The Chimney Sweep and the Mailing List

When I moved into my house the previous owner told me that the chimney had not been cleaned in some time. I scheduled an appointment with a local chimney sweep.

The day of the appointment the sweep showed up on time and explained to me what he was going to do. He was a in his mid thirties and very professional. The one thing that I noticed was he looked very tired. We chatted during the process and I asked how business was. He explained that business was good but not growing. He told me he was swamped between October through December and then business was non-existing. He was sometimes doing 14-18 houses a day seven days a week (approximately 1450 customers) and that if he could not fit a customer in he lost the business.

I let him finish and I offered to help him with his business. He was worried about technology solutions and platforms and I tried put his mind at ease that this was not about the technology but about how he could be more effective. Can you send email I asked, can you make a phone call?” If so we will do fine. I asked him if he had email addresses or phone numbers for his clients. Not many was his response. He did have all the names and addresses though.

We devised a 2 stage plan to spread his business out over the year to provide room for growth. Phase 1 was to reach out to his customers and get current contact information. 1. Update his current website with a contact form that captured email and phone number into a MailChimp account. 2. Create a postcard mailing to all of his customers asking them to fill out the form online or to call and update him with their current information.

After a couple of weeks I touched base with him. 93% of all his customers responded and provided their information. It was late January. Now came phase 2.

We looked at the list and divided into local geographic section. We composed and email offering his customers a 10% discount to have their chimneys cleaned early in the season starting in April right after the major heating season was over. We would then take the next group and do the same for May and June and July. This would hopefully spread his work out more effectively. For those who had phone numbers (and no email) he would reach out to 5 -10 of them at the end of every day and offer the same offer. He called me back a few weeks later and said it was working. Many of his customers appreciated getting the work done early in the season and loved the discount. He was able to start working much earlier in the season and do some larger repair work for many clients that he had not been able to before due to time constraints.

Every time he went to a new clients he captured their information with his phone and continued the process. When peak season came around he was able to take on additional new clients because he was able to effectively spread the work around.

The following year when he came to my house to do a cleaning I asked him how was business. He was ecstatic. His current client count was hovering around 2,500. He was able to able to work throughout most of the year and his customers could not been happier.

Is your problem with growth or is something else holding you back?

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