ATLANTA — An eternal question for the owner of every small- to mid-sized company — including dry cleaners — is how to get more business through the door. Often, marketing efforts go toward gaining new customers, but many dry cleaners have the tools at their fingertips to retain an even more valuable group: existing customers.
This was the message of Norman Way, vice president of Richmond, Virginia-based Puritan Cleaners, during his session, “Marketing Out of Your POS.” Way presented during this year’s Clean Show in Atlanta.
The Stigma of ‘Selling’
“There are a lot of different definitions you could put with the word ‘marketing,’” Way says. “Most of them are about going out and selling a product to a new customer. But, as far as I know, the statistics have never changed — It costs about five times more to acquire a new client than to retain an existing one.”
Part of the solution to successful marketing is to get over the negative connotations about the word “sales,” because sales is part of marketing and, if done right, can actually be of service to the customer, rather than a nuisance.
“We are all in sales,” Way says. “Salespeople get a bad rap. If we can find ways to help people out, they will appreciate our communications. Being in sales doesn’t mean you have to be pushy — it’s just being helpful.”
During his presentation, Way pointed out the various methods dry cleaners have available to them for marketing, including direct mail, email, coupons, customer referrals and customer rewards.
“So, which one is the silver bullet?” Way asked. “There isn’t one, so we need to be eclectic. I could not be more proud of my team. People come to me and ask, ‘How do you get (these results)?’ The truth is that there’s not one thing that we do. It’s 100 little things — add something here and add something there. That’s what we’ve done with the marketing. It’s helped us to grow, and we’re seeing good success.”
What Works for You?
The search for the mythical “perfect” solution that someone else is using keeps many dry cleaners from finding the right fit for their own situation, Way says. And, while the data in a cleaner’s point-of-sale (POS) system might hold the answer for them, it could require some effort to tease out that solution.
“The responsibility comes back on us,” Way says. “One thing that I’ve discovered is that none of the point-of-sale systems have the report that you want — because they don’t have the one I want. We’re all individuals. But the data is there, and we can make up the report if you know your specific needs. The report that works for a cleaner in Tampa may not be exactly the report that I’m looking for. But the data is there. Today’s point-of-sale system is not your grandfather’s cash register.”
If a cleaner gets frustrated when looking for the most valuable data for their particular store, Way suggests keeping the acronym PICNIC in mind: “’Problem in Chair, Not in Computer’ — we’ve got to take a look at ourselves and take responsibility to find the answers.”
Getting on Base
Way noted that many business owners are looking for a one-hit massive success, instead of taking the long-term view.
“Most of us spend our time trying to hit home runs,” he says. “But little things add up to big things. You don’t have to be a huge baseball fan to understand that you can’t go to second base without getting to first base. And usually, it’s just somebody pushing the next person around to get to home plate and score.”
The 2011 movie Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, offers a great example of this type of thinking, Way says. The movie focuses on the efforts of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane.
“They went to the World Series with the third lowest budget in Major League Baseball,” Way says, “because instead of trying to spend a budget for people to try to hit a home run, they found somebody that could get on base one at a time. They went to the World Series — they lost to the Dodgers with a budget of only $28 million. That may sound like a lot to you. But the Dodgers spent $107 million a year. The ragtag team, just getting on base, almost broke the record (for) most consecutive wins.”
Getting on base, in the case of dry cleaners, means finding the small, everyday actions that produce results, and that means getting information from your customers so that the POS system can produce valuable data.
Come back Tuesday for Part 2 of this series, where we’ll examine ways to get actionable information to fuel your marketing efforts.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].