Entrepreneurs Marketing

Are you smarter than a dry cleaners?

For some time now, the news has covered Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson’s $54MM ( 54 million dollar ) lawsuit against Custom Cleaners, a dry cleaning store in Washington DC.

Originally, the basis for Pearson’s lawsuit was about a pair of supposedly lost pants. Later the pants resurfaced, but the lawsuit was altered to be about Custom’s alleged violations of the District Of Columbia Consumer Protection Act. Among other things, Pearson’s contention was that the presence of a sign saying “Satisfaction Guaranteed” means you should be able to get anything you want.

Sadly, the owners of the store have removed the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign, as well as one saying “Same Day Service”, a gutless move in my book, even though they won the lawsuit. They should have an event to celebrate putting the signs back up.

But this post isn’t about a frivolous lawsuit, or the removal of the signs. It’s about the dry cleaning industry’s nationwide failure to take advantage of an obvious marketing opportunity by turning this weird story into a big win.

A win?

Dry cleaners all over the country have been thrust into the spotlight over this lawsuit, yet I’ve not seen a single marketing piece or press release taking advantage of it. It’s publicity that some businesses would be thrilled to get, but couldn’t afford – yet no one is taking advantage of the buzz from this goofy lawsuit.

Perhaps the industry and store owners are figuring they’ll just hide from it and wait for a verdict, or simply ignore it and hope it’ll go away. What they should be doing is using the buzz to bring attention to their store, their guarantee, and even making a little fun of the whole situation.

But they aren’t. How totally boring.

You need to let the locals know that their satisfaction is guaranteed, tell them what to expect and make sure they understand that you keep track of their clothes “as if they were a suit-happy judge”.

How many ways can you use the word “JudgeMENTAL”?  Ok, maybe that one isn’t a good idea:)

You need to make sure any paperwork hanging in motel closets is updated to reference your guarantee and note that you’ll ship clothes to their home or some other destination of their choice – on your dime – if something unfortunate happens, or a pair of pants loses its way back to the motel.

Issue a press release and a Q&A to the radio stations, letting them know you have a sense of humor about all this – it might get you a brief interview during the morning and/or evening drive time shows. Big audiences follow these shows.

Contact each of your clients via email and/or print newsletter – depending on what contact info you have (you’d better have some – if not, get it). Make sure they understand that you have a better guarantee. Have a lost-my-pants promotion or special event for those clients.

Update your signage both inside and outside. Update the paperwork you hand out to your clientèle. Let them know you’re aware of the lawsuit and your clients’ valuable clothing is safe, then elaborate on the steps you take to keep track of their clothing, what your guarantee covers, and why they should continue to use you.

Speak at the local service club meetings (Rotary, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, Lions, etc) about it. Even if you only get a chance to toss in a little funny comment during your self-introduction, it’ll get the point across.

In your ads, press releases and elsewhere, be sure to use testimonials from your existing clients and include comments from people who have never lost anything and from people whose clothes you lost yet you “made it right” and they still use your cleaners years later. These testimonials should be a core part of your existing marketing and “customer-facing” paperwork.

Have a special event at the store to make a bit of fun with the situation.

Do a mailing to the local judges and lawyers. Again, have some fun with it. Include a coupon for to have cleaning done on “a lawsuit and 2 pair of pants”, or have “Attorney/Judge Appreciation Week” where you pickup and deliver for free as a way of greasing the cogs of justice or similar silliness.

Designate the lawsuit’s decision day as “Dry Cleaners’ Judges Appreciation Day”, include it on your annual marketing calendar. In “honor” of the $54MM lawsuit, offer to dry clean pants for judges for 54 cents.

In other words, USE THE NEWS to bring attention to your business. Take advantage of the buzz from silly things going on in the world. Did you have a special on jumpsuits lately? “We clean prison jumpsuits – and regular ones too.” Paris is all over the news, why aren’t you?