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Keeping the Lines of Communication Open (Conclusion)

Marketing is key to attracting — and keeping — drycleaning customers

CHICAGO — As in any small business setting, the owners and managers of drycleaning companies have many titles, and “head of marketing” often is one of them. Since their training is in cleaning and not marketing, however, this can be a misunderstood — and neglected — part of the business.

Cleaners who have had success in this area recently discussed the topic during the Fall Fest Expo — a virtual event co-sponsored by the Northeast Fabricare Association (NEFA), the Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association (PDCA) and the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA). In Part 1 of this series, we examined how these cleaners are using video and social media to get their businesses in front of clients and build their brand, and discussed the importance of measuring the end results. For this, the conclusion, we’ll look at some marketing methods that are showing great promise, as well as ways to welcome new customers and keep them coming back.

Go Ahead and Fence Them In

While posting ads or coupons on Facebook in the blind can have less-than-optimal results, Dave Coyle, owner of In The Bag Cleaners, based in Wichita, Kansas, and leader of the Maverick Marketing Mastermind Facebook group, has discovered a more targeted method to use the social media platform — and can make an immediate impact if used correctly.

That method? Geofencing.

“You can go on Facebook and place a ‘geofence’ around every single one of your competitors," Coyle says. This is done, when creating an ad set, by setting geographic boundaries on a map. When someone enters that zone, Facebook serves them the ad. “Maybe you can't do their exact store — although, in a lot of cases, you can — but you could at least do their strip center. If that customer’s location services are on and they walk into a competitor of yours, or 20 competitors of yours, you can serve them up with an ad that hits their feed. They’ll see that ad as they're looking at Facebook later that night or a week from now.”

Coyle says that many apps now require location services to be active on their phone to operate, so the number of people a company can reach using this method is on the rise, increasing this type of marketing’s effectiveness. “You don't want to be the last one to this party,” he says.

Google also has geofencing capabilities, allowing a company to show ads to customers on that platform when they travel inside the zone that they’ve set up. “The ads aren't any more expensive than any ad sets that you would run on either platform,” Coyle says.

Welcoming New Customers

Now that the marketing has brought a customer through the door, it’s time to keep them coming back. The process of onboarding is crucial to making the first impression on a customer that will make them think of you as their cleaner.

Getting off on the right foot is crucial to everything that comes after, Coyle says. “The question is, are we treating this person like a transaction, or are we treating them like a relationship, someone who we want to do business with for years?”

The first step, of course, is to notice that this is their first time in your store. “Of course, we can ask them if they’ve been here before,” says Jen Marquardt, a partner at Arthur’s Executive Cleaners, located in the Buffalo, New York area. “We can read their body language and see if they have that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look.” Marquardt’s team can also tell when inputting the customer’s name into the point-of-sale system if they’ve visited before.

When they see that this is a first-time customer, their initial act is one of simple manners. “One of the first things we literally say is ‘Welcome to Executive Cleaners,’” Marquardt says. “That instantly makes them feel like, ‘Oh, this is just me dropping off some dirty clothes.’ We then get some information from them and go from there.”

Coyle has a well-defined onboarding method to get new customers’ attention and start to build a relationship. This includes two gift packs — a “welcome kit” with candy and coupons, and the other with a free laundry bag with his company’s information on it. “We give them a gift before we ask anything from them,” Coyle says, “and automatically their moods change from ‘What am I getting into here?’ to, ‘Tell me more.’”

Coyle has two goals here: to make the customer feel appreciated and to gather contact information from them so his business can stay in touch with them regularly. “If you don't have their data, if you don't have cell phones, you can't text them or call them,” he says. “If you don't have an email, you can't email them. And if you don't have an address, you can't send them the direct mail.”

You’ve Got Them, Now Keep Them

The measure of a successful business isn’t how many new customers they can get through the door, but how many returning customers a business can count on through the years. In this age of pandemic, this metric is more important than ever, and energy used in keeping your current customers is effort well spent.

“It's easier to keep a customer than it is to get a new one,” says Lou D’Autorio, COO for Sage Cleaners in Tampa, Florida. “So, don't forget to market to your current customer base.” One way to keep the messaging fresh is to remind current customers of services you provide that they might not currently be using. “I’ve always said that if it’s not nailed to the wall or nailed to the floor, we can clean it,” he says. “There's a whole house that can be cleaned, so start marketing with that,” he says.

Coyle agrees, noting that he, too, has branched out to provide more services. “We've been doing a ton of patio cushions recently; we'll probably do $50,000 to $70,000 in patio cushion cleaning in the course of about six weeks,” he says, noting that he also has the space in his facilities to store the cushions in the offseason for customers. “It’s a pivot that really has made a lot of sense for us. People are investing in their homes right now. The money that was going toward vacations, eating out and other activities is being pivoted to things typically that have to do with homes. So, if it's about the home, I think it's worth doing.”

Never a Better Time

“Now is the time to market,” says Peter Blake, executive director of NEFA and SEFA, adding that, when a market is contracting, those who make the extra effort to capture market share are in better shape to navigate the challenges.

“Now is not the time to pull your reins in, settle down and wait for the dust to clear,” he says. “Now is the time to be a little bit more aggressive, get out there and let people know that you’re there and how you can help them. Those messages really resonate with people, and that’s what you can do to help build your brand.”

Click HERE for Part 1 of this series!