Being “green” can create great opportunities, and with opportunity, there is always risk. But to ignore the trend or create an appearance of apathy is, I think, the greatest risk of all.
Some cleaners just buy a banner that says “Environmentally Friendly Cleaning” and don’t change a thing. Others follow “green” ideals to the letter. There are drycleaners all over the “green”-marketing spectrum, from “greenwashers” to “treehuggers.”
Until there’s more public awareness about what “green” means, consumers do whatever they believe is right. And just as most cleaners don’t understand what “green” means, neither does the typical consumer. This is where your marketing strategy comes in.
To satisfy the public’s need for “green,” you must first figure out what you, the consumer and the government believe to be “green.” You must also assess your resources in terms of time and money. Then, look at your competitors; two operators side-by-side may have two different answers.
Unless the government mandates a single option, you must create perceived “green” value in your operation. That’s why consumers pick one cleaner over another — to maximize how they spend their money. If everybody is the same, there’s no reason for anyone to choose you over another operator.
Perception is reality. If a customer thinks your business is environmentally friendly, it is until proven otherwise. As every business gets more and more “green,” however, consumer awareness of what “green” is will increase — and half-truths will fall apart. Awareness dictates how “green” is enough.
The faster you become “green,” the greater the advantage. Putting a hanger caddy in the call office may buy some time, and show that you’re making an effort to be “green.” Nothing you do, though, will mean anything unless your customers and potential customers are aware of your efforts.
SPREAD THE WORD
Whatever you do, tell your customers. We recycle paper. We recycle hangers. We recycle plastic. We conserve electricity with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and run our vans on compressed natural gas (CNG). If you use perc and have no reason to change, you can say that you recycle solvents; it sounds good, and it’s true.
Get the message out using your database. List the customers that achieve a certain level of spending, and send them a postcard or e-mail telling them about the changes you’ve made. You don’t have to attach an incentive; the message alone should be enough to build loyalty.
If your database doesn’t have direct contact information, add a message to garment tags. It’s better than nothing, but nothing is as special as receiving a personal letter in the mail. How many do you get? Take out the bills, ads, shoppers and mailers, and if it’s one or two a day, you’re lucky.
Get someone to write a regular newsletter named something like Your Cleaner’s Environmental News. Include a picture of your new, energy-efficient machine or someone changing the light bulbs. You don’t even have to say anything about what you’re doing — you only need to associate “greenness” with your business. Write about the new sewage-treatment plant in town, what people can do to recycle at home, etc.
Using “green” as a reason to try your business is probably pointless — it has become a common message, and think about how immune you are to the messages you see every day. Start with current customers. Let them know or think that you’re ahead of everyone else, and that they have no reason to stray if “greenness” is important to them. You may, in fact, be the most “green” operator around, but if no one knows, so what?
Everything revolves around the customer and what he or she thinks. What customers think is what motivates their behavior, and you want to maximize their behavior to favor you and your interests. Issuing a “green” message is just another effective way to use your computer database.