Monday, October 06, 2014

None-Too-Small: Email Marketing for the Local Dry Cleaner

Anyone who relies on repeat business (especially the closer it gets to a commodity product or service) must regularly remind their customers that they still exist and are still the ones to do business with.

Like the old joke about the guy who says "Honey, I said I loved you on the day I married you and I said I'd let you know if that ever changes." -- it's not good enough. You have to keep telling them you love them.

The real problem with Email Marketing (or any real marketing), then, is that you have to be interesting. There are shortcuts to grab attention - you can be funny or loud (broadcast), you can appear intellectual, cultured or informed (especially in print), but if you're not interesting, it won't work in the long run. You can also relentlessly hammer home discounts, coupons or low prices, but it's a race to the bottom and today's low price isn't as impressive tomorrow.

So how can a commodity like dry cleaning use an email newsletter?

Dry Cleaners actually have some significant up-front costs - the machinery. Ongoing, there's rent, cleaning supplies, electricity, marketing. And staffing - either paying people to work there or collecting enough margin to put food on the table and send the young ones to college (if I may borrow from the stereotype of a bootstrapper seeking to make a better life for his family)

The Dry Cleaner needs regular, consistent repeat business and yet there's often not a lot to differentiate one from another at first glance, especially to someone who hasn't visited your shop before.

You are reliant on signs in your windows or signboards on the street, coupons in the mail. That might bring someone in once, but how do you keep them coming back? Also, is there a better way to get them in the door in the first place? Absolutely - the recommendation of an existing customer who's already excited about your service.

What might you promote?

  • Convenience - you drop it off, we clean it, you pick it up
  • Additional Offerings - other services they might not be aware (or have forgotten) we offer such as pick-up, delivery, late hours, rush service, loyalty programs, credit-card-on-file, etc.
  • Competency - tips and tricks on how readers can deal with simple spills and stains themselves with reminders about how we are with the big jobs
  • Competency - describe tough jobs and how you handle, like a leather jacket or wedding dress
  • Savings - the best customers get the best discounts - tie to customer loyalty to avoid giving away margin to bargain hunters that go wherever the cheap deals are
  • Benefits to the environment - the dry cleaning process vs regular cleaning, or better yet, if eco-friendly products are used, how they interact with the environment (but work just as well to clean)
  • Customer Testimonials - other people just like them who think you're awesome 
  • Lost and found hall of fame - interesting items that have been abandoned (always leave them with something fun - then with each newsletter, they know it's worth skimming to the end)
  • Reminder feature - a way for the customer to schedule a reminder email/sms reminding them to stick the dry cleaning in the car

When should you send?

Once a month is probably a good place to start. From all of the categories above you can probably find 2-3 items to write blog posts about and that's probably all you need in a mobile-friendly quick hit reminder to your customers that you're still out there doing an amazing job providing a service they need. A couple of options, depending on how fancy you want to get.

  • Sunday afternoon - reach people who have had events over the weekend that included formal wear that now needs some care and attention
  • The night before your slow day - drive business when you have the most free time to provide excellent customer service, when you're not feeling rushed
  • Timed with their pickup - if you're about to send but the subscriber has clothes being cleaned, hold the send until the clothes are ready for pickup - then your email serves double-duty as a transactional "your clothes are ready" and as informational - it'll be opened at a higher rate and give you another chance to reinforce that you are the Dry Cleaner with a difference.

Additional idea for Dry Cleaners:

If I were opening a Dry Cleaning shop, I'd start calling the HR Departments of local businesses, asking to speak to whoever was in charge of Employee Perks.  You might get people stammering and saying they didn't do much of that. Which is perfect because you have an offer for them - office pick-up and delivery of dry cleaning - you'll provide bags and order envelopes. Once a week you'll pick up all dry cleaning (the envelopes have a hole that fits over the hangers and a place to write instructions and they put their check for payment inside) from the office and the day after next you'll drop off the cleaned clothes.  There might be the minimal expense of providing a small clothes rack but you've now created a built-in steady supply of customers.

About Me:

I am a digital marketing and technology professional with 20-years experience. I started a small consultancy (BoostCE) as a hobby to help smaller businesses with their marketing needs because I just love this stuff. I'm also currently looking for a new full-time job in the Seattle/Tacoma area. If you're looking for some creative help with your marketing, whether you're looking to add someone like me to your team or if you'd just like some consulting help, please feel free to contact me. Please also check out my LinkedIn profile and pass it along if you know of someone who I could help.
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