Jolly Belin of France opened the world’s first drycleaning “business” in the 1840s. He accidentally spilled some kerosene on his stained clothing and saw the spots vanish. The rest is history, as they say.
Today, there are more than 30,000 drycleaning establishments in the United States. About 85% of are small, Mom-and-Pop establishments employing approximately five people and generating about $200,000 in annual sales.
To attract more business in a challenging environment, Mom-and-Pop shops need to invoke their creative powers and ramp up traditional and social-media marketing efforts.
The following are items five through eight of the eight things drycleaners can do to build a successful business (please see Part 1 of this story for items one through four):
5. Create repeat business incentives. Provide your shoppers with punchcards they can redeem for free drycleaning after a certain number of punches. Why not also set up a frequent-purchaser reward program in which your customers can earn gift cards, donations to their favorite charity group, or gift certificates to favorite local restaurants. Announce all offers and incentives on your website and in the social media. Get word-of-mouth going and growing.
6. Reward customers for referrals. Have cards printed with a space for the person’s name who referred them to your business. Set up a similar customer-referral program on your website, and offer the same program through the social-media platforms on which you have a regular presence. Offer special saving and promotional gifts with your business name proudly displayed—laundry bags, T-shirts, quality clothes hangers, etc.—to those who submit referrals to you by card or on the Web.
7. Start a blog. Show your customers you are a real cleaning expert by sharing tips on protecting fabrics and removing stains. Come up with funny stories to entertain them, too, and include photos and videos when you can. A blog article such as “10 Things You Would Never Believe A Drycleaner Found in Pants Pockets” might be funny and informative.
8. Do good things that attract attention. Brett Vago, owner of two ZIPS drycleaning franchises near Washington, D.C., offers free drycleaning—up to three garments a week—for unemployed people who wish to look their best at job interviews. What a great way to let customers see that you’re a kind and caring businessperson!
It is also a wise way attract media attention. And in social media, it is the kind of story success is made of—especially if it goes viral. True, there are costs associated with any such charity program, but the value of the good created can be priceless. By the way, you have the right to brag about something like this, because you are doing an admirable thing that others may not be doing.
Challenging times create opportunities to shine. Being a successful small-businessperson in 2010 takes greater effort than ever before. Not only are we in economically challenging times, but our society is going through cultural shifts that drycleaners, especially, need to respond to in new ways. Our business wardrobe is changing, the environment is at risk, and the age of social media is upon us. Drycleaners must learn to adapt to these changes and, where possible, leverage them.
To read Part 1 of this story, please click here.