No Time For Wallowing

It’s hard to know what to do, what not to do, and how best to navigate business. For dry cleaning owners, one thing is evident – it is NOT business as usual. If you are stinging from the drop in business the past months and asking why me? I invite you to see another side. We must do what is important now! There is no time for wallowing.

Tell your customers that you are open. Use social media, post on your front door, send an email, text, anything to let them know how you are operating in this crisis. Do not assume anything.

Know you will have to sell your way out of this. Just cutting costs to get by is not going to cut it.

If you are open, that means you are doing curbside pick-ups, delivery, or you have a limited number of people in your store at a time.

People are still buying things, and they are buying things for two reasons right now. One, to get them through their day, so they are shopping for the things they need to make life work for them right now and Two, to help them escape from their day, so they are shopping for pleasures and fun things that will bring them joy and keep them busy.

Do not think that because you provide less than essential products and services that no one will buy them from you right now. A yacht broker buddy of mine in Fort Lauderdale had the highest ever boat sales this past Saturday – boats. Not really bread and butter. People need more ways than ever to entertain their kids; games and toys are being ordered like crazy. People are ordering flower deliveries just to make them happy and beautify their space at home. So people are buying all sorts of things, and by selling them in an accessible way, you are brightening their days. You are helping them out. If you have anything right now to sell that can make someone’s stressful life better, sell it. Market it. Make sure you don’t hide in your stores.

And even though traffic is down, you need to be sensitive to their needs, not yours. You are meeting a need and a desire. Sell your products and services as best you can and be a positive force in the world. That is what people need right now. But you are not going to be as busy with customers, obviously.

Focus on the future. My local drycleaner is set on keeping everyone on staff and doing everything they’ve been putting off for a really long time, like reorganizing the store, cleaning, painting, fixing, upgrading machinery, working on their website, all while doing curbside pickup, running the Routes and blasting as much social media content as possible. They are doing it all with a smile and wearing fuzzy house slippers to work because they can, and it makes them feel good. Their attitudes are amazing.

You need to be like them, still going and doing, just changing to make things work in this situation. Yes, traffic will be way down. Sales will be down. It is not going to be easy but being successful in dry cleaning hardly ever is.

Be the smart operator. Limit the number of people in your store, practice social distancing but make both hand washing and customer service a priority. There are still things you must be doing right now to bring in the most sales you can and meet the needs of your customers. This is the time to build trust to gain leads for the future.

Be of service and do not stop marketing. Make sure people know how they can do business with you during this pandemic, by text, by phone, by website, by app, whatever. Know what contactless drop-off/ pick-up looks like for your business and how to promote it.

Review your website. Is it compelling? Does a stranger know what you want them to do? Click here, read this, download that? If not, start researching competitors in either stealth mode or private, depending on your browser. Write down what you like, what caught your attention, so you know what you want to fix.

Remember, when this panic eases, you will have to sell your way out of this.

Communicate with your newsletter. Create a compelling subject line, “What to do when you’re working from home” or “It’s too early for wine, what can you do to lighten your mood now?” Suggest something they can do without buying your products, but if they want to, how to do so. If you were a bookstore, you would invite them to share best classics one day, best horror the next on your site.

Choose pics wisely. Do not show a picnic, a large party of people cheering, people hugging, holding hands, large crowds, eating in a restaurant or bar; be conscious when choosing images of people to go with advertisements and other emails. If you post pics of associates in the store, it wouldn’t hurt to show them wearing gloves as they package orders or washing their hands really well or other visual signs to show that people can trust you and that it is safe to buy from you right now. Post images of what you are doing to make sure deliveries and pick-ups are as sanitary as they can be. Your hands may be washed, but they cannot see that in a picture. You CAN see gloves. Gloves are visual comfort.

Ask, how can you deliver some of yourself digitally?

Use social media like crazy. Do not fear that you are putting too much content out there. People are craving online content more than ever, so there is never too much.

Go live in-store or even from your home. You can use live videos on FB or Instagram to feature a product someone can use to alleviate boredom, a project they can do, a puzzle they can put together. Make sure everything you feature is relevant to right now. Be creative but sensitive to the fact some people who do not have security in their paycheck will not bite no matter how much you promote.

Think of your content as a form of entertainment for your customers. Get your name out there in a positive way; make people laugh or smile or relieve their boredom and sense of isolation with a live video. Facebook algorithms prefer Live videos and rewards them with more views than recorded ones. Consider virtual events like a virtual photo contest or virtual art contest.

Those people who cannot buy from you now need to see you and your products, so they know to buy from you later. This is a perfect time to focus on building up your online audience as a way to convert customers in the future.

Talk about cleanliness, social distancing, the works. Let them know what you are doing to make sure everything is sanitary and safe; they need to trust you. It is okay to say it is lonely there but keep your main goal to say we are in this together. You must be positive. Do not beg people to buy from you to keep you in business; that is not the message you want to put out there. Remember, you are going to have to sell your way out of this hole we are all in.

Mine your data. Now is the time to look at those financial and POS reports you have neglected because you were too busy. You can no longer put off addressing technology shortfalls with your POS.

Do not lower your prices. During the 2008 bailout by the U.S. government, almost every major American car company lowered their prices — with little effect on sales. Meanwhile, Korean Hyundai discovered that consumers still had the funds to buy a car, but uncertain whether they could count on their jobs, they were avoiding any unnecessary spending. In response, the company launched Hyundai Assurance. Their ads read, “Right now, buy any new Hyundai, and if in the next year you lose your income, we’ll let you return it.” Sales went up by double digits. Five cars were returned.

Think of anything fun you can do to post online. Be as active as you can.

“Don’t give all your energy to where you are right now; give most of your energy to where you’re going.” – Author Unknown

About Lenny Gershater

Lenny Gershater has served the drycleaning Industry for 30+ years as a software sales executive for leading POS organizations. As a former owner/operator, familiar with the daily challenges, he has helped hundreds of drycleaning and laundry owners resolve their bottlenecks and achieve their specific business goals through cost effective software solutions.