#getthemessage

Technology is a great enabler and smartphones give customers easy access to the services a drycleaner and laundry can provide.

Whether it’s through an app to allow easy booking, tracking and arranging of a delivery, or through various social media sites which provide an ideal platform to connect with customers – existing and new – to engage with them about a business, social media can be a boon. A smartphone is, in essence, a conduit for businesses to interact with their customers; it can transform communications and sales and help grow the services firms provide. From collection and delivery systems to promotions and offers, and knowledge sharing, smartphones can help cut through all the ‘chatter’ and catch the eye of customers. Adam Bernstein looks at how laundries can use modern media effectively.

Make social media work for you

The huge growth in the popularity of social media has created new opportunities to engage with customers, develop sales and add value to brands. However, it has also created new PR challenges and liabilities that need to be managed. And it’s one that the sector needs to be aware of – managed well nothing need go wrong. So, what are the legal risks that can trip up a social media using business? And what are the best practices for businesses to adopt to manage these risks and avoid brand damage? Nigel Miller, a commerce and technology partner at law firm Fox Williams LLP, says that social networks can be very unforgiving. What can seem like a good marketing idea at the time can backfire and rapidly inflict serious brand damage as the blogosphere seizes on the slightest social media faux-pas: “The source may be an ill-judged message or campaign, or an unthinking employee – either way, the effect can be the same. In 2011, the Advertising Standards Authority’s powers were extended to cover online advertising, including use of social media. “The ASA,” says Miller, “have already upheld a number of complaints concerning misuse of social media. A recurring issue is complaints that tweets breach the requirement that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such.” More recently, the ASA has upheld a number of complaints that have involved Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. The ASA has guides for firms wishing to stay out of trouble at https://www.asa. org.uk/codes-and-rulings/ advertising-codes.html.

ihateironing

Matt Connelly, founder and CEO, ihateironing, knows that we’re ever increasingly moving our lives online. For him the rate of change is startling. And he quotes figures that are eyewatering: “In the UK those aged 16 to 24 spend, on average, 34.3 hours a week on the internet – the equivalent of a full-time job.” He adds that as a result, that “it’s no wonder that high street businesses without a virtual presence are finding themselves voiceless.” And of course, one group that has been suffering from this in particular is the drycleaner.

One reason for this, reckons Connelly, is that without the budget for a tech overhaul to help build a presence online, they are struggling to keep up. This is the reason why, in 2011, Connelly felt that there was an opportunity to help. At the time he was working as a consultant for small businesses and was struggling to find a drycleaner that was open around his long working hours so that he could get his shirts cleaned. He says: “On a run around the streets of Brixton I started to formulate a plan. I could see that my local drycleaners were struggling and that there had to be a solution to help them compete in an always-on world where ordering pretty much anything is possible on our phones.”

That’s when the idea for ihateironing was born. Connelly resolved to build a platform which made traditional high street drycleaners “accessible for professionals juggling long working hours and commutes… something that could also give drycleaners an attractive aesthetic that would appeal to the Instagram generation, without costing them the world or taking away valuable revenue.”

Demand was tested and very quickly Connelly proved it was a model that could work; he invested in the technology and as he says, “personally went out to meet the businesses that would become our first partners on this journey.” In practical terms, Connelly reckons that his platform lets drycleaners take control of their business with an “all-round view” of orders coming in and drop-offs going out.

Fundamentally, the benefit of the service to a drycleaner – via smartphone browser or dedicated app – is that it makes their service available to a wider audience locally that either can’t work around traditional opening hours or which prefers an online service that delivers greater convenience… essentially one that comes to them. Connel ly thinks that ihateironing has made an impact in the marketplace – both for his clients in the UK and abroad: “Our drycleaning partners who help deliver our service see an average 55 per cent increase in revenue when they work with us.”

