Archives for Marketing

Marketing Opportunities to Boost Revenue During Your ‘Slow’ Season

This week, I spent some time with my lawn care provider, and we discussed how his business was going.  He said that business was good, but slowing.  In Virginia, grass is growing slower as we enter the fall and winter.   When I asked how he was marketing to his during the winter, he said he hadn’t thought about it.

Here was a huge revenue opportunity he was missing.

We talked about the need to stay in contact with his customers, and offer additional services to keep his revenue stream strong during the winter.  We also discussed building a calendar for his marketing efforts, based on the needs of his customers.

Here is an example of what we came up with.   These are complimentary services his customers will need, in addition to grass cutting:

November and December

  • Remove storm debris
  • Remove leaves
  • Dormant pruning
  • Trim all shrubbery (in preparation for holiday events)
  • Set up Christmas décor (this is both lighting and providing wreaths)
  • Snow/ice removal / salt sidewalks and driveways

January / February

  • Take down Christmas décor
  • Remove storm debris
  • Remove Christmas trees
  • Dormant pruning
  • Snow/ice removal / salt sidewalks and driveways

March / April

  • Snow/ice removal / salt sidewalks and driveways
  • Aeration, fertilization
  • Remove storm debris
  • Schedule mulching appointments for May

There are two important things to keep in mind when building a marketing plan:

  1. It is much more expensive to get new customers than it is to keep existing ones. By providing services to your customers throughout the year, you won’t need to re-introduce yourself in the spring, and your customer churn will be much lower.
  2. To be different from your competition, you have to do something different. In the spring, my front door will have several door hangers from lawn care companies.  Honestly, I won’t even look at them.  ‘My lawn guy’, who has been taking care of my needs during the winter, will be my ONLY choice for the rest of the year.  However, I might look at those door hangers if I feel my lawn care provider has forgotten about me.

Think about what additional services your customers need that you can provide during your slow season, and both you and your customers will benefit.

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It’s Not Too Early to Organize for Your Tax Returns

We are entering the holiday season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  Homes will be busy with holiday shopping, entertaining family and friends, and lots of holiday decorations.  Before you know it, it will be time to file your 2017 taxes.

Take a few moments now to collect the tax-related paperwork that reflect the special events that happened in your life this year, and put it safely away for January.

Here are some events to consider, and some items to collect now:

  • Did you buy or sell a home? A copy of your mortgage and closing documents
  • Did you have any casualty, theft or loss? A copy of all paperwork relating to the event
  • Did you get married? Social security cards
  • Did you get divorced or separated? A copy of the divorce decree or separation agreement, showing child support, alimony, and property settlement arrangements
  • Did you have any medical expenses? A copy of ALL unreimbursed receipts from any medical provider, pharmacy, and insurance provider
  • Did you move? Old and new address, and receipts for ALL expenses related to the move
  • Did you have a baby? Date of Birth, and Social Security Number (if you have one)
  • Did you start a new job? Receipts related to a new job search, or anything related to you getting the new job.
  • Did you or someone in your family attend school (beyond high school)? Receipts for all school related expenses including tuition, room and board, books, and other items
  • Did you start a new business? This list is VERY long.  I recommend you visit our website and review the July 2017 Client Newsletter, which lists much of the paperwork needed to record new business expenses.
  • Did you donate to a charity/non-profit/religious organization? A copy of your receipt is needed.
  • Did you pay for daycare? You will need either the name and SSN of the person (if an individual), or the name, address, and EIN or the business or organization
  • Did you pay Personal Property Tax? A copy of the receipt
  • A copy of your 2016 Federal and State tax returns should be kept with your 2017 paperwork.
  • A copy of ANY other paperwork you feel is important, or you have questions about (“I wonder if this is deductible?”). It is far better to have a copy of an item you have a question about, than to later learn you need it but can’t find it.

A simple filing system to keep everything organized is to file:

  • Family (birth/marriage/divorce/daycare)
  • Home (sale/purchase/casualty/theft/loss)
  • Moving or job related
  • Medical
  • Business
  • Other/Miscellaneous

My BEST recommendation is – keep ALL of your receipts.  As you can see from the brief list above, many normal events in your life have a tax implication.  If you have a question about an expense, keep a receipt, and ask us when we prepare your tax returns.rns.

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Marketing – National Pizza Day – A Recipe for Success or Disaster


Marketing is getting the right message in front of the right prospect using the right medium. It is also about taking advantage of an opportunity to promote your business.
Let me share a recent experience we can all learn from:

February 9 was National Pizza Day. I learned about it from a friend who was browsing social media. Well, I love pizza, so I decided to double check. Sure enough, it was a ‘real’ event. I looked online at the local pizza restaurants, and some of them were having specials. A moment later, I told my wife we were going out.

Throughout the day, I shared National Pizza Day with a few friends, who told others. Many were planning to go out for pizza to celebrate. I was a little excited, thinking about what kind of pizza I wanted to order. When my wife came home from work, she was excited about going too. Because really, who doesn’t love pizza?

