QUESTION 6: What opportunities and challenges do drycleaners face in marketing their businesses in the rapidly evolving media landscape? How can operators best reach potential and existing customers in the years to come?
DAVID COTTER: People have to wake up to the fact that the nature of cleaning has changed. If you go back 25 years, everybody—even kids—had something that had to go to the drycleaner. The average Joe hardly has any clothes that have to be drycleaned today. Drycleaning is getting to be more of a luxury than a “must.” Cleaners have to figure out who their market is, rather than try to be one-size-fits-all.
The primary reason a person picks a cleaner is still convenience and location. Try to get their e-mail addresses just to stay in touch. What always strikes me is the number of cleaners who assume that customers know the range of services they offer. Tell them what you do.
BILL FISHER: The biggest challenge and opportunity is to set yourself apart from the run-of-the-mill shop. Consumers should think going to the drycleaner is fun, like going to the grocery store—a chore, but still fun. Milt & Edie’s does a great job at that; [Presto Valet’s] Buddy Gritz has kids asking their parents to go to the drycleaners.
JOHN TIPPS: Text messages and e-mail are great if the customer wants them, but many don’t. There are so many things you can try; some work well for some people, and may not work for others.
DAVE SILLIMAN: Savvy operators will use the Internet and social media. Websites, Twitter, Facebook, Yelp! and Angie’s List are the new Yellow Pages, and the tools of a new generation of drycleaning customers. Embrace the new technology and use it to your advantage. Businesspeople who maximize this exposure maintain an advantage in the marketplace and grow.
BARRY GERSHENSON: Right now, social networking is the buzzword in meeting the needs of the new 25- to 40-year-old customer. Thinking that it’s just a fad will keep you out of touch in this fast-changing environment. Customer recommendations are still the main source of high-quality referrals, however.
A defined customer-retention program will help minimize lost customers. Remember, the easiest marketing programs are often the least effective. Person-to-person is still the best for existing or new customers.
Next: What makes a good business for today’s entrepreneurs?
The panelists: David Cotter, executive director of the Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA); Bill Fisher, CEO of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI); Barry Gershenson, executive director of Leading Cleaners Internationale (LCI); “Dryclean” Dave Silliman, operator of Uptowne Cleaners in Phoenix, Ariz.; and John Tipps, independent consultant and former operator of Clean Concepts Inc.