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Cleaning Business Success Tips and Advice from Jeff Cross

Jeff Cross started his career in journalism, became a carpet cleaner for many years, and now combines those two passions as the Media Director of ISSA Media – which includes CMM and CleanFax Magazine. In this interview, we discuss important resources every carpet cleaner and cleaning business owner should tap into.  You’ll learn tips on the various aspects of marketing your business, along with helpful websites, videos, and associations to further your industry knowledge and education. These resources can give you the boost you need to take your cleaning business to the next level.

Topics Discussed:

You will learn how to do marketing your Cleaning Business on a Tight Budget, including: 


How industry associations are an important resource for your business


How the ISSA and Howie Mandel Are Help Us Rethink Clean


When you're with the customer, you are the marketing face...


And much more...

Audio Transcript:
welcome to the carpet cleaner success podcast a show created to inspire carpet cleaning business owners to build their own thriving residential and commercial cleaning business your host John clendinning has built and sold successful cleaning businesses for multiple six figures over his 30-year career and is the founder of carpet cleaner marketing Masters a digital agency that turns your online marketing into a lead generation machine tune in is John share’s proven tips strategies and expert interviews to help fast track your success in the carpet cleaning industry hey welcome to this episode of carpet cleaner success podcast we like to share lots of great ideas to help carpet cleaners home cleaning services and people in the cleaning industry better their business prepare for what’s coming ahead get their marketing right get their mindset right get their education right so that they can be leaders in their local community in that regard um got uh with us today Jeff Cross it’s an interview I’ve been looking to do for quite a while now um Jeff is the media director of Isa media Issa media which includes clean facts uh cleaning maintenance magazine Isa today as well as all the related Publications and products and stuff like that previous owner of a successful Cleaning and Restoration firm we’re going to ask him a little bit about that and he also works as a trainer and consultant for business owners managers and Frontline technicians and is an II CRC approved instructor so mouthful there of stuff Jeff that I get it mostly correct mostly correct yes although if you’re looking for real help I don’t know why I’m on this podcast yeah I think we do

a little bit about your background um just your work history I know a little bit about you I know that you started again as a um you’re you’re in publishing or as a as a journalist and then kind of got into the carpet cleaning World um for a while and then reached out to somebody both you and I know John Downey um started doing some writing I used to see you in the magazine I had a copy of cleanfax magazine every month on my doorstep and um and that kind of stuff and now here you are so um yeah just work family that kind of stuff give us a little bit of background about who Jeff Cross is sure um so you hit a few highlights there back in the day when I first got started my career I wanted to be a famous journalist so anyone watching this if you know the Woodward and Bernstein Story the Watergate story that inspired me to get into newspaper reporting and that was my vision so I did get a job with the newspaper and I did some reporting wasn’t as exciting as political Watergate stuff and it didn’t pay good either so I got married had a family and a friend of mine in the town we were in had a carpet cleaning business and that’s kind of how I got into the industry he was doing pretty good uh there were actually a few of my friends doing this and um it was like well you know got to take care of the family and being self-employed was was attractive so I ditched my career in journalism got into this industry and then about 10 years into it I got the itch to write again so I teamed up with a someone I met on the bulletin board the clean fax bulletin board way back in the day a fellow named Jackson Lloyd I think he lived in Missouri we we created this column called berberine and olafina yeah I remember that yeah that was me I was olafina he was berberina and we created these two characters on this bulletin board that John Downey ran and uh tell me if I’m talking too much John no go ahead that was good and so we we got quite the following with these two fictitious carpet cleaning girls sisters in Albuquerque New Mexico and we did this for a long time John saw it and he’s like who is this he sent an email to us we had this uh Gmail or Yahoo email some some secret email and he says I notice you are writing this on my bulletin board I’d like to get to know you you write well can we do something in the magazine I’m like wow this is interesting yeah got the it’s to do more he published us so we ran in clean fax for several years eventually and I did a few other serious articles as Jeff Cross as well but mainly it was berberine and olafina and interesting we got fan mail and hit on by other carpet cleaners that’s awesome this is early 2000s was it if I remember this is like 96. yeah okay yeah because yeah I started my career in in first carpet cleaning business in my 20s at in 95. so and again clean packs magazine came along within that year going I need education so and and stuff like that and then the bulletin boards and all that stuff so yeah that’s bulletin boards were in its early days yeah and I will say John you never did send an email to us or hit on the girls