Well, that’s where the fun ended. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were seriously disappointed. No signs, no celebration, nothing to make it a festive, fun event. The restaurant was understaffed, and the wait time was so bad that after 20 minutes, we got up to leave before our order was taken. The owner came over, apologized, and took our orders. The food was good, but the event was not a pleasant one.

The next day, I spoke to several friends about their restaurants, and they all related similar experiences. One in particular was completely overwhelmed by orders, but only had a skeleton crew (February 9 was a Thursday, normally a very slow pizza night). My friend was sitting close to their telephone and overheard one customer after another calling in to cancel their orders due to the wait time.

There were some common threads in each restaurant:

  • The restaurant didn’t promote the event.
  • The restaurant staff didn’t know about the event. Even the restaurants that ran specials didn’t inform their staff.
  • Not enough staff on hand for the event.
  • No follow up with customers, especially those who had a poor experience.

So, what can you do for your business to prevent a poor experience for your customers?

1. Look for opportunities to promote your business.

One favorite website for me that really makes it easy to come up with promotions is the National Day Calendar ( They list over 1500 holidays each year, including daily, weekly, and monthly celebrations. Just a few from March 2017 include:

Month-long celebrations:

  • National Craft Month
  • National Peanut Month

Weekly celebrations:

  • 1-7 National Cheerleading Week
  • 12-18 Girl Scout Week
  • 12-18 Termite Awareness Week
  • 19-25 National Animal Poison Prevention Week
  • 26- April 1 – National Cleaning Week

Daily celebrations:

  • 1 National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day (bakeries)
  • 3 National Employee Appreciation Day (first Friday in March) (EVERY BUSINESS)
  • 9 National Barbie Day (great for hair/nail salons!)
  • 17 St. Patrick’s Day
  • 19 National Certified Nurses Day (hair/nail salons)
  • 29 National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day (EVERYONE)

NOTE: I GUARANTEE if you browse the National Day Calendar listings, you will find an event that ties to your business. (If you can’t find one, call me and I will help you find one!)

2. Get you staff involved
As we learned from National Pizza Day, your staff will be the biggest promoters of your event, but you have to get them involved! Explain the event, what you are expecting (numbers of customers, marketing information collected, products sampled, free or discounted offers, decorations, etc.), and get their ideas.
One lesson I learned was to really listen to input from other generations. Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z employees all have very different ideas of how to promote an event. Flyers, social media, direct mail, emails to your customer (and prospect) list. Just listen to your employees, and you will be amazed by their ideas and energy!

3. Promote the event
Take all the input from your employees and put together your promotion plan. Pick out what works, and what is within your budget. Put together a marketing calendar/timeline, and PROMOTE YOUR EVENT! Without action, all your planning is wasted effort.

(Note: if you want to know what kinds of items are deductible for marketing and promotion, just ask your accountant!)

4. Event Day
Focus your efforts on making this an enjoyable event for your customers and staff. As the business owner or manager, your role should be engaging with your customers. If needed, make each employee responsible for specific tasks during the event.

One key task: collect contact information for every customer, client, or prospect who attended or was involved with the event.

5. Lessons Learned / Event Success
One of the most overlooked parts of any event or celebration is doing a ‘lessons learned’ meeting with your staff that was involved with the event.

After the event, get your staff together and go over the event. You want input FROM YOUR STAFF for each of these items. Your staff were the ones directly interacting with your customers/prospects, and may have a very different experience of the event than you did.

  • Lessons Learned – What worked well, and what didn’t?
    • Were flyers a waste of time, or did you run out of them?
    • Not enough / too much staff?
    • Did you run out of food / product?
    • What were your results from each type of social media?
  • Event Success
    • Was contact information collected from each customer?
    • How many people arrived at what times?
    • How many appointments were generated?
    • How many ‘free tastes’ were given, and how many sales were generated?
    • How many gift baskets / promo items were needed for the event?

After you collect this information, THANK YOUR STAFF, and use it to help plan the next event.

6. Follow up with customers
Here’s another area that is often overlooked. Immediately after your event, follow up with EVERY customer or prospect who attended. Thank them for attending and making your event a success, and invite them to return. Be sure to invite them to your next event!


Hampton Roads Accounting works with small businesses, providing accounting, tax, and consulting services.   Contact us today with your small business needs.


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Tax Tips for Cleaning and Janitorial Companies

Cleaning homes, apartments, offices and other buildings can indeed be a chore, but one that can be incredibly rewarding, especially when you are paid well to do it.

The tips in this article apply to all cleaning companies and professionals, whether you provide janitorial services, commercial or residential cleaning, window cleaners, pressure/power washers, auto detailing, or any related business.  These tips are just as important (if not more so) to a one or two-person operation as they are to a company with dozens of employees.

