goes deep: from the initial conversation to the in-home engagement to the follow-up conversations after the cleaning has been completed. Like I said earlier, our job is to use our customers to gain more new customers. We call it “The Complete Experience,” and it’s our true secret to success.
One of our primary areas of focus regarding local marketing is search engine optimization. We place high importance on the collection of reviews since most search engines include online reviews as part of their algorithm.
Reviews are not just for the Google bots, however. Reviews also act as a selling tool because people trust them. They trust them in the same light as a friend or neighbor recommendation, so we work hard to provide the best environment for a consumer to publish a review. We do not reward reviews; we simply ask for the review and then educate the consumer on the proper way to publish the review.
How did you think of the idea for Two Maids & A Mop?
Holt: I had always assumed that I would one day own a business. My biggest issue was figuring out what type of business to start.
My first job outside of college was inside a contract testing laboratory. I climbed the ranks pretty quickly and eventually landed the big job as director of lab services. The lab only served about 25 clients but those 25 people kept sending specimen after specimen for testing. The lab never had to spend a dime to re-market to those folks, and I quickly fell in love with the concept of recurring revenue as a result. So that’s where the road to the residential cleaning industry started: inside a laboratory, of all places.
Once I directed my efforts towards businesses with recurring revenue, I started thinking more about services that had yet to be tackled. The list wasn’t long because so much innovation had already occurred for so many industries. So there I was one day at a stoplight, and I turned to my left and noticed a cleaning company vehicle. The idea hit me like a ton of brick, and I raced back to the office to search for information on the industry.
Turns out, the industry was extremely fragmented and populated mostly by small mom-and-pop operations. Almost no innovation had occurred and demand appeared to be strong and growing. I was hooked when I discovered that the business only operated Monday through Friday and didn’t have an offseason. I quickly switched my thoughts of running a lab to running a cleaning business.
You talked about SEO driving a lot of your success. How has your company optimized specifically for local search? Was that something you knew you had to do going in, or did you learn it as needed?
Holt: I have always been a contrarian when it comes to financial decisions. So from the beginning, I wanted to think outside the box on just about everything.
In our industry, the standard operating procedure was to utilize a ton of offline marketing such as direct mail, coupons, and yellow page directories. Yes, I said yellow page directories. I never considered these marketing vehicles as a real option because my ultimate goal was to grow into a national brand. How could I beat the big guys by following their rules?
So, I researched alternative marketing solutions and settled on this little-known thing called search engine optimization. It was taboo a decade ago but made so much sense to me.
I went all-in on organic SEO and found myself attending “SEO school” every night after the business closed. I’d work past midnight many evenings, just soaking everything in related to optimization. It took a few months, but the results were shocking. We started growing quickly, and our advertising budget was essentially zero.
“We started growing quickly, and our advertising budget was essentially zero.”
Why is your company considered innovative?
Holt: We don’t use robots, but we try to use everything else. We have our own internal development team that is comprised of software engineers, graphic designers, and local marketing experts. Our franchisees don’t have to know how any of it works because we do it all for them.
We build our own software, execute the local marketing strategy, create new apps for the consumer and employee and even optimize each domain from our centralized home office. We’ll probably never see a day when a robot replaces a human when it comes to professional cleaning. But that doesn’t mean everything else can’t be disrupted. We want to build trust and accomplish this by offering as many disruptive solutions as possible.
When have insights from customer feedback helped you improve operations?
Holt: Our tagline is “A Maid Service Worth Talking About” and one of highest honors inside our network is to be awarded the most talked-about franchise. We know that word of mouth is the key to any successful business and the Internet allows for complete strangers to trust other complete strangers. Add the fact that our employees’ wages are 100 percent determined by customer feedback. We take customer feedback very seriously.
Years ago, one of our most loyal customers provided some tough feedback that eventually helped us make a difficult decision. The customer had dozens of complaints, but the actual complaints aren’t even that important. The overall complaint hit home because she was concerned that our company’s fast growth had created local issues that the home office couldn’t see.
We were growing via a corporate growth strategy and were serving 12 different markets across five states at the time. The feedback hit home because we felt the same way about our growth. We were growing too quickly and minor issues were popping up inside some of our stores. So we had a decision to make. Either build out our infrastructure or grow in a different way. That’s when we stumbled into the world of franchising and eventually decided to switch from corporate growth to franchise growth.
The move really transformed our business and has worked so well that we’re now serving 55 markets across the country. And it all started with an innocent review from a customer.
(Photo: Two Maids & A Mop)