it was funny though to get to have these two made up people that some thought were real real girls in the industry but we made it real but I I eventually um sold my company and I contacted the owner of clean facts and because John had sold it to ntp media in New York and I said hey I have more time to write I have a background in journalism they knew what I was already doing and so it was just a natural progression so I went from journalism to cleaning back to journalism that was 2003 okay and since then just stayed with the industry uh when we publish you know our clean fax magazine issues CMM and I say today it’s all related to what I know what I kind of grew up in yeah so it was a good fit and that’s that’s where I got to now I became an iecrc instructor as well along the way um we do some marketing workshops we’re bringing back restoration strategies next year well good to help help people on the Consulting side to provide these events so just a progression of things John you know um yeah it’s a good place to be yeah and it’s like and again that’s what I wanted the listeners to hear on this episode is that your history like you know a lot of times you’ll you’ll see like immediate directors and and faces and some of the young crowd may not know who you are and who you were from the years of the rest of us having followed and seen your name everywhere right um and it’s like you know well this person might have went through University and be you know for media and journalism and stuff like that and has no real connection to the cleaning industry but it really it’s that depth it was actually the next question I had for you was sort of um what would you find your to date your most important contribution to the cleaning industry through this journey of what you learned then what you learned after you left your business and kind of learned even more it sounds like and and then how you’re applying it um with you know back giving back to the industry what would you say is sort of like your your place and space what are you trying to carve out is um in your role so that’s a good question um that has changed over the years when I got into publishing back in 2003 back into it um it was it was print you know web and some website stuff and newsletters and that’s changed now to more digital so we still do our print Publications a lot of digital social media but I would say that the payoff is when we publish something whether I write it or not you know and we get the response from someone like this really helped me and that happens people reach out I read this article I needed this or I I saw this on the site and more so since the pandemic uh in Spring of 20 of 2020 started doing videos and I know you John have been on a couple of mine and thank you for that what good content that you provide um the video component is really cool and you can see people are watching we normally get hundreds and sometimes thousands and a few times six seven thousand views and that may not seem like a lot but in an industry business to business that is quite a bit you know we’re not talking about music videos Madonna any gaga gaga type stuff yeah but it’s it’s rewarding to see that and the comments and like at Issa show that we were at a couple months ago or last month actually um people just come up and they’re like yeah I saw the video on this and it helped me uh so it’s it’s making a difference I would say it’s human nature to try to help people okay and that’s what we try to do with our media content and our reach yeah and how like because I mean your history you seem to really be driving that that concept it’s um obviously the the take five with clean facts which is great on it as that that entity and then you’ve got the um the uh Straight Talk which is um more cleaning industry a little bit broader and stuff like that as well and again you kind of touched on the fact of the changing sort of reader habits I don’t they shouldn’t even called reader habits anymore but you know um content consumer behavior and and that kind of thing and that’s what we’re really seeing even obviously businesses themselves should be adapting to that just like you’re talking about like the the actual cleaning businesses should understand that um yeah there was we all read clean packs magazine in the day if we’re if you’re smart enough to do so because there’s already always an article about how to Market better how to do your restoration work better the new products coming out um you know industry highlights and things like that and yeah it’s we’re in a world now where um where really it does seem to sort of have that moment uh that time to sit down and read through an entire magazine I don’t know what’s caused this but it it definitely seems more challenging than before um and you know let alone read a book because you know again readers are leaders and anybody else owns our own cleaning business should be reading you know Michael Gerber you know emit stuff and and everything it’s just how to you know all of the stuff in the industry to get your your head around um how to run a business and how to be in the industry and then upgrade upgrading their credits and their and ircrc certifications and just staying on top of everything but um bite size Snippets seem to be the way that it’s at least as a an entry level right those

