In this lesson of “Getting Started,” we’re going to be looking at what research you can do for your cleaning business. Research is so important – never guess anything when it comes to your business.
We’re going to first look at Market Research – what it is and what methods you can use that won’t cost you the earth, or take up all your time.
Then, we’re going to look at analysing your competitors, so you can be fiercely competitive in your local area.
Let’s start with Market Research!
What is Market Research?
When we talk about the ‘market’, we’re talking about the group of people that could potentially buy one of your services, and the other businesses offering products and services to this group.
Market research is all about getting insights on this group of people to understand what they want and need, and how you can encourage them to spend their money with you.
For example, are people in your local area environmentally conscious? It could be that using eco-friendly products will appeal to them.
The important thing is that your research is based on evidence, helping you to make smarter business decisions and get ahead of your competitors.
When should you use market research?
- When you’re starting out.
Never start a local service business without checking that people in your local area need and want your service! If there is pre-existing demand for what you offer, your marketing is going to be a lot easier.
- When you have an idea for a new service.
If you are looking to add another service to your offerings, it’s essential to check there is demand before investing in equipment and training. Don’t just guess!
- When you want to tap into a new group of people.
Noticed all your customers belong to a specific demographic? Have you wondered why other people don’t want your service? You can use market research to find out why, and see if you can attract their business by offering something else.
How to do market research for your cleaning business:
There are two kinds of market research; primary and secondary. Primary Research involves collecting your own data, whereas secondary involves using data that is already available in order to gain insights.
Let’s take a look at how you can use these to get valuable information for your business. We’ll start with Secondary Research, as it is easier and cheaper for you to collect.
Secondary Market Research Tools
Data collected in the census in readily available for you to use. One particularly helpful piece of data is the number of households in any given postcode, which you can find here.This can help you decide where to target your marketing efforts and what areas you should be servicing.
Some trade associations conduct their own surveys and publish the reports. A great example is the NCCA (National Carpet Cleaner’s Association) Spring Cleaning Survey, which you can review here. Search online for relevant trade associations to you and see what you can find. This is invaluable to you as you do not have to collect or analyse the data, but it will help you improve your business.
Online Directories, Newspapers and Local Guides
It’s never been easier to research your competitors. Search on Google for your service and area online and jot down as much information as you can about the competitors you find.
Here’s a good starting point of what information you could collect:
- Their business name
- What services they offer
- What price they charge
- Where they advertise
- Who they are targeting.
Do this exercise regularly and refer to your findings often. It will help you identify gaps that your business can fill, and give you an idea of where you would like to position yourself in terms of price and unique selling points.
Primary Market Research Tools
For the most part, Primary Research is more time-consuming and expensive to collect. But, for a small business, there are some cost-effective ways to conduct research that will provide you with valuable information. Let’s look at some ideas:
- Surveys (for new businesses): Traditionally, conducting a survey would involve getting out, on the phone or mailing people to ask questions that help you understand how they feel about a product or service. These days, there are some great, free digital methods you can use to do this instead:
- Facebook Polls – get in your local community Facebook groups and set up some polls. Polls usually have a good response as they are super easy for the users to engage with, and the audience is perfectly targeted as it consists of those living in your area.
- LinkedIn – if you are considering focussing on commercial work, you can connect with local business owners and either post a question on your profile, or inbox the individuals directly with your question. Remember to be polite; these people could turn into customers one day.
- Online Surveys – another method is to create an online questionnaire using a service like SurveyMonkey. This will produce a link that you can send to people, rather than a single question.
- Surveys (for existing businesses): Online surveys are going to be super useful to you If you have an existing customer base and want to get their thoughts on a new product or service. Simply create your online survey link (as discussed earlier) and send it out to your mailing list. Alternatively, you could print them off and run through the questions with willing customers after completing a job.
Once you have collected market research and gained some insights into your business, your competitors and your customers, it’s time to use this information to strategically plan your business. we understood that is important if we have to analyse our competitors.
A SWOT analysis is the simplest way to do this. It helps you use the information collected to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats related to your business. We’ve included a free template you can fill out here.
How to use your free SWOT Strategic Analysis template:
Strengths and Weaknesses
This section looks at the internal strengths and weaknesses of your business; the things you have control over. You need to identify what your business is good at, and what it can improve. For new businesses, think about the resources and skills you have, and predict what your strengths and weaknesses will be.
Here are some prompts to consider:
- Do you have strong leadership skills?
- Is your price competitive?
- How is the quality of your work and equipment?
- Are your customers loyal? Do they return to you for repeat work?
- How is your customer service and aftercare?
- Do you have a strong portfolio of services?
- How are the company accounts and cash flow?
Opportunities and Threats
This section looks at the external opportunities and threats to your business; those that are out of your control.This is where your market research is going to be most useful!
Here are some prompts to help you fill out these sections:
- How many competitors do you have?
- How strong are those competitors?
- Could you offer something unique to combat the competitors?
- Could you expand to service other areas?
- Are there any new trends that you could offer services for? (eg holiday lets)
- Are any new business regulations or tax laws going to affect your profits?
- Are any new laws or regulations going to affect your ability to hire staff?
- Does your audience have expendable income at the moment?
Market research and Strategic Planning are so important to running your business. It helps you see the bigger picture and find opportunities to grow.
It also helps you (perhaps even more importantly) see where you need to improve to be more profitable.
If you don’t continually refer back to the work produced by this exercise, it will have been a waste of time – start using it to grow your business today!
Download our SWOT Strategic Planning Template here.