It’s a valid question, no? So many businesses these days are desperate to rebuild their sales back to pre-Covid levels and it seems everyone is out to find new customers. So much so that I’m of the opinion that it seems like there is too much focus on reaching prospective customers.
Don’t get me wrong, new customers are needed as they help grow a business with more orders, more pieces and more dollars from the sales they bring. But new customers are hard to find, hard to reach and even more difficult to convert into YOUR customer, more so if the prospective customer already has a relationship and habit of patronizing another drycleaner.
Let’s face some hard facts.
New customers are hard to find: Our market and our customer pool has changed. For decades, fashion has been changing against the drycleaning trade. People are wearing much more wash and wear clothing than ever before. Jeans and t-shirts now passes as appropriate ‘office wear’. Tech giants like Mark Zuckerberg leads the billionaire fashion with a sweat shirt or hoodie over blue jeans and that’s his ‘look’ at work and millions emulate him. Suits, dress shirt and tie, silk blouses, skirts, all going by the wayside. So many times when I do venture out, office staff show up wearing potato chip grease stained t-shirts, jeans pressed by the dryer or floor (meaning unpressed, wrinkled). What we used to consider a good prospective drycleaning customer is now way into casual clothes and frankly, unless your business is offering wash-dry-fold, many potential customers simply have no need (or will) to use a drycleaner’s services because they wash their clothes at home. Notice, I didn’t even acknowledge ironing…..who even irons their clothes anymore? Given the reduction in clothing that needs drycleaning, instead of one in three houses using a cleaner, we may be down to one out of 100 houses needing a drycleaner. Our marketing now has to kiss a lot more frogs to find that one Prince.
New customers are hard to reach: Given the explosion in ways to reach potential new customers, we now have to send out our message on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, Text, Email, websites, search engines, etc, etc, etc. The fragmenting of communication channels into hundreds of channels from just three (newspaper, postcards, telephone) means a huge increase in time spent creating your marketing piece and message. Not to mention the investment of time you will have to spend learning how to use each medium and time spent monitoring all of them. If you miss one channel, you miss all the potential customers that prefer communicating (and placing orders) on that channel, so you have to be everywhere.
New customers may have unrealistic expectations: New customers are typically strangers to your business, meaning they hardly know anything about you. Usually, a new customer either has absolutely no experience with a drycleaner, which means you likely have to educate them about what a drycleaner can or cannot do. Many inexperienced new customers have exceedingly high expectations, which can lead to disappointment, aggressive or highly emotional outbursts, dissatisfaction, a bad review, to maybe even a scene in your store lobby. Worse, many new customers who might be in your store because they are cheesed off at their former cleaners. Either way, you have an uphill battle educating the new customer to what your business can or cannot do for them.
New customers are difficult to convert: If you do manage to meet expectations, new customers are difficult to convert into regular, repeat customers. Many new customers are low value initial order customers with such low demand for cleaning that you may only see a one, two, or three-piece order from them. And, many new customers tend to be one-hit wonders or one time Charlies meaning they bring in one order and they are done, you never see them again. If you are skeptical about this, I challenge you to go over to your point-of-sale system and run a new customer report and take a look at how many new customers bring in a second order. My money is on 80 percent or higher are one order customers. It takes at least three return visits or orders from a new customer to set a new habit. If a customer has a relationship, even a bad relationship, with another cleaner, unless you get least three purchases from the new customer, its very likely the new to you customer may revert back to going to the other cleaners. So, just because they bought from you once, you should never assume the customer is locked to you. New customers are slippery and can slip away from you very easily.
And, new customers are very expensive to find: it costs a lot of money to place ads and create marketing campaigns just to get an offer out in front of potential new customers. You need to spend a fair bit of money reaching out broadly through different media to reach as many new eyeballs as possible and campaigns cost to create and distribute. It’s been said it costs five to seven times more to acquire a new customer than the cost to retain a current and existing customer. Always going after new customers has a high price with terrible returns on effort and expense expended.
Then, there is the alienation factor. Always pursuing new customers without making an effort to reach out to your current customers tends to tick off the customers who do give you their business. If you are extending offers to new customers and not recognizing or rewarding the customers you currently have, it’s likely your current customers are going to assume that you do not value their relationship with you. If you want loyalty and a relationship, you’d better look after those who are extending same to you.
So, you really should have a balanced approach to marketing and understand that you need to look after what you have in addition to reaching out to find more customers. It’s a fine balancing act, but it can be done. How it’s done varies, but a good marketing company should be able to help you craft a decent balanced and effective marketing plan to reward and acknowledge current customer and find, capture and keep new customers.
Darcy Moen opened his first drycleaning shop at the age nineteen. Over the next sixteen years, he built his first 600 square foot plant into a chain of 5 stores, creating and testing his own marketing programs along the way. Darcy is a multi-media marketer, working in digital signage, video, print, direct mail, web, e-mail and is a social media expert certified by Facebook for Pages, Insights and Ad Systems. Please visit www.drycleanersuniversity.com.