people that can sell a bunch of those might end up on webinars and stay a little bit longer later on but so it’s interesting because we have to think as business people or those in media like what we’re doing right now it’s not about what we think or what we think should be put out there to be consumed it’s about the ones who are going to consume and we’re consumers ourselves so as I look on YouTube or Instagram and I’m looking and if a video is long I have to think what kind of commitment is this if a book is thick if a magazine is thick if there’s lots of words we’re all busy people so the videos John and I know the take five with clean facts it’s tough you and I have done uh two or three of those and to get all that content into five minutes or so you know there’s no rule but I like it to be around five minutes it’s tough yeah but it’s also popular because people see oh it’s a short tip I want that yeah and so it’s about what what people want and I think that’s just how it is in business it is and again um kind of you know I like relating what you’re doing and what you’re seeing back to the the the actual cleaning business owner Gary vaynerchuk has said garyvee um that everybody now owns a media company like if you own if you’re the ditch digger the carpet cleaner the electrician the the plumbing fuel in the company you own a media company now because if you don’t recognize that the 20-something year old that just starts the business and has spent years you know streaming on Twitch because they play video games or just you know grabbing their cell phone and going live on Facebook or um YouTube or something like that or now Tick Tock they now become a roofer they now become a carpet cleaner and they continue doing that they have an audience because if they if they know how to do that if they know how to create that content and once you know how to create content you can create it anywhere you can place it anywhere in it um the different environments and platforms that show up all have a different use case but that that ability to create content has become a big part of running a business for the digital marketing World um that we transitioned into its content is King it’s the only thing that causes you to rank online and your content causes people to take an action and stuff like that but um and find out about your brand and then go deeper and whether that’s social media whether that’s search engines whatever but yeah what you’re doing with um take five and straight talk and stuff like that is is kind of what we’re teaching like our clientele in the marketplace to do in general is yeah start with one start make it difficult make it uncomfortable but just start putting out some form of content before and after pictures and then maybe put your voice over and stuff like that and interview a homeowner interview a local um uh real estate agent or something like that do your own little take five kind of thing and just about you know be relevant to your your town and your area and the services you provide will naturally just um sort of perk to the surface for the for people um it’s interesting you say that because we we actually did a piece of content on that concept it’s been a while but I remember from your conversation here it was about how someone could know nothing about what they’re doing they can come into the industry they barely know what carpet is yet they know how to use their phone in their digital marketing savviness and all of a sudden you’ve got a competitor who can’t compete on the technical skill part of it but on the marketing yeah you better up your game and so that’s why John it’s important to recognize that like I wouldn’t try myself to become an SEO expert at my age and what’s going on I would hire that done yeah because there’s so much to do I can do the basics I know the content and the social media part but that deeper level is tough yeah and that that that’s all the technical side of it for sure but yeah it’s you know on on again I know some businesses young young fellows it’s not just sort of like me saying you know young guys or girls come into the industry I know several um that just um small towns at 30 000 people and running four or five hundred thousand dollar a year snow removal companies I’m up here in the north so there’s no removal and take the summer off because you know young young kid just started doing hey it’s snowing today we got our crew out here and that kind of stuff and just grew and grew and grew and within a few short years they were the only one doing residential snow removal and you know a couple other things right but no no really decent website to to you know I would look at their SEO and go oh no that’s terrible but they were blowing up on on Facebook and on YouTube and stuff like that locally and it became the game changer for them right then you start getting the rest of it right and you know it’s a catch-up race for anybody else who wants to be a competitor now for them so absolutely yeah I noticed as well um so I wanted like Issa um just you know now that you are connected to that that that um great organization um an association um and I noticed that they just hit 100 years is that did I get that right no you’re wrong okay next year next year’s 100 years okay so we’re close but you’re close so we are we are back tonight 20 23. that’s insane that the association would have um started then so