Self-Employment Tax

If you ever worked for someone else and received a W-2, you and your employer each shared a responsibility for your taxes.  The employer withheld a portion from your paycheck, added an employer portion, and submitted them quarterly.

Most cleaning professionals are self-employed.  That means you are responsible to report and pay both the employee and employer portions of your taxes on a regular basis.  However, since you are in business, you can deduct the employer portion as a business expense.

Vehicle Expenses

Whether you use your personal vehicle for business use or have a separate vehicle just for business, you can deduct expenses related to your vehicle.  If you use your own vehicle for both personal use and for business use, you will need to track the business expenses separately.

Parking and Tolls

You can deduct fees and tolls related to your cleaning business.  If you have to pay for parking to clean an office or a home, it is a deductible expense.

Bus / Train / Other Public Transportation

If you have to travel by bus, train, taxi, or Uber/Lyft to go from job site to job site, you can deduct the cost of this transportation.  Keep all receipts.

While vehicle and transportation expenses will be a significant portion of your expenses, they aren’t the only ones you can deduct:


Newspaper ads, flyers, Facebook ads, postcards, imprinted pens, direct mail letters, and other related ways to market your business.  Even the costs of setting up a tent/booth at a local home show are deductible if you are advertising your business.  The cost of having a logo designed for your company – that’s deductible also.


Most cleaners need to have general liability insurance, which is a valid business expense.  Don’t claim vehicle insurance – that was already covered by the vehicle expenses.

Phone Service

If you have a separate phone line installed for your business, it is a valid expense.  Most people today use their cell phones for business.  If it is your personal phone, you will have to separate out the business use from personal use.

I have one client who uses her cell phone for business, and her customers communicate with her by text message.  Each month, she prints out her cell phone record and highlights the texts from her customers.  This is a great way to document actual business usage of her phone, and good records are needed to substantiate any type of deduction claimed on your tax returns.

Health Insurance

You are in business, and you need health insurance.  Your premiums may be deductible if your business makes a profit and you can’t enroll in an employer’s health plan (if you can be claimed on your spouse’s health plan, you can’t claim the deduction.)
Employer Portion of Social Security and Medicare

As noted earlier, you are responsible for both the employer and employee portions of employment taxes.  The good news is you can deduct the employer portion as a business expense.

Ordinary and Necessary Expenses

Any cleaning company has a lot of ordinary and necessary expenses to keep the operation going.  You can claim expenses for:

  • Wages you pay to employees or helpers
  • Tools
  • Machinery
  • Solvents, rags, gloves, and other supplies
  • Training and certifications you acquired

Keeping clear records is critical because it’s easy to forget small deductions over time, such as the fuel used to power your pressure washer. Keep receipts for all business-related costs to show the IRS in case you are audited.
You can deduct larger items, like a floor buffer or pressure washer, over time because it is considered a “capital purchase”. You can spread the deduction of a “capital purchase” over the number of years you expect the item to last. For example, if a floor buffer costing $1300 is expected to last five years:

  • $1300 x 20% = $260. $260 is the deduction you can claim each year for five years.

These are just a few of the many business items a new cleaning business must keep in mind.   If you need help in setting up your new business or want to discuss how you can improve your operations, please contact our office.

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Biz Tools: Every Door Direct Mail

Do you do direct mail advertising to get new clients?  Depending on your target customer, direct mail is a great way to generate new business for your store or service.

Recently, I spoke to a business owner who does direct mail advertising to the neighborhoods around his store.  To help target these customers, he uses Every Door Direct Mail from the U.S. Postal Service.

Instead of having to purchase a mailing list, Every Door Direct Mail uses postal routes to identify neighborhoods.  Once you choose the postal routes you want to target, the tool instantly shows you the cost for the mailing.  If you are on a budget, you can use the tool to stretch your advertising dollars by selecting specific areas to target.

Every Door Direct Mail service is an easy, cost-effective way to reach potential customers near your business. Just create your mail pieces however you like, then select postal routes and pay for postage online. Next, bring your mailing to your local Post Office™ for delivery to every household on your chosen routes.

Note that Every Door Direct Mail isn’t a great tool for all businesses.  If your target customer is every homeowner in an area (termite treatment, A/C servicing, pressure washing, pizza delivery, dentists, etc.), then EDDM might be good for you.  If you target specific customers (Lexus owners, pool cleaning, parents with infants, etc.), a targeted mailing list will save you money.

Check out this video that explains this great tool (use full screen for best view).  And when you are ready, go check out the Every Door Direct Mail page on the USPS website.

If you have any questions about this service, just contact Hampton Roads Accounting.  We have used this service, and we can discuss if it will work for you, too.

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New Tax and Small Business Resource Section

We’ve just added a great resource section for our tax and small business clients.

Included are:

  • Dozens of courses from the Small Business Administration on starting and growing your business, marketing, management, finance, and government contracting.
  • 100 of the top IRS publications for individuals and small businesses, covering the most requested items by our clients.

The resources are free and available to everyone, so Click Here to visit the section today!

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