As an entrepreneur, I love connecting with business owners and learning how they operate. They all have different ways of looking at business, and the good ones have developed strategies for success. Let’s look at 5 behaviours of the top dry cleaners.
1. Use of Technology
The top cleaners in our industry make targeted use of technology in their business. This includes software to process and manage orders, invoicing and accounting. The most important side of computerization is the Customer Relationship Manager software (CRM), it maintains the customer list and contact information, provides insight on how much customers spend with you, how profitable they are, and can help identify new revenue opportunities.
CRM can help manage communications via text, email and phone. It tracks when a customer has not been in for a while. It helps determine how a promotion or seasonal offer will best reach a given consumer. Customers can be contacted in person while in the store, via phone, text, or email. Good cleaners use multiple methods to communicate effectively.
Google Business Listing
Great cleaners have a Google business listing. This is free and makes your business searchable, lists opening hours, how to contact you and, most importantly, shares reviews. Today’s consumers depend on reviews to make basic decisions on what company to patronize, so top cleaners encourage their customers to post reviews. This gives them the opportunity to respond to the comments – and they do. They never let a negative comment hang out there without a calm, reasoned response; nor a compliment without a thank-you from them in reply.
The most impactful listings include photos of the business in the profile, shows the team, the equipment, the facility and the finished product. Pictures really are worth a thousand words to a potential customer.
Social Media is free, but requires medium-level effort. A great cleaner either selects someone to handle social media, or learns to do it him/herself. Options include Facebook, Next Door and Instagram, etc. They share videos and photos of the cleaning process, tricky garments they were able to clean or restore, community events their company participated in, and other things that can encourage someone to give them a try.
A current and up-to-date website is essential, as many customers want to learn more about a business and its offerings than they can get from a simple Google listing. A strong website can be made quite cost effectively and will pay for itself many times over. You won’t find a fabulously successful dry cleaner or laundry that doesn’t have one. Period.
Their websites give customers a good impression and plenty of information by including professional photos, a service list with pricing, and information about the cleaning techniques they offer, as well as any special services that make them unique and highly qualified to handle customers’ precious garments and items.
Modern consumers want to make educated choices. If a cleaner uses an environmentally friendly solvent or has options for using fewer chemicals, customers will appreciate knowing the ‘why’ behind the cleaner’s choices. Explaining the company’s commitment to the environment, as well as to customer garments, is important to those seeking a quality cleaner.
Potential customers drive by, walk in, shop at the store next door, see delivery vans drive around town and they search for service providers online. Customers want to save time, and they don’t always know what they are looking for. That’s what advertising does: it heightens their awareness of a need and points them in the direction of a successful cleaner.
If there is a screen above the counter when you walk into a lunch place, where do your eyes go? To the screen. What do you see? All the various items you can order. Top cleaners treat their customers with courtesy by making it easy for them to see their services. They don’t make them ask. They include before and after pictures, special services and projects for those who don’t like to read the screen.
A great operator keeps the call office welcoming, with signage that both informs and still lets light in and allows people to see out.
Quality entrepreneurs have observed that when they order take-out food, a menu is always stapled to the box or bag. The best time to ‘sell’ the next order is when a customer has just made a purchase. They add fliers and service lists to every order.
It takes extra effort to build attractive displays for eye-catching items like wedding gown preservation and other services, but a top cleaner knows it more than pays for itself in terms of revenue. They print large format before-and-after photos of amazing cleaning successes. They demonstrate preservation boxes that can also be used for other sentimental items, like christening gowns, childhood toys, and military uniforms.
Great cleaners know people usually only buy what they can see, so they fill their customers’ eyes with their quality services.
3. Great Exterior Signage
Research shows that when new signage is installed, customers take notice and owners see a bump in new business. Those in the successful category never let their signs get old and tired looking. They know they are in the cleanliness and freshness business! Their signs look as crisp as the shirts and suits they turn out.
The best of the best recognize that people are constantly moving in and out of neighbourhoods. Those newcomers need to see where to get the goods and services they need in order to feel grounded in their new area. So they regularly look at their businesses with the eyes of a first-time customer. They make sure it is clear where to park. If there is a drive-through, the lanes are clearly marked and the instructions are unambiguous. The front of the building and parking lot are well lit, so those coming after dark will feel safe. In short, they eliminate every possible barrier to doing business with them easily.
4. Extra products and services
Your core service is laundry and/or dry cleaning services. This is where you will make the majority of your income. But extra services and products can round out the profit/loss statement nicely, and keep you from having all your eggs in one precarious (think pandemic) basket. Diversifying is synonymous with success.
You’ve no doubt thought of the common extra services like shoe repair, garment alterations and repairs, and delivery services. But those who lead the industry challenge themselves to be creative. They ask their current clients what else they wish was offered. Then they act on the ideas.
A clever and growing cleaner might offer wardrobe consulting in partnership with clothing retailers in the same plaza or area of town. They wondered who was cleaning the uniforms at the restaurant next door – and now they are doing them. They thought about what else needs cleaning (blinds, curtains, speciality garments and household goods, carpets, homes). Then they found the partners that allow them to offer additional services without having to take on the extra work. They promote it, their customers request it, and their partners handle it. It’s a win-win for them and their partners, and one-stop shopping for their customers.
5. Have an inviting interior/exterior
People like to do business in places where they feel safe, appreciated, and that are pleasant to the senses. That means more than just a clean floor and a quick coat of fresh paint. Green plants in the lobby make people feel rejuvenated, so they put them in and maintain them (dying plants are not the statement you want to make!). They put up interesting or even humorous images on the walls that they change on a regular basis and give customers something to look forward to seeing. They maintain a light, pleasant scent in the air and a coffee pot with fresh coffee to welcome customers and make them feel valued.
Top companies invest in their businesses in ways that customers can see and interact with. They communicate in subtle ways that they take pride in their work, enjoy their customers, and are eager to meet the needs that come in the door each day.
So how do you stack up? Can you see your company in each of these five important practices? Maybe it’s time for a staff meeting and some operational tweaking.
Latif Jamani is the owner of Elevation Supplies, a fabricare distributor based in Calgary, AB, specializing in poly, hangers and chemicals for dry cleaners and commercial laundries across Western Canada. He has been an entrepreneur for 15 years, has his Executive MBA from INSEAD and is a business coach working with small business owners and their teams to grow. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.