Don the Window Cleaner and Web 2.0
When Don Marsh thinks windows, the last thing on his mind is Microsoft software. Don the Window Cleaner is a nice, down-to-earth guy. His story begins when he was down on his luck after a series of jobs that never panned out. He rode into town on his motorcycle armed with rudimentary window cleaning tools and only enough gas in the tank to make the one-way trip. Luckily, he learned about salesmanship quickly enough to fill up his tank for the return trip and put an extra $20 in his pocket.
Fast-forward 20 years, and his skills as a residential window-cleaning specialist provide him with a solid income and a crusade to help others be their own bosses in the window cleaning business. In his quest, he started SqueegeesByMail.Com, a site that offered professional window cleaning tool kits to those looking to enter the business. As of late, however, Marsh decided to stop selling the tool kits and instead turn the site's focus to window cleaning information.
The early years
Marsh's original Web site, www.donaldmarsh.com, was created in the 1990s. It was robust, for a small operation. He was among the first to implement electronic calendar technology to allow customers to view his schedule to see if they could be squeezed in before Saturday night's cocktail party. The customers even remain partially anonymous; Marsh only posts the street names on the Web site -- not the customer name or exact address. He still painfully describes the time involved in keeping up with the calendar (manually transferring data to retain customers' privacy), but his customers appreciate it. His e-calendar and clean design got Marsh's site top rankings in the search engines. Inevitably, not just customers but people thinking of starting window cleaning businesses wound up there.
"Five or six years ago, I was getting the occasional letter from people who had found my Web site who wanted advice on how to start a window cleaning business," he says. "Some of these people had a lot of questions, and it got too time-consuming to answer them individually. So I copied and pasted all my responses onto a separate Web page as a kind of ‘How-to FAQ' on my window cleaning site [www.donaldmarsh.com]." The dormant Web page was implemented just because Marsh wanted to be a Good Samaritan and show others about a business that had treated him well.
"It stopped the repetitive e-mails, and I forgot about it for years," he says.
Last year, Marsh was going over statistics from his Web site and noticed the number of unique visitors to the How-to FAQ page. Since it was more than 200 a month, it was obvious that a lot of people were interested in starting small window cleaning businesses. The time was right to convert these information seekers into potential sales.
Last March, he began a venture into the supply end of the business -- furnishing other novice window cleaners with the proper tools for the job. Hence, SqueegeesByMail.Com was created. Unlike other bulk tool distribution sites, it gave practical tips for beginners.
Earlier this year, however, Marsh decided it would be best to leave the supply side of the business to specialty window cleaning tool distributors, and instead morphed SqueegeesByMail.Com into a marketing and information site. He also will use the site to promote a book he is writing that is targeted to novice window cleaners.
Marsh uses Google AdWords, a pay-per-click advertising program, to recuperate the funds and effort involved in maintaining the site.
Marsh also will continue to blog and vlog. Last year, in part to promote his window cleaning business, Marsh decided to blog and videotape his expertise and wisdom. The information gets posted on the SqueegeesByMail.Com blog. Marsh's blog series contains links to more than 50 videos of him demonstrating both technique and business savvy on YouTube. Although not finely polished production pieces, the videos offer a wealth of knowledge for the novice at the right price (free). It gives viewers a taste of the daily grind for a window cleaner and suggestions for entrée into the field.
Different sites for different folks
Marsh's small window cleaning enterprise now has blossomed into three distinct marketing Web sites, each catering to a different customer. His site, www.donaldmarsh.com, deals with his regular customers who need their dirty windows cleaned. His window cleaning tools site, www.squeegeesbymail.com, supplies novice window cleaners with information. Finally, to keep his freshly trained window cleaning start-up disciples busy, he started www.mywindowcleaner.info, a nationwide Web referral service that drums up business for window cleaners in other markets that had ordered supplies through SqueegeesByMail.Com.
A key piece of wisdom Marsh has picked up as a small business owner enmeshed in Internet marketing: "A Web site is not advertising. A Web site is public relations. It is a service you give to your customers."
He's adamant about that because he constantly runs into small-business Web sites that have no information. "They have no impact on me as a user," he says. "They are mute billboards with an order pad. My site has always tried to impact people in such a way that I don't need hundreds of visitors with a 2 percent conversion rate. I need to make a deep impression every time someone surfs in."
As a result, Marsh says, some of his customers actually read his blog regularly and quote his material back to him.
"I am an avid audiobook fan, and some of my customers even read my audiobook reviews," he says. "My customers rely on the calendar. Oddly enough, even my long-term customers, who have my e-mail address in their address books, prefer to fill out the calendar form each time they have dirty windows. So I know they go back to my service site when they need me."
Marsh is a big proponent of trying all of the latest Web 2.0 technologies. "Since most of the Web 2.0 products are free, I use everything. It is in keeping with my general marketing strategy of making sure I have a lot of lines in the water."
Marsh has entered his businesses into social networking site Facebook, but so far it has not converted anything into sales, as compared with his blog posts and YouTube videos.
Although immersed in Web 2.0 technologies, marketing Marsh Window Cleaning and SqueegeesByMail.Com still remains only a small portion of Marsh's total marketing budget. Perhaps that's why so many small businesses are lured by the potential return on investment from a few dollars.
"I spend under $200 per year on domains, hosting and the stray software downloads to aid content creation," he says. "My biggest expense is time. It takes many hours, but I enjoy it."