How Two Entrepreneurs Successfully Moved Their Business Across the Country
The owners of Handmaid Cleaning share how they won over a small town and signed on hundreds of customers. Required reading for new business owners.Visit Website ››
11 Years Old
Walla Walla, WA
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Taking the time to build relationships in your surrounding and online communities fosters trust in your personal brand that can lead to the kind of engagement and loyalty that money can’t buy. Kevin and Grace Reynolds found success with that strategy when they moved their family and their business across the country.
Grace founded Handmaid Cleaning in Pittsburgh, in 2009, out of necessity. She was a single mom of two girls and it was a way to make ends meet. “It was a one person business, but she build up a really good brand,” Kevin says.
After they married, the pair decided to move the business westward to Walla Walla, Washington, in 2012. Kevin has three kids of his own and the relocation was to be closer to his family. Going clear across the country from a city with a population of more than 300,000 to one with about a tenth the number of people had its challenges.
“We didn’t know anyone out here and we didn’t know how difficult it would be to start a business in a small town where essentially everybody knows everybody,” says Kevin. “You know they’ve been out here since their family came out on covered wagons in the 1800s, and many are fifth generation farmers. It was tough to break in.”
We didn't know anyone out here and we didn't know how difficult it would be to start a business in a small town where essentially everybody knows everybody.
Cracking a tough market
It wasn’t just that the community was tight knit, few had experience with Handmaid Cleaning’s business model. “We started doing our estimates and there was never a professional cleaning service before. There were only independent cleaners. In Pittsburgh we had no problem getting our rates for professional cleaning. But when we started doing estimates people pretty much laughed at us. They would say: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s way too much. No one will ever pay for that.’“
But the Reynolds didn’t give up. They stuck to their business plan even though it sometimes seemed like all they had was a broken vacuum cleaner and an idea. “We just kept at it,” says Kevin.
Brand building one like at a time
To solve their business development problem, Handmaid Cleaning had to build trust and relationships, both in person and online. “We went door to door and left door hangers in neighborhoods. We got involved in our church community,” says Kevin.
But the big breakthrough came with using social media at a time when few businesses were using it as a way to promote a service. “We decided to throw a few dollars into Facebook. When we first started we had almost nothing—just a couple hundred bucks in our bank account. So throwing 30 dollars into Facebook, which was a crapshoot, was kinda scary,” says Kevin.
We decided to throw a few dollars into Facebook. When we first started we had almost nothing—just a couple hundred bucks in our bank account. So throwing 30 dollars into Facebook, which was a crapshoot, was kinda scary.
But their $30 gamble on digital marketing hit the jackpot. “We started to get results from that immediately. Our phones started ringing like crazy. It was very cool,” he says. “The return on investment has been incredible.”
Facebook has allowed Handmaid Cleaning to do the virtual version of the legwork they were doing in person—going door to door leaving flyers, getting to know people and neighbourhoods. “We learned to use Facebook to build trust. That’s the key for all service-based businesses.”
Service based on trust
Kevin has a theory about how why Facebook been a recipe for success and how the online community replicates connections and relationships. “With service based businesses like a cleaning service one of biggest factors is trust. People are nervous about who comes into their house. Or who is working in their yards and what not,” he says.
Facebook allowed Handmaid Cleaning to build its reputation online to a larger community. “We built familiarity and trust in our brand. Much like you would through personal recommendations by friends, but outside our immediate circle of friends,” he explains. “Facebook allows us to build a relationship with people that we don’t even know. So before they even call us they feel like they know us. They feel like they are our friends.”
But, just like people in the real world, Facebook folks can be fickle. “Service-based businesses are tough to market on social media because the average person doesn’t say ‘Hey, look it’s a cleaning service. I’m gonna like their page.‘ Or ‘Hey a lawn care business. I’m gonna follow them.’“
With service based businesses like a cleaning service one of biggest factors is trust. People are nervous about who comes into their house. Or who is working in their yards and what not.
Content must engage and entertain
In general, people like and follow brands that are fun and entertaining, such as bands, sports teams, or celebrities. So, Reynolds says the best strategy to build online following is be fun and entertaining.
“But you have to be careful. When people start seeing ads in their feed they can get put off,” he says. “Running cold ads like that when you are starting out is not the way to go. You’ve got to build your brand and trust with people. Increase the number of people locally and boost your presence with those people. The biggest mistake is advertising to people who have no idea who you are.”
Converting followers into customers
Reynolds says that, just like in real life, it takes time to build a Facebook relationship. You have to be active in the community and in local charities and build up goodwill. “Then when they see an ad saying; ‘Get three hours of free cleaning from Handmaid Cleaning,’ then they say, ‘Oh yeah I’ve been hearing good things about them. There’s a deal going on.’ That’s a conversion ad that works.”
On the other hand, if ads start popping up and they don’t know your brand or trust you, he says the opposite could happen. “If you don’t have a relationship with people and you start firing ads out they could simply click that little button that says Hide this content, or This is spam,” he says. “Then your opportunity is gone for good because you mis-targeted or rushed things.”
Handmaid Cleaning has had real success in their social media strategy. That one person operation started by Grace Reynolds has grown to a busy outfit with a staff of 17. Kevin runs the show these days—the couple has four children together: two toddlers, and two under age six months, and Grace has her hands full.
But it’s not just the family that’s expanding. So is the business.
Handmaid Cleaning has plans to offer its professional cleaning services to the entire tri-cities Washington area. Made up of the cities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco, it’s a market that has a population similar to back in Pittsburgh.
In recognition of their successful social media strategy, Facebook even asked Handmaid Cleaning to be on their small business advisory council, which consists of over 40 businesses across a variety of industries, size and geography.
That’s a big ‘get’ and a huge vote of confidence in Handmaid Cleaning’s decision to put relationships first, both online and in their community.
Lightning round with Handmaid Cleaning!
The most valuable tool in your toolbox?
We use exclusively Shark vacuums. We’ve tried ton of them but we’ve had the most success with them. The product that we really recommend is Barkeeper’s Friend. That’s an incredible product you can use on porcelain, stainless steel anything. We go through a ton of it.
Outside of work tools, what would you never leave home without?
My iPhone. I can’t leave home without it. That’s my brain. Without it I’d be lost.
Do you use any marketing channels in addition to Facebook?
We have ads running in the local paper, which is still viable in small communities, and on radio. We also use Google Adwords too.
Your favorite Jobber feature?
I really like the appointment reminder function. In our business when we dispatch crew out to a job we have a lockout fee. But just to have a reminder go out a day before or a couple days before has really decreased the number of times we have had people say ‘Oh we forgot you were coming.’ It’s great because you really don’t want to enforce that lockout fee.
What’s your ideal way to unwind after a hard day’s work?
I’m a baseball guys so I like going in the backyard and hitting the ball with the kids.
We asked Handmaid Cleaning to tell us more about their Facebook success. Check out their top six Facebook strategies.