He claims that the company has even helped some of them hit personal milestones: “One of our drycleaning partners in North London has been working with us for more than four years and has grown his business to the extent where he’s been able to buy his first home with his brother and hire additional staff.” It appears that ihateironing is doing well on the back of the success of drycleaners that it works with. Connelly claims that the firm has completed 300,000 orders with nearly half of this number in the last year alone.

ihateironing is now operational in six cities around the UK and has now launched in the US. For Connelly, he says that coming from a small business consultant background “it’s been really rewarding to not only kick off my own business but to grow one that simultaneously helps other small businesses to thrive.” He considers that “drycleaners are a major part of the British economy and contribute almost £1bn every year so it’s vital that we continue to support them.” As he’s keen to emphasise, “the point of ihateironing is to help them keep doing what they are best at, taking the utmost care of our garments and delivering a service that they can take great pride in.”

For the drycleaner, the company aims to take the headache of marketing and logistics away leaving items going to the most appropriate drycleaner, based on their location, expertise and capacity. It’s all about extra business in other words. Connelly is hands-on with the business and partner firms.

He says that a huge part of his role in setting up the company was to go and meet potential new partners, “to get to know them and their expertise, what they want to achieve with their business and to test their service, so we could be confident they’d deliver the quality our customers demand.”

For him “it’s one of the most rewarding jobs because you have a personal relationship from the start and are genuinely invested in their journey, too.” It’s entirely clear that life on the high street is hard, but Connelly loves the fact “that we’re doing something to help; drycleaners deliver more than a laundry service, they play an important role in a community and it’s essential they remain a feature of our high streets in the future.”

With ihateironing’s app, customers can place an order in 30 seconds, easily track their orders in realtime and book an express pick-up

Top tips

At first glance, social media in the commercial laundry industry seems counterintuitive. Does a business that handles large scale laundry for hospitals and hotels have a place in the world of Facebook memes and Linkedin infographics? Michael Johns, CEO at Bundle believes so. He says “It’s easy to forget that technology has firmly integrated itself into all industries and the commercial laundry industry is no exception. Wi-Fi, IoT and AI all play a role in large scale laundry services, and social media is no exception. With a savvy social media marketing campaign, commercial laundries can make significant gains in terms of outreach and bringing in new customers.”

Michael Johns, CEO at Bundle shares these tips for making social media work for the commercial laundry industry.

It is the most effective channel for inbound marketing Inbound marketing is a scenario where organisations attract clients by attracting and engaging clients by providing value.

In the context of commercial laundries, a successful inbound marketing campaign would see hospitals, hotels and other organisations find and engage with a commercial launderer before consulting them for their services. Inbound marketing is often seen as a more humanistic approach to marketing and promotion because of its focus on providing value to potential clients, and building trust and credibility. Social media is a crucial part of inbound marketing. The right social media channels allow commercial launderers to reach out to the right clients in an organic way.

Engagement is a huge part of inbound marketing, and social media makes it possible to engage with leads. For example, when someone likes a piece of content, the commercial laundry can respond and start building a relationship with a prospect. Social media helps, not only with inbound marketing but also B2B sales. Granted, the vast majority of B2B sales do not take place online, commercial laundries can still identify prospects and position their products/services to appeal to them and build familiarity with them, which is crucial for B2B marketing.

Use social media to target specific groups

The commercial laundry industry benefits from social media because of its ability to target local areas. Without the option to filter out organisations based on region, commercial laundries risk reaching out to prospects that aren’t a fit for them, making the entire effort a waste of time and resources.

Social media can be a great asset in this regard because commercial laundries can filter the channel to target specific clients based on factors, like region. For example, and extremely pertinent to the commercial laundry space, LinkedIn has the option to create ads to target specific executive-level people based on location and company size, among other factors. Facebook lets people target organisations based on company, industry and geography. Social media can also be helpful for the commercial laundry industry because it helps target prospects according to the buyer persona, which is crucial for maximising marketing ROI.

