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No Passive Path to Increasing Profitable Sales (Part 1)

SAN FRANCISCO — In our consulting practice, we field many questions, but the most common question has long been “How do I increase sales?”

When this question arises, we always encourage the person who is asking to modify it to “How do I increase profitable sales?”

How many of you have tried Groupon, delighted initially at the large number of respondents, but then evaluated the retention rate on those deeply discounted sales and vowed never to use it again? These promotional efforts can be used as a marketing introduction for a new service or new location, but resulting sustained sales are rare. They have the added disadvantage of training your customers to think that your service is not worth your normal price.

So what is the answer?

First, there is no silver bullet. Profitable sales require a multi-pronged, sustained effort. There is no passive path to increased profitable sales.

It is time to acknowledge that 1) dry cleaning has a narrow target market and 2) there is a great deal of competition for the attention, disposable income, and loyalty of this desirable target market. To compete successfully in this crowded field, you must differentiate yourself and model your company to be remarkable.

Since most cleaners equate increased sales with discount coupons, your strategically designed marketing efforts will stand out from the crowd and make you notable.


Customers are not interested in your story unless it makes life better for them. To let them know how you can benefit them, you first must understand their lifestyle. You know a great deal about your best customers, but there is much more you can learn through profiling the ones you want to clone and duplicate. Once you understand their activities, needs, wants and motivations, you can create a more successful message that will appeal directly to them.

Customers will pay for the things they want (even if they don’t yet know they want them).

For example, the industry has traditionally taken the approach that the shirt price drives the dry cleaning volume. Our statistics show, however, that beautifully finished shirts are more important to the customer than generally believed and that shirt piece counts have risen appreciably with improved quality and resulting higher pricing, even as dry cleaning piece counts leveled off. Never underestimate the image-making impact of a perfectly pressed shirt in a high-level business meeting.

Other examples of customer convenience that will make them loyal and make you profitable:

  • Once a parent with kids and/or pets in the car has experienced the convenience of drive-thru service, they won’t go back to the counter
  • Around-the-clock (“24/7”) access is invaluable to the “always on” generation
  • Delivery service that eliminates a “nuisance” errand (yes, dropping off and picking up dry cleaning is a nuisance to most customers) provides free time that customers can’t buy
  • Service hours that match customer demand make them happy and loyal. The No. 1 phone question to stores continues to be “When do you close?” Have you considered later evenings and Sundays? Especially in shopping center locations, dry cleaners are often the only stores open before 9 a.m. and the only ones closed before 8 or 9 p.m. Track your customer traffic and adjust accordingly.

Customers will always willingly pay for welcoming, knowledgeable, friendly, consistent quality and service.


Just opening for business is not enough. Today’s business environment requires a full-blown sales effort—one that is supported by everyone in the entire organization.

Start with your vocabulary. If you expect people to sell, you should call them “salespeople” and their job description should prominently focus on sales. “Counter person” or “customer service representative” becomes “counter sales representative,” for example. “Route driver” becomes “route sales and service.” This change may seem subtle, but the implications are huge.

Getting your production staff on-board is equally important. Make a life-size cut-out of the “Top 10” clients. Yours might have “Socialite Suzie,” “Efficient Eva,” “Tycoon Tom,” “Jet-Setting Sarah,” etc. Discuss these clients’ lifestyles and why their clothing and image are so important to them.

Help your dedicated sales team find the most efficient prospect or partner targets:

  • Profiled prospect targets
  • Influencers, i.e. fashion clubs, Pinterest groups, bloggers, retailers
  • Charities that your best customers support
  • Related services, i.e. fine restaurants, spas, etc., that your customers frequent

Everyone wants to be successful and work on a winning team. They just need the tools to make it happen.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

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