yeah uh well it started about 99 years ago with a small event I think it was in St Louis um without looking at my notes yeah um and it’s just it just grew it was just people came together they knew they needed something uh combining of forces in the industry uh distribution and Manufacturing and from there it just started and the shows became popular over time and the association has grown so now some 10 500 member organizations and you think about those members are some of them are large companies so this represents tens of thousands maybe hundreds of thousands of people who are who touch those organizations yeah and over the years um Issa has embraced other components training uh media as well which is how I ended up here because the Publications I work on were owned previously by other companies other publishing companies but Isis they saw the need to reach the market uh have a have a voice in the industry Beyond membership although we do serve our members first and foremost we serve the industry as well so yeah um yeah 100 years coming up uh next year we’re going to have some special content on that we’re going to feature thought leaders companies that succeeded that made a difference the brands and also end of next year uh big uh event at our trade show in Vegas yeah so John if you’re there I’ll get you in just let me know awesome yeah you can be part of that and then we’re going to have a feature on what’s coming in the next hundred years you know what what are some predictions what yeah we’re not done there’s a lot more to do no I was shocked when I saw that you’re like again close to that Centennial then so that’s yeah that’s incredible for for an organization to be around grow that long and and obviously ongoing education and being an education leader um anybody who’s gone to the website follows you know Issa today or anything like that you see that’s a big component what would you say would be um like for the average for the business owner for the home cleaning business owner um janitorial carpet cleaning the the crowd that that we tend to talk to um what would be a good entry level for them to get to get involved with the Issa um joining um expect to get out of it that kind of thing so um if you’re not a member of Issa you can become a subscriber to our Publications and many are we have some 25 000 for clean facts uh it’s pushing forty thousand for CMM are those different magazines too are they still sad are they both print magazines I’ll print I’ll print and digital yeah because you can see the online version but yeah the print is yeah yes interesting that with the digital you can see people are going back five ten years ago and still reading that content it’s yeah it’s cool to see that yeah that’s cool but you know receive our Publications but becoming a member of Issa as a as a contractor which most of those that we serve on the member side are contractors whether it’s carpet cleaning restoration or janitorial facility um as well uh there’s benefits you know we have the rethink Clean Campaign with Howie Mandel all our members can use that toolkit they can use that content to use on their websites using their marketing we spend some five million dollars on this whole campaign wow to rethink clean to to connect the business world the the cleaning professionals to Consumers to those who need them so it’s just it’s a bridge of sorts that we’re doing there yeah there’s other benefits you know there’s the the medical there’s the HR benefits there’s all kinds there’s a huge on your list of typical and Beyond typical trade Association benefits that we offer innocent Community as well yeah so you know you you can be part of a Community Network and help each other and just be part of that family so that’s there’s so many things to look at um and there’s a place for everybody whether you’re a one truck carpet cleaner or a huge Restoration company or multi-truck whatever you are there’s a place for you and that’s perfect that’s what I think people need to realize um there’s a lot of times you feel like as a a business owner starting out you’re sort of on an island of your own trying to learn what’s going on you might join a Facebook group nowadays back in the day it was literally the magazines and chat to local friends that in the industry but nowadays you know again you can jump on an online forum and start asking stuff like that but you kind of do feel like an island of your own around a lot of these different issues and uh um yeah and I know again education educating yourself on the the services you do but again even what I was going to ask you about the the Howie and the rethink clean because part of that whole concept is like we’ve talked about cleaning for health for for decades now like carpet cleaners knew that you had to get away from cleaning for looks and start talking about cleaning for health and you know my own business we we had the the Healthy Home package and the all like I said I just used the branding all the way through and again some people got it but usually the ones that got it had allergies or had another like they had it already in their head um I kind of think um as a world we have rethought clean over the last you know two and a half years um and it’s really kind of you know come to the Forefront and I think even as some people sort

