CHICAGO — For dry cleaners wishing to connect with their customers, there are more online tools than ever before. This can be a double-edged sword, though, because the sheer number of options can become bewildering. With a little research and defining what “success” looks like, however, a sound strategy is attainable.
In Part 1 of this series, we examined the differences between digital and traditional marketing and some simple — and free — tools dry cleaners should be using to connect with their customers. Today, we’ll take a look at some older methods of online marketing that should serve as the bedrock of your digital marketing efforts.
Home on the Web
Another key building block for online marketing is the company website.
“Having a website as the place where you store all your critical information that you reuse is really important,” says Donna Botti, owner of Delos Inc., a digital marketing strategy firm based in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. “Your website should have up-to-date information about your hours, where you are, what you do and who you serve.”
Dawn Hargrove-Avery, digital marketing manager for the National Cleaners Association (NCA), believes that a website is not a “set-it-and-forget-it” creation: “Make sure that your website is designed for today, not for 10 or 15 years ago. You need a dynamic website that can be updated, and not a static website from 2005. Make sure it’s current, visually pleasing and user-friendly.”
While having a website that shows activity is important for giving customers updated information, it’s also a crucial part of search engine optimization (SEO), which determines how high a business appears in a customer’s search results.
“When you update your website with a special offer this month, post on your blog or update your homepage with something new, Google knows it’s current,” Botti says.
Google looks at three different facets of a company’s website.
“They see how well your site works on a mobile device,” she says, “because most people are viewing it on mobile. The next thing is how fast is your site — if your site takes 10 or 15 seconds to load, I’m hitting the back button and going on to somewhere else. And then the third thing is the security of your site. Does it have that little lock icon in the search bar, noting that it has an SSL (Secure Sockets layer) certificate? There are a lot of businesses that still don’t have that.”
Many services and website providers allow customers to use a simple “drag-and-drop” design interface to create a website, but is that the best way to create or revamp a site?
“It’s one of those things that almost anybody can do,” Botti says, “but what’s the value of your time as the business owner? It’s the accountant analogy. You could, in theory, go on the internet and figure out what tax forms you need and so on, or you can pay an accountant to set you up so you can run with it. The website is like that. It’s got to be good on mobile, it’s got to be performant, and it’s got to be secured. With a one-time setup, all that can be accomplished.”
Reaching Out to In-boxes
The next element dry cleaners should examine is a mature but still viable and useful method of communicating with customers — email lists.
“You want repeat customers, and it’s always easier to get business from the customers you have, rather than finding new customers,” Botti says. “So, how are you reminding those customers that you exist? How are you putting a bug in their ear about, for instance, seasonal cleaning of something like comforters?”
“Email marketing is not dead, and should be utilized,” Hargrove-Avery says, noting that one of its major attributes is the ability to track its effectiveness. “For email marketing metrics, you can see the open rates and the click-through rate. You can see if people are subscribing or if they’ve unsubscribed. Why did they unsubscribe? Are you bombarding them? Is your content appealing to them? Those are ways that (businesses) can really tell if the online marketing efforts are working.”
There are email services businesses can use to make this type of marketing both more effective and safer, Botti says.
“I would suggest using Mailchimp®, Constant Contact® or other email service for this,” she says. “If you send out 500 emails from a personal Gmail account, you’re going to get blocked as spam. Using a service also allows people to easily unsubscribe, which keeps you in compliance with CAN-SPAM Act. These services also have templates that look good on mobile that you can use.”
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind about a company’s website and email list is that they are about the only online marketing elements completely owned and controlled by that business.
“You own your website, and you own your email list — everything else can go away,” Hargrove-Avery says. “In the next hour, it could just be gone. So, on all your social platforms, you should always be pushing people back to either your email list or your website.”
Come back Tuesday for the conclusion of this series, when we’ll examine the role of social media in your marketing efforts, and the mindset that will make it all come together. For Part 1 of this series, click HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].