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Think Like a Marketer (Part 1)

Connect with your customers like a friend

CHICAGO — When lean times strike, as they have been in the drycleaning industry since early 2020, the temptation is to cut expenses down to the bone. While this is a sound strategy for many areas of the business, there’s one budget area that experts agree should remain in place — or should even be expanded.

The Proper Marketing Mindset

“From my experience, most operators in our industry see marketing as a cost rather than an investment,” says Dave Coyle, team leader of Maverick Drycleaners, an online group focused on marketing and advertising ideas and concerns of cleaners. “This is because most operators don’t understand what works and what doesn’t work. It is almost like throwing a dart with a blindfold on and hoping it hits the bullseye. It just doesn’t work that way.”

Coyle has seen cleaners do the exact wrong thing in tough times when it comes to marketing.

“When times get tough, most operators cut costs as much as possible,” he says. “But the savvy operator, who sees marketing as an investment rather than an expense, knows to differentiate themselves by marketing when all of the competitors are conserving cash and cutting costs.”

Instead of a drain, Coyle says, marketing can be used a fuel for your business — and can get you ahead of your competition.

“You are giving attention to your competitors’ top 20% of clients while their current provider is cutting costs and neglecting these clients,” he says. “It is the perfect time to gain market share. Hit the accelerator when almost everyone else is pumping the brakes.”

Part of making marketing become an investment rather than an expense is making sure you connect with your clients in a meaningful way, says Diana Vollmer, managing director for Ascend Consulting Group. This is especially true in this post-pandemic landscape where customers’ demands have changed.

“Marketing has become much more challenging,” she says, “because it is necessary to remind the customer of what you could do for them, and then really pivoting to what they need today. First, they had to be reminded — resold — that it is OK to use dry cleaners. That it is safe. And then they also had to get them back into the habit.”

Vollmer says that adding or expanding routes — and marketing their availability and benefits — was one method many cleaners used to reconnect with their clients.

“If the customer hadn’t been on the route before, once they experienced the convenience, it got them back into the habit much easier,” she says.

“It’s no secret that the pandemic had a large impact on our industry,” Coyle says. “Almost all cleaners had their top-line sales reduced by 50-80% on or around April 1, 2020. The speed of the rebound that occurred the following 12 months, and even to this day, after the bottom fell out was determined by the experience of the operator — how quickly they adjusted expenses to the lower revenue — and how they handled their relationships with clients through marketing.”

Come back Tuesday for Part 2 of this series, where we’ll see how to connect with customers as individuals, rather than as part of a crowd.


Think Like a Marketer

(Photo: © peshkova/Depositphotos)

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