When entrepreneur Atish Gadiyar needed an agency to launch and brand his new cleaning company based on hypoallergenic, soap-free, Green Seal certified products, that are safe for people, pets and the environment, he reached out to William Joseph. After completing a comprehensive marketing plan and brand creation, campaigns were launched into market and his cleaning vans were decked out with the new creative. WJ sat down with the start-up owner of Lotus Cleaning Services to pick his brain on topics ranging from marketing vanilla businesses to the scary parts of starting a business in a downturn economy.
What led down you the path of entrepreneurship?
I was always surrounded by it. My dad was an entrepreneur, so growing up, I was always excited to build something of my own. When you’re little you know, you have Lego, you are curious and want to see how this works and that works. When I began university, I initially began in engineering, but switched to business because it was much more exciting. I’m a generalist, if you know what I mean, I like the idea of knowing a little bit about a lot of things. I am a bit of gambler, I like the idea of putting it all on red, but the fact is that 90% of businesses fail in the first three years. Knowing that just makes me think, like let’s figure this out… let’s figure out why some things have worked and why others didn’t and let’s prepare ourselves. If you know the forecast, you’re going to bring an umbrella, you’re going to be prepared.
Tell us about Lotus Cleaning. What are the words you would like to come to mind when someone thinks of your company?
You know, our homes are our sacred space, and we want to keep that sacred space clean. Of course, we try to do that ourselves, but over time oil, dirt and pets take a toll. You have to take great care of your home, so I wanted Lotus to be that provider. I want people to think immaculate, reliable, eco-friendly and honest about expectations… I want people to think that our pricing is fair, and worth it. We are conscious of chemicals, we are organic cleaners and we are Green Seal certified. I want us to be known for not just one thing, but a few good things. Combine all those qualities and you will have Lotus Cleaning.
Did Calgary’s downturn economy lead you to be weary when starting your business?
It does play a big role, 25,000 to 45,000 jobs have been lost, and so that has an impact. But, cleaning is a fairly consistent industry… stuff gets dirty, you have to clean it – it’s fairly recession resistant. You just have to think in terms of systems and find the best kinds of systems that work for your business. With Lotus, everything is the best on the market, in terms of scheduling, machinery…. It makes things more efficient.
What was your biggest challenge in securing your first client?
Without a doubt, getting your name out there is the biggest challenge, having people recognize your business in a credible context is a huge challenge. In a tougher economy, people are more price conscious, so it’s even more important to get your name out there and get some good reviews. You garner good reviews, you have good reviews on Yelp or wherever, it translates into more bookings. On the website, there is the link to Yelp, so I try to be pretty transparent. When I finish the job, I’m like “Hey, would you mind posting a review?” I don’t ask for a good review or anything like that, I just hope that at end of the job, people are satisfied.
Innovation is a huge buzzword right now. What makes Lotus “innovative” and stand out from the pack?
Cleaning is fairly vanilla, it’s been around for a long time and lots of people have cleaning businesses. Clever marketing definitely helps. Cleaning in 2016 though, there are so many key differences. We are an insta-generation, we want price right away, results right away, assurance right away. New technology helps with this. Lotus Cleaning has mobile payment options, paperless invoicing, electronic scheduling, along with its top-of-the-line cleaning machinery. Service is essential, absolutely, but technology is just as important, if not more so.
What were your marketing goals coming in to the partnership with William Joseph?
I knew from the start that I had to establish a positive, trustworthy brand. Cleaning is intimate— you are going to people’s homes, into their private areas. The Lotus brand needed to embody all those values, to make our customers feel comfortable.
As a business owner, did you recognize right off the bat the importance of marketing your business?
Yes. First impressions are everything, especially as a new business. Having a trustworthy brand adds so much value and I have always known that.
What is one thing that surprised you when you went through the Insights/Branding/Tactical plan exercise?
The level of detail the plan went into was fantastic. Not many people realize how much work goes into making sure that the end product is impressionable/desirable to consumers.
So far, you have collaborated with WJ on a number of tactics, including truck wraps, magnet designs, a brochure and a digital ad campaign. What tactic do you believe has had the biggest impact thus far?
The logo looks crisp and clients seem to think so, since it has a kind of zen vibe to the whole thing. It’s hard to point at a single thing which has had a big impact. The truck wrap is what clients first see when we pull up in front of their homes and makes a great first impression. The flyers and brochures we worked on are absolutely stellar as well and will have a phenomenal impact in spreading brand awareness.
Which marketing campaigns have most inspired you?
Oh, Red Bull! I think they have the best marketing in the world. Every crazy, high adrenaline activity is linked to Red Bull in some way… I mean, come on, years ago NASA put people on the moon, now Red Bull does that. I`m not even in to energy drinks, I don’t really drink them but that`s just it. That marketing is crazy.
Are you more drawn to emotional branding or reasonable branding?
I think we are just not rational beings, as people. Facts don’t really always matter. It has to appeal to the emotional side. Like, Apple really seems to connect with people, while Samsung just seems to be a soulless electronics company. And who is the more successful one there?
Are there any marketing tactics that you are weary of or plan to steer clear of?
You know what, I just want to keep it real with people. There are so many dishonest businesses out there. When I quote people, I tend to give them the higher end of the price, so they are not surprised in the end. I’m not in to the bait and switch, you have to know when to push and when to be giving. So yeah, just honest, clever marketing.
Sometimes it is hard to distinguish where leads are generated from. How important is measurement to you?
Measurement is definitely important, but it can be hard to do. You just want to do a good job, every job matters, and every review matters. What is most important is the 3 R’s: reviews, referrals and repeat customers. You have to filter out the noise though, the bigger goal isn’t measurement, it’s building this business.
You hit the marketing ground running with Lotus. What are you next marketing steps?
I guess I hit the ground running from an outsider’s perspective, but a lot of thought went into Lotus. I initially thought I would buy into some kind of franchise, but a mentor suggested I was maybe better off to do my own thing, start something completely new. I went to Virginia Beach, where this guy has an extremely successful cleaning business, with state-of-the-art equipment and systems and I just observed him. I asked questions, I took notes, worked closely in a hands-on way, figured out how his vans were configured… I learned a lot, and brought it back.
But next marketing steps? I want to just continue to grow my consumer foot print. I want to find new ways to tell stories, so people can see the value we bring and connect with us. I want to tell those stories through different and emerging mediums. For example, it’s Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram right now, but that will continue to evolves. Digital mediums are the future, so I want to continue to pursue that.
Where do you see yourself taking Lotus Cleaning in the next five years?
Ideally, I would like to see Lotus Cleaning with five vehicles, increasing one or two offerings, maybe become natural flooring specialists… nothing too crazy, but I expect to have a nice, well-functioning business. Actually, you know, if you had asked me five years ago, what was more important, time or money, I would have said money, for sure. Now it is time, without question. I want to grow the business to be efficient and just well-running, which will free up my time to pursue other things, do other things, enjoy life.