Utilising social media

Social media has become a viable tool for businesses, no matter their industry, and commercial laundry is no exception. Commercial laundries committed to a smart inbound marketing strategy with social media are bound to succeed. In fact, research shows that there are over 630 million professionals on LinkedIn, over 63 million are in decision-making positions, and a further 90 million are senior-level influencers, a clear indicator of the influence of social media. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that businesses identify and execute a plan that leverages social media, specifically the various platforms that appeal most to their target market, as a legitimate and viable marketing tool for the commercial laundry space.

R-L Michael Johns (Bundle), John Haden (LES), and Brian Doyle (Bundle)

Jon Beach from DryStream recognises the important role that social media plays as a key element in their marketing strategy, quoting the stats that: “It is estimated that the UK was home to 45 million active social media users last year with some 39 million of those using social media on their mobile phones. Nearly everyone has a smartphone and carries a mass of resource in their pocket wherever they go.”

Beach does share a wealth of advice. “But social media is a dynamic medium. It requires maintenance, supply of regular content and, until traction is reached, active marketing to become and remain established. “Building the world’s best website means nothing unless people know it exists. And active adequate marketing can be time consuming and expensive. Anyone embarking upon this type of project must factor in the resources and budget to market the site to reach a critical mass before it will provide the desired returns.”

“Developing a worthwhile and appealing app for customers to use can be expensive and effort is needed to entice your customers to use it. It needs to be vibrant, interesting and appealing otherwise there’s no point putting in the time and effort that will be required. It’s easy for any app to go stale if you can’t hold your customer’s interest for long. How many apps have you ever downloaded on your phone and how many do you still regularly use?”

“It may be sufficient to provide the ability to book pickups and track deliveries otherwise you’ll be needing to add regular content or offers that will keep your app among the interesting few that your customers will want to keep on their phones and refer to regularly.”

“Managing regular content on an app, social media or website is a task in itself. Updated text, images, messages and video are necessary to drive customer engagement. You can invest the DryStream Social media for your business Ihateironing’s premium on-demand drycleaning service is available in six cities across the UK and expanded into the US, providing services to customers in NYC time and resources necessary to do this yourself or subcontract the job to a social media marketing company who will do it for you for a fee.”

Beach concludes with some final words of advice: “Social media is here to stay and should form part of any business’s annual advertising and marketing strategy. With the correct approach and adequate investment in time and money it should pay dividends by helping to stay ahead of competitors and improving your business.”

Every industry business needs to be on social media. If it’s not, it’s missing out on a number of cheap and effective marketing tools.

Facebook

Even with some negative press , Facebook is still the most popular social media network, and every business should have a page on Facebook; it’s invaluable. Facebook can be used to share everything from photos to offers and important company updates. With a business account, firms have access to powerful advertising tools and in-depth analytics. Business pages also have a lot of customisation options, and can highlight information such as contact information, hours of operation, the products and services offered.

Instagram

Instagram is becoming increasingly popular. From Instagram Live to Instagram Stories, it’s a visual platform that’s based entirely on photo and video posts – and it’s perfect for laundries to show off what they can do. It’s important to note that this platform is almost entirely mobile: You can’t take photos or create new posts on the desktop version. It’s important that the person running the account has a good eye for detail and at least basic photography skills, so the photos and videos posted to your account are high-quality.

Twitter

Twitter is great for short updates and sharing links to blog posts. On Twitter, you can share short tweets of 240 characters or fewer, videos, images, links, polls and more. It’s also easy to interact with users on this platform by mentioning users in posts along with liking and retweeting tweets. Some companies use this platform to handle customer services because customers who are also active on the platform will seek out companies to express concerns or share praise. If you have interesting content, Twitter is a great tool for quickly spreading the word. Hashtags help boost posts, and if a user with a lot of followers retweets you, your content could go viral. But with Twitter, it’s important to find balance. Don’t just share your own links or media; make sure you are also sharing a lot of interesting, relevant content from other Twitter users.

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