Find That Uncommon Niche (Conclusion)

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Howard Scott |

Specialty work affords opportunity to charge premium price

PEMBROKE, Mass. — I recently received this mail: “Hello. My name is Jane Smith. I am a martial arts teacher, and my students are on vacation, so I want you to clean and press my students’ tae kwon do uniforms. The man that always does the cleaning is not available. That is why I want you to do it. I usually pay $12 per uniform, so I want you to give me a discount, OK?”

Obviously, this is some sort of mistake. I write about dry cleaning, but I do no dry cleaning. Perhaps she meant to send it to a dry cleaner, but mistakenly sent it to me. Anyway, we can learn something from her mistake.

Who knew that tae kwon do uniforms needed to be dry-cleaned? And why would her students need to be on vacation?

Most likely, they are outfits that can be processed in a day or two. (Or is there some special care required?) Furthermore, $12 is quite a good price. If she had 50 students, that’s $600. Maybe she cleans them three times a year. That’s $2,000 worth of business. Not bad for an erroneously received e-mail.

I would ask these questions: How many tae kwon do studios are in the area? Do some general gyms offer tae kwon do? Could I grab the urban tae kwon do business? And what is tae kwon do anyway? (I believe it is some sort of karate, but I don’t know.) Which leads me to this question—do any other martial arts practitioners clean their uniforms?

If I were a dry cleaner, I would reply to the woman’s e-mail and tell her I would love to clean the uniforms. Then, I would follow up with a phone call. Next, I would visit her studio and examine the uniforms, feeling them and evaluating how much work cleaning them would entail. Then I would inquire how they are used, which also would help me get a feel for the nature of the cleaning required. If she were teaching students at the time, I would watch. Mentally, I would figure how much it would cost to dry-clean the uniforms.

She says she pays $12 a uniform, so I would offer to clean them for $10 each, if I could. If $10 won’t give you a profit, offer to clean the uniforms at $11 a piece. The point is, if you are handed business, it is always good to better the competitor’s offer. Later, you can raise the prices so that your full profitability is achieved. On the other hand, I certainly wouldn’t do the work at a loss.

After I did the job, I would seek out other tae kwon do studios in the area, casting myself as an expert. You could say, “I’ve had a lot of experience cleaning tae kwon do uniforms. I know how the fabric folds and bends, and how to process the outfit so that it comes out looking new. In fact, I consider it one of my specialties.” A little exaggeration perhaps, but with a few more jobs under your belt, you’ll truly become an expert.

This is the way to develop niche businesses. Seek out the opportunities. Discover how the garment is used. Figure out the best way to clean and process the garment. Print up a one-page sheet, mentioning the special handling done with these outfits. Hand out the sheet to prospects, or mass-mail to an organization of prospects. Building on that base, go after more business.

DISCOVER HOW THE GARMENT IS USED

This will help you figure out how it needs to be dry-cleaned and what special treatment can improve the cleaning. For example, it is usually hot when beekeepers don their outfits and work with hives. Therefore, a beekeeper’s outfit develops perspiration stains under the arms on the inside of the garment. Perhaps you could suggest an inside-the-garment treatment to remove perspiration.

Secondly, beekeeper uniforms accumulate a lot of yellow and tan stains. Maybe you can borrow an outfit and figure out which chemical used in combination with another would remove these stains. Armed with such knowledge, you could attend several bee club meetings and discuss your service. Sure, the beekeeper could launder his outfit, but you could provide a better cleaning that will make his bee outfit look like-new.

PRINT A PROMO SHEET

Talking it up is good, but handing out a sales sheet reinforces the sales pitch. Furthermore, it gives you credibility. It demonstrates that you are a specialist. It states facts that may entice the prospect. If you could obtain a list of beekeeper organizations, you could send out promo sheets to all of their members. Most likely, a certain percent (5% if a poor mailing, 20% if an effective mailing) would take up your offer.

SELL YOUR SERVICE IN PERSON

Whenever you encounter a niche practitioner, make an argument why they should dry-clean their clothes and why you should be the one to do it. Point out your experience. Cite a few customers, saying something like this: “You know that tae kwon do school in the next town. They’ve brought all their uniforms to me for three or four years. We’ve figured out all the tricks that make them come out really clean and looking like-new. My process adds years to the outfits.”

PROMOTE YOUR EXPERTISE

Speak about the cleaning service at club meetings. Write articles about the service that could be published in the local newspaper. Add a slogan that anoints you with specialized skills, such as, “We Can Do Tae Kwon Do.”

GO AFTER MORE NICHE BUSINESS

Once you master tae kwon do volume, go after other niches. This specialty work is good business because it is something that not everyone does. Therefore, you can charge a premium price. Also, you’ll develop a reputation. More customers will come to you.

Create four or five specialties and you might be increasing volume 20%. That’s not exactly breaking down the doors, but, because of the exclusivity of the work, it could double your profit. At any rate, you could schedule the processing so that it takes up the slack in your production cycle.

Who knows. Maybe becoming a “tae kwon do cleaner” will be just the kick your business needs.

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE!

About the author

Howard Scott

Industry Writer and Drycleaning Consultant

Howard Scott is a former business owner, longtime industry writer and drycleaning consultant. He welcomes questions and comments and can be reached by writing Howard Scott, Dancing Hill, Pembroke, MA 02359; by calling 781-293-9027; or via e-mail at dancinghill@gmail.com.

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