CHICAGO — Waiting for customers to find your store isn’t an effective way to maintain your client base, much less grow for the future. If put to proper use, the effort spent in marketing to new clients — and retaining existing customer relationships — is time well spent.
Dave Coyle, owner of Wichita, Kansas-based In the Bag and Maverick Drycleaners, recently presented a Zoom webinar to members of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) on developing marketing plans for 2021. During this event, he shared some of the activities that have worked for him to attract and keep clients.
Find your ideal customer — Using the adage that “20% of your customers give you 80% of your business,” it’s critical to identify just who makes up that 20%. There’s software available — Coyle recommends Mapalist — that will allow a business owner to take data out of their point-of-sale software and plot it on a map. By identifying an area where your top customers live, you get clues about their lifestyle and better create an avatar of what this “perfect” customer is like.
Be the face of the business — “I’d say at least on 50% of the dry cleaner websites I visit, I can’t find the owner’s name, and I can’t find a picture of them. And I think that’s a major challenge,” Coyle says. “Given the choice, (customers) always want to do business with people instead of companies.” By being the face of the company, Coyle believes, you personalize the customer’s experience, which is key to retaining their business.
Mitigate the (perceived) risk — Coyle recommends offering a guarantee to “reverse the risk” to new clients. “If you aren’t thrilled, if you’re not ecstatic by the service and the quality that you receive, we will either redo the item or give you your money back,” he says. Most cleaners guarantee their work, but by saying it upfront, the customer feels that there’s less risk in trying out your services.
Start online, and then go offline — Attracting customers through digital means can be a cost-effective way to get attention, but it’s not the end of the process; it’s just the beginning. “At the very beginning, when you’re trying to attract people, make sure that you get them to say, ‘I’m interested.’ Then, escalate them to more offline, more personal mediums once you see that they’re interested in becoming a client,” Coyle says. Rather than blanketing the area with direct mail, finding those consumers already interested in what you provide gives you the best chance of connecting with them.
Cultivate your online image — ”Google is the new phonebook,” Coyle says, “and people look at star ratings and reviews.” Seeking online ratings from satisfied customers can help a business not only improve their online ranking and visibility. And, while social media can be a valuable tool, it’s not a magic marketing bullet. “It gives you the ability to show your personality, what you stand for, what your company specializes in, and how you’re different from your competitors,” he says. A company’s website is also a crucial element that many cleaners might not pay enough attention to maintaining when it comes to gaining new customers. “People look at a few main things,” he says. “They look for locations. They actually look at the ‘About Us’ area, and they look for typically some sort of special deal when they’re just starting out.
Work with affiliates — Networking with people in other businesses can be a good step in creating long-term relationships. “The most basic affiliate is people who work at clothing stores,” Coyle says. “Go to the nice clothing stores in your area and give everyone who works there a VIP bag with your logo on it, that gives them a 50% discount.” This might mean that you’re doing their work at a loss, but Coyle stresses that it’s an investment. “You’re investing in that person, who is going to be your boots-on-the-ground ambassador,” he says. “Just ask them that, ‘Whenever given the opportunity, to refer us to your clients.’
Some of these ideas won’t pay for themselves immediately, Coyle says, but can build your business over time. “Again, we’re playing the long game,” he says. “There’s a certain cost that’s involved with getting your ideal target client to show up at your door. Often, that cost is equal to, or in some cases greater, than the money you’ll make from that first order. And that’s OK because we’re looking at the value over time.
Once you forge this relationship with a new customer, it’s time to strengthen and maintain it, so you become “their” dry cleaner.
Come back Thursday for Part 2, where we'll look at how to keep relationships with your clients alive and thriving.