CHICAGO — Al Lautenslager is a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach who believes the No. 1 reason that customers leave a business is because the business in question doesn’t pay them enough attention.
Making efforts to reach customers and prospects was at the heart of his message at a Drycleaning & Laundry Institute-sponsored educational session during the last Clean Show.
Based on Lautenslager’s theory, you’re not just a self-service laundry owner, store manager or store attendant. “You’re all marketers of the business you’re associated with,” he says.
And so it is that he offered a series of suggestions from his book, what he called “a step-by-step blueprint for how to put one foot in front of the other, from a marketing standpoint.”
Develop a Guerrilla Marketing Mindset
“Every single day, whether I’m traveling on the road or working in my office, I think about this question: How am I building the awareness of my prospects and clients through the marketing that I’m doing?”
Before he goes about the work of each day, Lautenslager spends time doing three to five marketing-related things. It might be handwriting a thank-you note to a customer, brainstorming a tagline, or coming up with an idea for a new direct-mail campaign.
“You do that for three weeks and it becomes a habit, and a marketing habit is a great mindset to have in your business.”
Define Purpose for Marketing and Your Goals
“What specific activity do you want customers to take as a result of your marketing? Do you want them to call you on the telephone, visit your website, come into your place of business, enter a contest?”
Marketers define these as “calls to action.”
“Every single brochure, website, sign, sales pitch, on-hold message ought to have a call of action associated with it,” Lautenslager says. “Prospects need to be told what to do. Do not leave it to chance that they’ll know what to do as a result of your marketing.”
Identify Your Target Market
“Targeting is pretty much what you think it is. Who buys what? Where do they buy it? Why do they buy it?”
Whatever specifications you put around that target market, there exists a list for those specifications, and your list is your market, Lautenslager says. “Maybe you’re targeting a certain income level, a certain family size and a certain subdivision. There’s a list that exists for those specifications.”
Do a web search for “list broker” in your city to find companies that provide that kind of service.
Your best prospect to target is a current customer, and second best is a previous customer, Lautenslager advises.
Position Your Business
This refers to creating a “position” for your business in a customer’s mind. According to Lautenslager, Positioning authors Al Ries and Jack Trout say, “Positioning is not something you do with a product or service, it’s what you do in the mind of a prospect.”
“We want people to think of us if and when they need our products or service,” Lautenslager says.
In the Chicago area where Lautenslager lives, the freezing and breaking of water pipes during winter, especially in the middle of the night, is a real possibility. So how does Expert Plumbing position itself? By promoting the fact that “We never close.”
And don’t be afraid to promote your expertise in providing laundry and/or dry cleaning services.
“Everybody in this room is an expert in something. It’s OK to say that. Customers like to buy from experts. They trust experts. They have confidence in experts’ work. Go ahead and say that.”
Point Out Your Competitive Advantages and Benefits
Customers and prospects don’t care about you, Lautenslager says, they care about themselves and how your service will benefit them.
“So, you’d better be talking to them,” he advises. “That mean you’ve got to talk about benefits, not features. Write this down: features tell, benefits sell.”
They’re looking for benefits like convenience, time savings, organization, ease of access, immediacy, reduction of resources required, and reliability.
“At some point in time, make a list of the benefits you offer your customers and prospects. And then I suggest that you make a list of the benefits that your competition offers. If those two lists are identical, neither one of you have a competitive advantage.”
And if you don’t know what your benefits are, ask your customers. They’ll tell you.
Do Some Business Networking
“Everybody in this room, believe it or not, knows between 150 and 250 people each,” Lautenslager says.
On his website is a free report explaining how to instantly add 50 people to your network. These people include neighbors, your banker, your favorite bartender, your travel agent, etc. Lautenslager’s favorite on the list: the parents of your child’s sports teammates.
Plan for the networking events you will attend and set some goals (meet X number of people, receive X number of business cards, etc.).
“Arrive early and leave late,” Lautenslager says. “Some of the best networking happens before the meeting and after the event.”
Take Advantage of PR Opportunities
Editors love news but hate promotion, Lautenslager says, so connect your business with current events to increase relevancy.
“I suggest you do a press release every other month,” he says. “Establishing a relationship with an editor is just like establishing a relationship with a customer.
“Anytime you have a new product or service, win an award, have a new employee, new strategy, new location, editors deem that as news.”
In the end, whatever type of marketing you choose to pursue, launch what is comfortable for you and your business.
“When I say comfortable, I don’t mean just comfortable financially, I mean comfortable emotionally. You can’t do everything that I’ve talked about today. I can’t do everything I’ve talked about today. But you can pick one, two or three things you’re comfortable with and implement them.”