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Connect with Customers in Every Medium

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Target audience. (Image: ©iStockphoto.com/alexslalexsl)

CHICAGO — This month’s issue goes to the core of what all drycleaning business owners should do. That is, to use advances in technology to reduce costs and to build customers and revenues.
You can use your current customer base to connect with, engage and find more customers. And the customer databases in your point-of-sale (POS) system are a great tool to use to increase sales, build loyalty and retain big spenders.
You can use that same customer base to expand your social network on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Believe it or not, MySpace is getting outdated; it’s for old people—you know, people over 30. Like it or not, the future is here.
Most people have at least heard of “cloud” computing. Smart phones are endemic. Google is the king of the Internet; Facebook is the crown prince. Apple iPads are revolutionizing content delivery. The innovation goes on, and it will continue to go on.
The computer systems designed for the drycleaning industry use the latest technology and easy-to-use interfaces. And with them, you already have most of the tools you need to grow your business, without Facebook, Twitter or any other new-media upstart.
In fact, even if you enter all of the social media on behalf of your business, you still won’t have the power to target your best customers better than you can today. That’s because your existing customer database is or should be full of information on customer spending, behavior, preferences and more.
Many cleaners now have a computer system, inventory scanners, automated assembly systems, bar-coded garments and more. But they usually just get a customer’s name and phone number. How are you going to mail that customer a coupon? How are you going to e-mail him or her a newsletter? How can you even find an existing customer reliably with only this information?
The minimum acceptable customer information includes his or her name, phone number, address, city and ZIP code. You should get their e-mail addresses, too, and see if they wish to “connect” on Facebook and Twitter.
People today are trained to give out almost any information, if asked. And when I say “ask,” tell your customers what you want: Name, Phone, Address, City and ZIP. Ask “What’s your e-mail?” and 95% of the time, they’ll tell you. Some will refuse to give it to you or ask why you need it, but so what?
This is information, not just data. Information is useful; data only has the potential to become useful. You might have 1,000 customers or 1 million, but without complete contact information, they are of little worth. With that information, they’re priceless.
Social media offer great opportunities, and new ones show up every day. Any company can profit by using one or all of these avenues to connect with customers. It takes time to get started, though, and a commitment to maintain a web presence.
I just launched my own venture on the web, in a blog, and on Facebook and Twitter; you can follow me through the travails and triumphs. I hope to be helpful, interesting and maybe funny on this journey. Ideally, my followers and I will gain from it.
I look forward to comments and encouragement (no discouragement, please). Join me at www.therealmarketingshop.com, “Like” The Marketing Shop on Facebook, and follow @TheMarktingShop on Twitter (note the change in spelling).
I admit that I have been taking lessons and planning this for a while, but what I’m doing fits perfectly with the subject of the March issue of American Drycleaner. And more importantly, it fits the future of every business.
The big picture for you as a business operator is much simpler: Don’t cut yourself short by neglecting to get the most basic customer information available. No excuses—good information is the first tool in the ever-expanding customer relationship. You can do it all, but you can’t do anything with just a name and a number.
 

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