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Market Positioning: Winning the Battle for Your Customer’s Mind (Part 1)

SAN FRANCISCO — Positioning one’s drycleaning business in the marketplace is a challenging and continual process. Done well, it can be your most valuable business asset; ignored, it can be your worst nightmare. Whether you actively design your brand positioning or passively allow it to just happen without your direction, your company’s image is in constant flux.

Marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout define positioning in their book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, as “a marketing method for creating the perception of a product, brand or company identity in the mind of the prospect.”

Operations that build name recognition and define their marketplace positioning stand to succeed more quickly than generic dry cleaners. Highly identifiable fabricare companies, whether independent or franchisees, have a distinct advantage in winning the battle for the minds of their target customers’ and in turn winning the battle for their wallets as well.

As I was writing this column, a perfect example of this conversion of mind-to-wallet was occurring in theaters worldwide. Before and after the Oscars, the nominated movies enjoy a huge surge in ticket (and video streaming) sales. The buzz and sales resulting from the Academy Awards is a tremendous advantage for the film industry. In the words of director Frank Capra, “The Oscar is the most valuable, but least expensive, item of worldwide public relations ever invented by an industry.” Wouldn’t you like your brand to be as recognizable and influential as that small gold statue?

Consider creating an award to be identified with your company. For instance, if you have a fashion institute or art academy in your market, create a competition for up-and-coming designers. By partnering with the schools and your retail community, you create tremendous visibility and goodwill among the fashion community, and you would be top of mind when they need or refer your services.

Their association is also an implied endorsement of your ability to care for fashion items, so the audience will seek you out as the cleaner that “gets it.” Since most owners of cleaning companies are hesitant to do outreach, you will be a shining exception to the generally mediocre image most cleaners project in the minds of your prospects.


You project a specific image and position in your market today. It may or may not be the image you want to project.

Being objective yourself (extremely difficult) or, more realistically, enlisting the aid of an objective friend or professional, a clear assessment of your current position is essential in your quest to improve your market position.

This objective assessment should be based on a number of factors:

  • Your services list and services features

  • Benefits those services provide to your prospects

  • Consumer needs and your solutions to meet those needs

  • Perceived importance of the services and solutions you offer

  • Comparison of alternatives available in the market (including non-professional)

  • Emotional impact of your services on the customer

  • Customer experience when utilizing your services and those of your competitors

  • Awareness of your and competitors’ existence and expertise in the market

  • Consumer’s perceived position of each alternative

Include the practical, the emotional and the experiential impact of your offerings from the prospects’ perspective.

Ongoing mystery shopping of your company and competitors can determine your perceived market position and that of your competitors.

Periodic customer focus groups and surveys (of both customers and prospects) can provide insight and direction for future profitable growth.

The various approaches to market intelligence gathering will aid you in determining the overlap between your offerings and the solutions that customers and prospects value, to arrive at the optimal mix of services for your company. The same assessment will help you craft the appropriate image and message for your chosen position.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].