By Peter Blake
Last month I outlined some of my thoughts and ideas as we all plan the grand
the country and our industry. Our first reaction to financial crisis and
uncertainty is to cut back,
eliminate expenses, conserve capital, and put a hold on all those things we feel
we can do
I am sure you have all explored those thoughts, made some tough
decisions, and have already put together your emergency response
plan for navigating the new COVID-19 landscape.
Be forewarned, times of economic uncertainty are not the time to
cut back on your marketing and brand awareness. One of your first
instincts might be to cut back or eliminate your advertising budget
and wait until times get better before reinvesting, but trust me, that
is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
These are the times when you need to increase your marketing
efforts. This is the time when you need to explore new vehicles to
help drive your brand. The last thing you want to do is find yourself
behind the curve as business evolves and picks up again, and you are
fighting to play catch-up.
Now is the time to seize opportunity and solidify your company’s position in the community.
This global pandemic is affecting everyone and purchasing decisions will be
influenced by how
your customers, and potential customers, view your business today and in the
future. Keep in
mind, effective marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does take some investment. If
not financial, then an investment of time and effort for sure.
As I wrote in a previous article, communication is everything. If you want to stay relevant you
need to connect with your customer base and let them know you are open and ready
A recent marketing study done by the American Association of Advertising
Agencies found that
43 percent of consumers find it reassuring to hear from companies they know and
40 percent wanted to know how brands are responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and
percent of consumers said they did not want to hear from brands at this time.
That is an
overwhelming majority that want to hear from you. They want to know what you are
and what you are doing to help people feel safe and secure.
Your messaging needs to start with empathy. I have said it before, “We all may not be in the
same boat, but we are all in the same storm.” I know you are struggling, but so are your
customers. Marketing in these times requires sensitivity to what is going on in
lives and needs to be flexible to handle the changing landscape.
I would focus on ways you are changing and adapting to keep customers safe. Let
what safety measures you have taken, including both internally for your staff
and for your
This would include physical changes to remove touch points like new “sneeze guards” installed
at the front counter; moving credit card terminals closer to the consumer; and
requirements like requiring all employees to wear masks when interacting both at
and on a route.
In addition, mandating employees to wear gloves when doing pick-ups and
working the counter is a good practice.
I would include information about the safety of the process itself and how
cleaning is far better than home laundry in protecting against the spread of the
virus and other
bacteria. The CDC recommends high heat as the best way to combat COVID viruses.
dryclean, and press at much higher temperatures than home laundry can achieve. I
advantage of this information and let customers know we can do it better and
protection for them and their family.
You also need to educate your customers on your complete menu of services,
of your new services you have embraced since the pandemic started. If you didn’t offer Wash-
Dry-Fold before, but you do now, I would venture to guess your customers don’t even know it.
Offering pick-up and delivery? If it is a new service for you, you need to get
the word out in
every way possible. I would also suggest highlighting some of the more
profitable services that
are not used enough such as comforters, curtains, and other household items.
As we have already seen from reports from our members, blankets, comforters, and
household items have created a small uptick in business.
These items are often neglected and cleaned too infrequently. To better protect
recommend that they clean these items at least one or two times per week. These
being breathed on, snored on, and coughed on all night long.
Look at the garments you are getting in now, they are a great indicator of what
highlight to other customers and potential customers.
What is the best way to get those messages out? Every way you possibly can.
There is no
right or wrong answer, but in today’s world you need to be flexible, versatile, and innovative.
Leverage social media
I would use social media as much as possible, including Facebook, Instagram,
other platforms. I would recommend you post anywhere from one to three times per
would use video and images as much as possible. We are a visual society and
images and video
are always more effective to get your messages across.
I strongly urge you to take advantage of some of the low-cost, highly effective
opportunities these social media platforms can provide. You can tailor your
messages and posts
to a very selective audience, and then market your promotions to that audience.
I recently did a
webinar for association members that demonstrated how to do this, and the
program is archived
I invite anyone reading this article to email me for a free link to that
presentation for more
detailed information. Just mention you saw it in National Clothesline.
Use your email addresses
This is an opportunity to tell your story, share your experiences and to
solidify your connection
with your customers. Email customers at least once a month with information, and
a month if you want to promote a special or service.
Email marketing remains an effective way to communicate with your current
recently helped a cleaner develop and send an email to her customer base for the
first time. It
was sent to almost 4,500 email addresses and the results were better than
expected with an
open rate of 34 percent. This just reinforces the effectiveness of reaching and
I would target my email as a reward for their loyalty: “Because you are one of our best
customers,” and “Special offer for our VIP Customers” are some taglines you can use.
Always include a thank you for their business and trust. Make it as personal as
possible. One of
the most frequent questions I get is about content creation and there are some
available to help you come up with content.
There are a number of companies that can do this for you, and DLI is building an
library of graphics, posts, and brochures you can use to communicate with your
you don’t have the time to do it yourself, outsource it. But it is vital that you remain
with your customers and community. If you need help with your email newsletters
email me or call and I can help you develop your program.
Word of mouth marketing
Never underestimate the voice of your customers. We have all heard of referral
many cleaners have used them with varying levels of success. One of the shifts
in marketing and
brand messaging is the need to stress stories, safety, trust and your commitment
As I end this column, I want to give you one tangible concept you can use in
your business for
your best route customers or your best “over the counter” customers.
Look for a good, higher ticket item with a decent profit margin like a
comforter. Print up a nice
gift certificate: “Pete’s Cleaners Recognizes Heath Care Providers! As a thank you for your
service, please redeem for One FREE Comforter Cleaning.”
Then send them home with your best customers or send/give to your route
them to give them to someone they know in their neighborhood. Make it special, and make it
look like an honor and something they would want to gift someone. You can create
a nice card
with the instruction telling them you want their help in identifying people they
know who are
providing great care and service to others.
The customer is giving a friend or neighbor something of value. You are getting
referral and a potential new customer. You are also reminding your own customers
to clean their
comforters and reinforcing the idea of sending them to you. It is a win-win-win
Worst case scenario? You give a bunch of free comforter cleanings to people who
are caring for
the sick and can use help. Besides, it is a great way to give all your PPP
employees something to
Peter Blake serves as executive director of the North East Fabricare
Southeastern Fabricare Association, the MidAtlantic Association of Cleaners and
California Cleaners Association. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by
phone at (617) 791-0128