It’s a valid question, and one you should be able to answer in one sentence of 25 words or less. Sounds simple, but it’s actually difficult, terrifying, and some even think it’s limiting. But that’s entirely the point, you can’t be all things to all people or else you end up not satisfying anyone.
Most businesses and business owners dream of dominating a market without any competition. Who wouldn’t want to ‘own’ a market with customers having no other choice but to deal with you? Well, dreams can come true if you want them to. You simply have to decide and then build your operation to serve your selected market. On the surface, it sounds easy, but there is great difficulty in such simplification.
First off, what is the sweet spot within your market?
• Is there demand for one hour service/?
• Is there demand for same day service?
• Is there demand for next day service?
• Is there demand for high quality cleaning (couture cleaning) at premium prices?
• Is there demand for quality but Every Day Low Pricing?
What sector of your market has the greatest need with the least amount of competition? Do any of your immediate competitors within your market provide one hour, 4 hour, or same day service? How is your competitor’s quality? What is your competitor’s pricing like?
It’s often a worthwhile investment of your time to research your market and your competitors doing a S.W.O.T analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Break out a pad of paper and start writing down what you and your customers in your market perceive as your strengths, what you do extremely well, and do the same for your competitors. Do the same for you and your competitor’s weaknesses. Again for opportunities you see from comparing you and your competition’s strengths and weaknesses as well as any outlier ideas you might have that are currently not being served in your market (such as purse cleaning, shoe cleaning, area carpet cleaning, suede and leather cleaning, pick up and delivery service). And, write down any threats you perceive in your business as well as any threats you can imagine attacking your competitor with. Thinking through all four areas should help you draw out a mental mind map of where your business is positioned within the market relative to your competitors and all the potential customers within that market.
Once again, it’s time to ask yourself, did the SWOT analysis exercise identify a large potential market with a distinct need that nobody is offering? If so, this exercise has identified a sweet spot within the market that you could structure your business to go after.
Of course, change can be challenging. Many folks think that you have to serve every customer with all their needs. No, that is not so. Focusing on a certain service, specializing in meeting specific defined and targeted needs does mean turning some sorts of work (and sales) away, but specializing in high demand unmet needs will pay you much more than you will lose. This is exactly why you need to conduct a detailed and accurate (as well as objective with realistic expectations) SWOT studies of your market. Filling a specific niche fully and completely can be highly profitable. Plus, odds are, none of your competitors have, (or ever will) conduct their own SWOT analysis, so you may have a select, highly profitable market entirely to yourself without any competition, and hold that position for years.
Identifying market niches and building your business around those niches is not cheap. You may need to invest in new cleaning and pressing equipment. New cleaning machines today tend to take a minimum of one hour to process (clean) 55 pounds of clothing. If a customer comes in with a white silk blouse, a navy wool suit and a pair of beige khaki pants, you may require three cleaning machines just to process all garments within two house (assuming you are going after a two hour turn around delivery time). At a cost of at least $100,000 per machine, you will have a large investment in cleaning capacity and speed, not to mention the rent on a large physical space to hold those machines.
Let’s not forget the pressing area. You will need a larger labor force to press those clothes and get them out the door on time as promised. A large labor force can be very expensive to carry and maintain through the slow or slower days. Nothing is more expensive than underutilized labor standing around waiting for work to come in.
Highly trained, efficient staff don’t come cheap. You had best be prepared to pay to play. Quality, fast efficient employees’ cost. And, if you can’t find them and hire them, then you need to create and train them. You will be investing in wages and training in order to get or create the skills you need. Either way, you will be paying, and the investment will be ongoing as you grow, and your staff’s skills grow.
You may have to make dramatic changes to your plant layout. Moving equipment around to save steps and create more efficient workflow could be crucial. Saving steps saves time. Eliminating bottlenecks saves space, or frees up space for more storage, or new equipment, or simply maximizes production efficiency. Regardless, you might be spinning black pipe and moving steam and vacuum lines as you reline workflow and your plant.
Quality is a huge factor. Specializing in speedy turn around and fast service requires everyone to be at the top if their skillset. Same day service does not allow much time to redo, re-clean, or invest a lot of time into removing difficult stains. Either clothes have to be lightly soiled, or you qr your staff have to have excellent stain removal cleaning skills to get it right the first time. Again, much comes down to your equipment, the type of equipment, the amount of equipment and how you use it. There are vast differences in the operation of a one-hour cleaner, a same day cleaner, next day cleaner, three day turn around cleaner, or a couture high quality cleaner.
So, it all comes down to once again asking: What kind of cleaner are you?
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.