of back themselves back off from okay I’m I’m I’m not I’m I’m not as paranoid or I’m not as focused on that I think we’ve added more people to the club that have said okay no actually this is really really important to con consider like I ran a janitorial company for for an animated service and we both of those we brought in products um we bought existing companies and transformed them by saying hey human contact Point sanitation was a big part of what we sold so 30 higher prices than our competitors but we sold you know not only green products but you know bathrooms got cleaned with orange mops and the rest of the place got cleaned with you know the white mops or the floor scrubbing machines and those got taken out every night not left in a janitorial closet and you know um again the bathroom was wiped down with orange Rags microfiber and the rest of it was the blue or the white and and things like that and it was sort of we went in and taught them that we change we do things differently you can look in the janitorial closet and it’ll be clean enough to eat off of because we’re not leaving stinky stuff behind but we’re also not doing that in your whole facility and you know using peroxide based cleaners and things like that and not not over overloading them with with chemicals in the environment as well and things like that and we kind of brought that in and this was like um mid-2000s and it would be like that message to 10 different business managers um or you know facility managers to try and get the janitorial gig and one would go oh my gosh that’s exactly what I need because they knew about it the other nine were going I have no idea why you’d even do that can we just have the cheapest price right um I think nowadays that’s changed I think a lot of them are like through this whole period of pandemic and sanitizing and spraying and then what do we do and what works and what doesn’t work and you know all that kind of stuff I think yeah I I really see that that that rethink Clean Campaign making a ton of sense so interesting all all true and I think back to why people have things done it’s a trigger so you think about carpet cleaning um sure we should clean for health and sure there’s allergies but most of your homeowners are going to go it looks dirty let’s get it cleaned yeah so there’s that issue or it’s Thanksgiving coming up let’s get it clean before the family shows up eventually after they leave and make a mess it’s an event it has there’s a trigger for everything we do so whether it’s a stain on the carpet families coming over there’s an odor whatever it is with the pandemic and especially like you referred to the cleaning and disinfecting we have that momentum that built up and we can’t lose that and that’s that’s what the rethink Clean Campaign is about as well to keep the momentum going because we’re we’re coming out of this and people are getting comfortable and we can see the signs that it could happen where people don’t value the cleaning industry like they should so it’s our goal it’s our job to keep that going yeah and to educate because the only reason people are going to clean for health is through education and that takes all of our efforts combined yeah an education-based marketing Dan Kennedy 101 that’s been around and again some businesses just go oh we’re three rooms in a hall for 99 or whatever um you know other businesses are now let me educate you why you know we do a better job and we use better products and and why you should do it more often and then their their monthly newsletters and their mailings should be about okay you’ve now got to clean for this event here’s how you should keep it up and why and start to educate but it’s definitely way more helpful um for anybody in the industry when the media at large is telling the same message and not just the carpet cleaner or whatever is saying that and they’re going yeah yeah but now they hear it on on the news as well going oh you know and then they see how we involved which I mean for somebody who is OCD about cleaning and well known and as a fellow Canadian we’ve known Howie for years back from the days of a comedian putting uh rubber gloves over his head and and blowing up um his old his old um Bobby gig and stuff like that is a little Joe his uh germaphobia is real and it goes back to an Inca’s childhood so he’s the real deal when it comes to keeping clean and avoiding the germs yeah and and to another point you mentioned there’s always going to be those that want the cheap price no matter what and there’s a place for cleaners that want to offer that yes oh for sure and it’s it again there’s that that’s the marketplace and we know that if it’s if you’re gonna if you’re gonna you know made services and carpet cleaning you come back more often there’s got to be a reason to come back more often other than it’s dirty so um I did notice on the um the if anybody’s wanting to look where that is um there is a find your local um business that rethinks clean what’s that all about so it’s it’s our members that’s one of the member benefits to connect them to buying customers so being part of our organization of course there’s a a certain level of of care we offer we want them to offer their customers the the standing in Industry to make sure we’re doing the very best we can so it’s a way to refer

