PEMBROKE, Mass. — A dry cleaner recently called me, complaining of losing $17,000 business in the month after he moved his plant. Simultaneously, he had to move his drop store. I advised him that with proper promotion, business will return to normal. But perhaps that isn’t the whole story. You can’t just sit there and wait. You have to be proactive to return to your regular business level when dealing with business interruption.
First, expect volume to drop.
You move. You have a construction project in front of the store. You close up for two weeks because of a family catastrophe. It makes sense that customers avoid you. Possibly they can’t find where you moved, and you didn’t provide enough advance notice. Or they anticipated the move, and cleaned enough clothes in advance so they wouldn’t have to use you for a while.
Because of the construction going on, it’s inconvenient to park in front, and so the customer goes elsewhere. Maybe the patrons are mad that you are closed, as they made a special trip to come to you during normal business hours. Conceivably, they haven’t needed any dry cleaning done. It stands to reason that you are worried, because business isn’t what it is supposed to be, and if this continues, there will be a point where you won’t be able to pay your bills. Panic sets in. You see collapse in plain sight.
Don’t go overboard.
The usual pattern is for business to drop considerably on the first month of change and slowly return to normal. Four to six months later, you’re back to normal. Of course, there are things you can do to mitigate the decline in volume.
Here are some suggestions:
MAKE SURE EVERY CUSTOMER KNOWS ABOUT THE CHANGE
It isn’t good enough to have a “We are Moving Next Month” sign on the counter. It isn’t sufficient because not all your customers will have entered your store. Have the sign, yes, but also talk about the move (or situation). Then call every customer.
Perhaps bring in a part-timer to work from 4 to 8 for three or four nights to make these calls. The spiel goes something like this: “Hi, this is Diana from Springdale Cleaners, your dry cleaner. I just want you to know that we are moving on April 23 to 85 Sunshine Dr., and will be closed the fourth week of April.”
If your caller connects to an answering machine, she leaves the message. Keep records from customer lists so you don’t leave anyone out. Even if the customer comes in regularly and knows about the change, she won’t be annoyed hearing from you. It simply shows you care about your clientele and want to keep them abreast of developments.
Making calls is better than sending e-mails because not everyone has a computer, some customers might ignore the e-mail, and it is a more personable encounter to communicate person to person rather than machine to machine.
USE THE OCCASION TO ADVERTISE
An interruption creates an opportunity. Spend money to promote a feature or to tout your skills or to call attention to a benefit, and tie this promotion to the move.
Do so in print, mailings or radio, whichever vehicle you feel comfortable with. As for content, talk about your amazing turnaround service—same day, every day—and state that this service will continue even during the interruption. Or boast that your high quality will now get even higher, because of the new equipment in the new location.
Promoting your business during this downtime keeps the momentum going. You’ll win new customers. When prospects walk in, you might show them around, boasting about your clean and well-lit plant filled with high-tech equipment. Business volume will be down, so you won’t be as busy. It’s a perfect opportunity to be social.
Put up large signs, both at your old place of business and your new place. How large? Very large.
Large enough for drivers to read as they pass by—make them 10 feet high if possible. A sign painter can construct signs out of 2-by-4s and plywood so that they lean on a frame in front of your store. An arrow on the sign pointing to the new direction always helps; this encourages the patron to go right then and there to the new location.
Unfortunately, I usually see a handwritten, barely legible, letter-sized sign taped to the front entrance. This is wrong. You must spend money to communicate your major change and get the message across loud and clear.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion!