Social media – in the laundry and textile services industry

Janice Raycroft shares some hints and tips about how to boost your presence online…It’s time to #springclean your social media sites and recognise the massive boost this can bring to your business. Dust off those old websites, polish up your presence on LinkedIn and invite thousands of neighbours to admire your show homes on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and shop windows on the likes of Amazon.

As Graham Warren, business development director at clothes care specialist Caraselle Direct, says: “My mind goes into overdrive with this topic as so many dry cleaners are completely missing the best, most effective marketing tools ever made available to us, and most of it absolutely free. The reality is most Brits spend an average of 35 minutes per day now on Facebook as part of a worldwide daily audience of some 2.6 billion people.

There are 23 million Brits on LinkedIn now. When you next drive to work look at just how many people are walking along the street on their mobiles, reading messages, watching videos or shopping. It’s a new level of multi-tasking. You need to be in that mix.” Many potential customers will now actually think it ‘odd’ if you have a limited social media presence and suspect there is something wrong with your business, particularly as so many of their buying choices are driven by online recommendations – such as star systems – and testimonials. Jonathan Beach, managing director at Drystream, points out: “Years ago, customers would revert to telephone directories like Yellow Pages to find dry cleaners in their area, but Yellow Pages has just issued the very last of its physical directory publications, so that information source has ended.”

It’s essential to have and maintain a good social media presence, he says, whether you are serving the general public or mostly customers within our industry. “At DryStream we invest in internet marketing, Facebook and Twitter to attract dry cleaners and launderers to our business.

Our tweets tell dry cleaners about what’s going on in our part of the industry and we often make special offers to those who follow us. See for yourself at @drystreamepos.

On Facebook we show details of recent installations, technology news and product information. So, if you’re into social media to market your business you can follow DryStream on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date and take advantage of special offers.” John Haden of Laundry Engineering Services (LES) shares this view: “Our experience of using LinkedIn, in particular, has been of great benefit. As a service provider to the laundry industry we have had many new contacts generated through LinkedIn. We find the key here is to regularly engage with our customers by posting content through pictures and general updates regarding current and future activities. Through LinkedIn we have generated a working partnership with a company on the other side of the world in New Zealand, Bundle Laundry.” And that’s what it’s actually all about – maximising the money you can make from an online presence. Luring new custom this way is essential, even more so now that passing high street style trade has diminished.

Social media tips

Who’s in charge?

It’s easy for our busy smaller and family businesses to put off making the most of a social media presence. Common fears are that it will take up too much time, might cost money, worries about what technical skills are needed, or even a simple lack of interest by those currently in charge of the day-to-day operation. But we bet that within most family businesses there will be someone with the knowledge and talent to make it happen or transform an existing website. It’s an excellent way to introduce younger members of the family circle to an industry they might be shying away from because it’s not as ‘sexy’ as other sectors. If they are boasting about their thousands of followers on a personal Twitter account, set them the challenge of doing the same for the family business for a small bonus! Not that we’re being ageist here – if older family members would like to take a back seat and enjoy new projects, they too can find a valuable new role without any of the ‘heavy lifting’. It’s also perfect for anyone, perhaps with young children or other family commitments, as it can be managed with hours to suit from any location. Follow free online guides to getting a response, start with Twitter and Facebook, and talk to suppliers and others in the industry who have online services that impress you. This is also easily shared work, although some businesses farm out the work of keeping their online sites lively. Freelance social media editors who know all the tricks and keywords for increasing visits to your website and other media often work for hourly rates. So a smaller business could book them for even a few hours a month to back up own their activities, helping to boost resulting revenue streams from new customers.

Your website

The earliest websites were pretty simple and those of us who are still stuck with little more than a decade-old home page featuring an address and telephone number need to come into the 21st century. But avoid a jumble of tricky to negotiate drop-down menus and flashing content which causes stalls as well as eye ache. Navigation needs to be obvious, and secondary info found swiftly or potential customers will click elsewhere in seconds. Most of all, your website needs to look good on a phone, not just on a large screen laptop. The majority of people will be accessing it on an iphone, Samsung, similar smart phone or tablet. Make it easy for them to contact you – don’t just have a page simply listing telephone numbers and email addresses requiring them to hunt for a pen. Wherever possible, ‘Contact us’ should include a one click exercise that takes them straight to your email or a phone call.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

While a good website is essential, providing as much information about your business as you care to share, most internet users are likely to come across your operation using social media. Drystream’s Jonathan Beach advises that you should see Facebook as your ‘newsfeed to the world’ and the aim is to get as many Facebook friends as you can so your messages or posts are read by as big an audience as possible. Yes, people have ‘friends’ on social media on the other side of the planet, but there are also many local pages specific to neighbourhoods and towns. So it’s possible for your offer, perhaps a special deal on shirts, to spread like wildfire. On Twitter you need to be ‘followed’. Beach says: “Getting friends and followers is an interactive process and where the ‘social’ part of social media comes into play.

Tell customers and would-be customers you’re on Facebook and Twitter and invite them to be friends and to follow you. “Interact with them. Follow them. Retweet and resend messages that you like and might be interesting to your other followers. Make your posts interesting, include pictures and industry news items that could be relevant, useful and entertaining to your audience.” DryStream invest in internet marketing, Facebook and Twitter @drystreamepos to attract dry cleaners and launderers to their business. Their tweets tell dry cleaners about what’s going on in the industry and often include special offers for those who follow your social media sites. It’s possible to have some fun alongside the aim of reaching more potential customers.

For instance, while Laundry Engineering Services have concentrated on LinkedIn as a business medium, on Instagram ‘laundry_John’ posts regular industry specific pictures alongside ones of Molly the Jack Russell, attracting comments, likes and followers. They use hashtags which change with the photos or tweet to expand the reach. A good tip here – if you post videos make sure it is all subtitled as many people have sound turned off while working or travelling but will still watch ‘silent movies’.

Target to your audience

Social media isn’t as simple as some might think – it must be approached with careful consideration. It’s another way of reaching your audience, so therefore the most important thing to keep in mind is the clientele – who they are, what their needs and wants are etc. – it’s essential they are front of mind when communicating through the social channels.

Electrolux Professional has used social media as a fundamental part of their marketing strategy in recent years, to the extent that they now have a very clear pathway when it comes to matching up the right collateral, to the right audience, on the right platform. Their marketing executive, Gloria McCann tells us: “We abide by the adage that ‘if your content is for everyone, it’s for no-one’. Ultimately, just as you wouldn’t turn up and use the same sales pitch to a care home as you would a dry cleaners, we aim to ensure our messaging for each campaign is tailored to the intended audience. “Using social media advertising is pivotal to accurate targeting.

However, given the wide range of options available across each platform – and with platforms regularly bringing out new formats or making changes to the way adverts appear to end-users – it does take a lot of tailoring and A/B testing to really understand the best way to reach your intended audience. “Once you’ve established how best to reach your audience, the next challenge is to capture their attention.

Again, the quality of the content is very important. If you are not providing something of value, you are unlikely to generate much engagement that can lead to a commercial outcome, be it a sales lead or a meeting request. “Social media is now very much one of our core marketing tactics when we launch a new product. A case in point would be the recent launch of our new Line 6000 heat pump dryer. “Using a key ‘soft launch’ product installation site, we created a highly engaging video case study, showcasing the dryer’s USPs in a visual way. Importantly, those USPs were identified and advocated by our customer as part of the interview. The resulting video was then supported by a multi-phase advertising plan across our key social media channels.

Each phase was designed to encourage the end-user further down the proverbial ‘sales funnel’, with the ultimate aim of getting end-users to complete a lead generation form.” The campaign was a resounding success, with the video watched in excess of 20,000 times.

The campaign also drove over 500 clicks to the product page on their website, and they also received their highest-ever lead generation form completion rate for a single campaign. McCa n n co n c l u d e s : “Ultimately, we know there are many different touch-points we need to hit to sell laundry equipment. It is a very people-focused industry, and our salesforce are very much at the heart of our business development strategy. However, social media has proved to be a very useful way of broadening our reach to more end-users.”

Testimonials

Own up – who’s paid £6.99 for something someone else is offering for £5.99 on sites such as Amazon, simply because the more expensive retailer has five stars and a pile up of testimonials from customers happy with on time delivery as well as the product? This is the new version of ‘better safe than sorry’. Nearly half of all Amazon customers only make a purchase after they have looked at reviews, demonstrating the power great testimonials. Never be shy of asking happy customers to write a testimonial you can use. A warning here – there are still dry cleaners with just one or two appalling reviews on Google, some dating back several years. Don’t leave them there to be the only thing spotted by possible customers. Get up-to-date testimonials so that the first review someone hunting for your service will see is a reassuring one.

Newsletters

Never worry about ‘bombarding people with unwanted email offers and news, says Caraselle’s Graham Warren – everyone online has become used to receiving a stream of information and offers. “Prove it to yourself by signing up to five or 10 websites of your choice and watch how they treat you – what sort of action do they take, frequency of emails, hard or soft sell, useful tips, voucher / loyalty schemes, referrals, testimonials etc – they will offer you all the goodies that you should also be giving your customers,” he adds. See your various social media outlets as a family to garner info from. “You must capture your customers’ email addresses and mobile numbers to begin a relationship with them. When you see just how many emails/ newsletters those five or 10 websites send you then it must be obvious that if you don’t do likewise you are missing out bigtime.” Content for newsletters including offers can often be obtained free of charge from your own suppliers, and also used on your website with links to relevant blogs. ‘Listicles’, for example ’10 things you didn’t know about…’ always tempt viewers to open mail.

Timing and analytics

When you send out your social media offerings is crucial. Graham Warren realised his lowest response rate often came from being ‘the early bird’. People at home in a rush to leave for work often swiftly delete a pile of emails as a quick ‘tidy up’. But catch them later on when they’ve stopped for elevenses and it’s all quite different. Make sure you keep a watch on the analytics breakdown offered by social media, revealing when most people are in listening mode to your tweets, or where response to your Facebook posts is coming from.

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