them to those that are paying for services perfect so that is a another is your benefit well that’s that’s just brilliant um and so with all of this like we’ve kind of covered a lot of good stuff um around the difference the changing in the industry the changing of media how you guys are adapting what iss Issa is and um can help you know the business owner get more education stay up on top of it um be compliant on certain things get all these these different benefits and also continue to to understand where they should Place their attention um overall where do you see the cleaning industry heading um you know what kind of things have your attention right now for the near future you know the next 12 months and maybe the next three years um as far as the issa’s focus and just the industry in general sure a big focus is something that many may not even see or or know about and that’s our advocacy Department okay we have an expert on that government advocacy John noder who runs that we do recordings as well we talk about the issues but when you think about taking cleaning to the next level it might take some government interaction as well some just like There are rules and regulations on health well cleaning is part of Health as well cleaning for health and it’d be nice to have some regulations that that we like that we that we knew were important not just to make new laws or regulations but that really raise or raise the bar of cleaning that’s a focus that we have and so that’s a work in progress I know IICRC is an organization has a similar Focus but we have lobbyists and we’re working with those in government to elevate cleaning and uh as that happens we’re going to see the progression of cleaning for health increase the awareness and the reaction to it will be a positive no that’s good yeah and I I think that is a really good Focus for uh again whether it is the the large janitorial firms that we deal with or even the one-off cleaners and stuff like that they really need to stay on top of this information um and and understand where they fit into that role and what’s going on around them so that they can they can tell their customers about that commercial and residential customers yeah and that’s and that’s why we encourage everyone to subscribe to engage and we’ll like anyone involved in media keep people informed as to what’s happening but uh just there to there to help and you know the future no one can predict it but we just need to keep the momentum going yeah other things I see is is more digital marketing and business growth that way but it all goes back to people and how you treat people and the customer service that we need to keep elevating which in almost every industry we see just dropping into the gutter yeah so just caring about what you do is a focus I think we all should have yeah no it’s brilliant and as far as tapping in so we’ve talked a few things definitely go to it’s am I correct and then so it’s all it is and if you go to there’s a media tab that has everything right there so yeah you can always go to each individual publication but there’s a portal there to take you to each one yeah and then go to the YouTube channel for sure check that out because there’s lots of again that’s where your your take fives are and your um all the other the the Issa today and stuff like all the other different straight talk and stuff like that are all showing up there um yeah and that’s all in the media tab too and the number one take five there now is with John Clendening wow there you go hey glad I got a number one spot for for something at some points I was in a band years ago and we never got a number one spot for anything so that’s good so um so again in closing um just wondered um so what kind of advice would you give our type of audience um you know know basically to focus stand out especially with uncertain times like you know you got you and I’ve been around long enough to know that you know even even what what the Publications printed and talked about and helped with during slowdowns and economies and recessions that haven’t really raised their ugly head in you know 12 plus years now um but we’ve been through a bunch of them before and the Specter of that coming up um is is also on everybody’s mind who runs a small business as well and so just you know what do you think is as far as uh our audience they should be thinking about focus on help them survive and and thrive in in the coming times sure top of mind for me is that everyone in the company is a marketing person your technicians out there knocking going to the house taking care of uh Mrs Smith’s Carpet or those doing restoration work whatever you do when you’re with the customer you are the marketing face so my advice is hire the best people pay enough to keep them but remember that everyone is the marketing department because often we think well I’m just a technician I’m out there doing the work I’m not in charge of marketing well you are in charge of marketing because how you treat the customer is going to dictate referrals repeat work and so much with that business so it’s all about people John take care of people when you face your customer and talk to them the owner operator has an advantage because I know when I ran my company and I was an owner operator I I could talk to my customer

whether it was at the job or I saw them out in public or at a restaurant I could communicate with them yeah not every technician can and so we want the best technicians who can communicate and represent the company so I’d say people first know how to talk to them represent the company as a marketing person realizing that you’re not just there to clean you’re there to take care of the customer no that’s great advice yeah that that’s right in line with what we talk about um with again um delivering a client experience the um the whole Dan Kennedy first introduced me to this um but the whole Disney premise of you know you’re not hiring through HR you’re hiring through Central Casting because you’re being cast in a role you know you don’t want your technician flicking a cigarette butt out the window of the van and stuff like that or all that because just driving down the street you’re on stage you’re showing off your wares at every stage throughout throughout the business so and and that’s all true and we have so much information about that but we need to do it you know there’s the books that say it there’s the YouTube videos you can watch about it but how do you make it happen yeah make it happen look at what you’re doing and really analyze and just if you need to change something then do that but I know we can look at all kinds of material yeah that tells us this but until you do rubber meets the road yeah exactly and those will be the companies those are the companies that made it through any other hard Economic Times because customers rally around people that do it right and care about them and show it and and it’s obvious and those are the same companies that that make it through anything any slowdowns in the economy um that might be around the corner so perfect absolutely well I appreciate your time today Jeff this is um awesome as always chatting with you and um yeah for anybody who wants to reach out and learn more about the Issa just go to the the website check out the media tab you’ve got directions to get into everything and just really start learning why this is a great resource for your business and follow everything Jeff does because um he’s becoming a master of the whole digital online media whether he knows it or not so perfect thanks Joe take care thank you John foreign

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