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A CEO's Insights Into Modernizing Maintenance Marketing

June 12, 2024

Industry Insights Dan Roberge

Inspiration can strike anywhere, any time.

As I’ve pivoted to the role of a business leader, my “marketing brain” hasn’t switched off. I’m always looking for new ways to get my company, Maintenance Care, in front of new audiences. And one such moment of inspiration occurred to me in an unlikely setting: an office restroom.

Decades ago, when I was working in marketing for an insurance company, a coworker confided in me that he had clogged a toilet and was embarrassed to tell the receptionist. When he finally worked up the nerve, the receptionist told him, “You have to put a sticky note on the maintenance person’s door, and that’s how they’ll know.” 

I immediately thought, “There has to be a system we can build that can be better.”

That original concept of communicating with the maintenance worker about problems in the building inspired me to develop a tool that would digitize maintenance requests in the workplace and alert the right person at the right time when a repair was needed. 

As you can imagine, moving from sticky notes to a comprehensive computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) required marketing to sell its benefits to those it could best serve.

Taking a digital approach to multi-geographical expansion

Maintenance Care has come a long way. We launched our software in the senior care industry in just one geographic location and partnered with another company to navigate this industry. My background is in marketing, not maintenance, so my first move was to travel to trade shows around Ontario, Canada. I wanted to introduce Maintenance Care to potential buyer personas I was just getting to know.

Marketing in those days was all about face-to-face interaction. Hands-on, local marketing served us well at this stage because authentic, human-to-human conversation built trust and formed relationships. 

As we grew, we started to go across Canada, still rooted in the senior care facilities industry. We expanded our reach from our home base near Toronto, Ontario, across the continent to the western Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Each province had its own distinct obstacles, but all the marketing was still very much live and in person.

With that growth and expansion, we were set to pursue U.S. markets. However, logistics became a barrier, particularly due to expensive and time-consuming trans-continental and now international travel and working around schedules to set up in-person demos — not to mention the changing global landscape of the early 2000s. 

The desire to venture into a new country came from recognizing the limitations of focusing on just one industry. Our competitors in the U.S. market already had a hold on senior care, and we knew we had to think digitally to begin entering new sectors.

Adopting the inbound methodology to broaden our reach

To move outside the Canadian borders, we had to consider inviting prospective customers to discover our solutions through modern digital marketing practices.

Strategic marketing and product development have propelled us into new markets and industries, transforming Maintenance Care into a nationwide and cross-border success story. A shift from local marketing and trade shows to inbound digital strategies and honing in on SEO took our product to the next level. 

By the mid-2000s, you had to incorporate technology into your marketing to keep up in nearly any industry. This seems obvious or intuitive now, with every brand having a social media presence, but in those days, particularly in our market, it was still pretty new.

To expand both from our geographic region and our initial product, Senior Care, and meet our broader needs, we adopted HubSpot and outsourced our digital marketing efforts. We focused on the inbound methodology, which is all about attracting, delighting, and engaging prospects by educating and empowering them with great content rather than interrupting with traditional advertising. Our approach through HubSpot was to nurture leads with effective, value-rich email marketing, educating them until they were ready to schedule a demo. 

We also began penning guest articles to gain backlinks to our website and incorporating relevant keywords and search terms into our online content. We saw a growth in our audience and number of leads, but now we really needed to hook them and get them to try our product and experience the difference firsthand. 

The bottom line results from our move to the inbound approach were evident: what Maintenance Care had once earned in revenue in a year was now what we were making every month.

Launching a freemium model

We continued balancing in-person trade shows with digital marketing, but the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic put travel to a halt, and we now had the time and space to think outside the box. 

We began offering a freemium model of our product where users could submit digital maintenance requests and fulfill work orders without paying a dime. That was the big marketing push. It didn't require a lot of high-end marketing skills to get people to notice us because when you put “FREE” in front of your product name, you’ll naturally draw users in.

We were the only maintenance software offering a “free forever” plan, and people would find us because of that. However, we had to be savvy and scrappy with a tighter budget as the company was still self-funded and doesn’t receive any dollars from outside investors. Offering the free plan, then gradually marketing to free users to upgrade to a paid experience with more features and unlimited users was and remains highly effective.

Offering free versions of new software continues to differentiate us in the marketplace and fuel our growth even after the pandemic has faded. But the real driver of Maintenance Care’s success has been our commitment to continuous product evolution based on customer feedback and industry demands. 

Focusing on customer-centric innovation

Our team, which has been remote since the start, was ahead of its time in terms of flexibility and talent acquisition. This remote setup enabled us to innovate quickly and respond effectively to market demands. We have been customer-centric from the get-go, always listening to feedback and upgrading our CMMS to meet the needs of our users, particularly as we’ve expanded into new industries.

Hospitality facilities, for example, expressed a need for housekeeping scheduling software. But taking this on as a feature of our maintenance system and creating a monolith with lots of value-added features would be something not everyone in every space might even need. So, we used the Maintenance Care core architecture and created a sister software called CareClean. This new software is laser-focused on creating digital cleaning schedules and managing the entire housekeeping and janitorial staff through an intuitive mobile app.

We conducted an initial marketing push to existing Maintenance Care users and are currently undergoing a product relaunch and rebranding with major upgrades coming this year. The aim is to reach even larger audiences. What we found to be successful in growing the Maintenance Care customer base to over 50,000 users across multiple countries is being applied to CareClean’s expansion but adjusted for its particular benefits and audience.

Some of the strategies that have worked for us in the last 20 years have been:

  • Thinking digital first: Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on trade shows, travel, hotels, booth setup, and merchandise wasn’t practical, particularly in our post-COVID world.
  • Redirecting funds into SEO and inbound strategies: We were able to have a broader reach and draw in more leads much faster.
  • Keeping an eye on competitors: Staying in line with the competition allows us to get creative and try new things that set our brand apart.
  • Utilizing review sites and directories: User feedback is everything, and gaining social proof through real reviews from our customers helps us evolve our product and draw in new leads.
  • Investing in change and development: Staying in flux, in a constant mode of change, has helped us grow while still maintaining a consistent set of values and commitment to our customers. We also opened an office in the U.S. where many of our current users reside.

Two specific marketing tactics that we’ve applied since adopting HubSpot in the early aughts have included:

  1. Lead generation: Drawing in new customers with helpful content is a short-term strategy that has helped us gather many new contacts and convert them into customers through:
  • Creating thought leadership content via blogs and guides
  • Hosting product demos and webinars
  • Sending surveys and creating forms to capture audience information
  1. Demand generation: Many business owners are afraid of long-term plays and want results quickly. However, investing in an education-focused strategy helps boost the quality of leads through:
  • Creating SEO-focused web pages, videos, and other resources
  • Investing in digital advertising to attract the right audiences while they’re narrowing their search for the right solution
  • Writing customer-focused newsletters and creating nurturing sequences

Strategies for sustained growth

Since the beginning, Maintenance Care has been all about spotting a problem or gap, thinking, “We don’t have that, and we need it,” and developing something new or updated to provide a solution. From a sticky note to a fully featured CMMS to launching in a niche industry in one province to developing a whole new software and creating an office in the United States, marketing should grow with changing business demands, customer needs, and new opportunities.  

The evolution of our marketing techniques has been full of strategic pivots, relentless innovation, and customer centricity. By diversifying our industry focus, embracing digital marketing, and continuously evolving our product line, we have positioned Maintenance Care for sustained growth, and we’re excited to see what we can do next.

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A CEO's Insights Into Modernizing Maintenance Marketing Maintenance Care's CEO dishes insights into modernizing the world of maintenance marketing, launching a freemium model that works, and making prospects come to you.
Dan Roberge Meet Dan Roberge, a dynamic and results-driven President and CEO with a proven track record of success in the tech industry. As a co-founder of Gnxcor Inc., he played a pivotal role in building a cutting-edge facility management software company, Maintenance Care from the ground up.

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