The Five Key Principles For Maximizing Referrals & Customer Retention!

thanks. referralThese five key principles help you get referrals and keep your customers. It costs you five times as much to get a new customer as to keep one. So you might as well take good care of the ones you have. And while you’re taking care of them, you might as well get some referrals.

Most dry cleaners get a new customer and never talk to that customer again. Your new customer never hears from you unless they pop into your store or catch you while you’re delivering their clothes. Is this the way you’d like it to be? I don’t think so.

Principle #1 – Frequency Of Communications: I want you to think about the personal relationships you have in your business and personal life. How much time do you spend seeing and talking with your closest friends? Do you only talk to them once a year? Or do you spend some time every week or month connecting with them?

What would happen if you ONLY talked to your very best friend once or twice every two years?

What would happen if you only saw your spouse or significant other one night a year (Hey, you might like that, but that is not the point. That’s a whole other article for another magazine. Haha.)?

If you only saw your spouse once a year, it would not last. It’s like only talking to your best customers once a year—maybe at the holidays—your relationship will deteriorate.

How are the relationships you have with people different when you speak with them on a regular basis as opposed to quarterly or annually? Outside of business, those people whom you speak to often are the people you have the closest relationships with, and those friends from the past are just people you are familiar with or share a history with now.

The longer you go between communications, the weaker your relationships is with your customers, and the more open they are to using your other products and services or simply forgetting about you altogether.

Another wrinkle in this is the type of communication you deliver. If every interaction you have with someone is you asking them for money (ie. Pay my bills just this time! Yeah. Right.), you’re killing the relationship.

Everyone has had a friend or family member in his or her life that is always asking for money. The only time they call or come by is because they need a favor or to borrow (“I promise. I’ll pay you back. Yeah. Right) some money. That relationship gets old real fast. You start avoiding them like the plague. And that’s how most dry cleaners operate. They never contact you unless they need some money. They never just say hi and share some valuable information. They’re always selling one of their services and/or asking for money.

Do you want to be that dry cleaner?

I don’t think you do.

So what can you do to?

You can send them an email giving them some cleaning tips for their home. You can start a newsletter (a paper one is better) and share some of your insight and wisdom. You can talk about how dry cleaning works and talk about some of your employees. You can tell them some (tasteful) jokes and stories. Let your personality show up.

I write a newsletter every month for our members to use and it’s got all these ideas in it. It keeps your customers involved and they don’t forget you. If you’d like a copy of my newsletter, go to and I’ll mail one out to you right away.

Principle #2 – Consistency Of Communications: I’m writing this in August. This is vacation month. Most dry cleaners are very slow and the owners are on vacation (If not really on vacation, they’re on vacation in their mind. And if you’re not hanging out at some beach you should be. That’s another article.). This time and in December, not much gets done marketing wise in most dry cleaners.consistency

This is not good.

Being inconsistent in the eyes of your customers and your prospects is bad for business. How you market to your prospects tells them how you’ll be when you have them as a customer. If you don’t communicate with them in July/August and during December, you’re telling them that you run your business by the seat-of-your-pants and you’re very disorganized.

If you send out your newsletter every once in a while or get it out late every month, you’re telling your customers that you’re all over the place running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off!

You must plan ahead for those months. It’s like booking a vacation for March in December. You know that you’ll be away, so you start making plans for the time you’re away. Do the same for your dry cleaning business.

Don’t forget to get a copy of my newsletter mailed to you:

Principle #3 – Communicate Multiple Ways: You can’t send just one email asking for referrals and expect a landslide of responses. It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to ask all the time and ask in different ways without being annoying.

How do you do that?

Here are all the ways that my members communicate with their dry cleaning customers.


*attached flyer


*hanger covers

*referral quote card

*weekly reminder calls

Email: At least once a month, you dedicate an email to referring your neighbors. At the bottom of ALL your emails, after your signature, you ask for referrals: “Refer Your Neighbor & Get A $10 Starbucks Gift Card.”

Flyer: Attach a flyer once a month to all the out going deliveries explaining how your “Referral Reward Program” works and include a little baggie of referral cards like he ones you see here. Copy what I got. You’ve got my permission.

Newsletter: My membership gets a DONE-FOR-YOU newsletter written for them each month and one half of a 4-page newsletter is dedicated to the “Referral Rewards Program” This section explains the program and also recognizes those dry cleaning customers that referred in the past month.

hanger-coverHanger Covers: Custom printed hanger covers are a great way to ALWAYS be asking for referrals. This is member Stephen Moore’s hanger cover. This goes on ALL his hangers. This is a constant reminder to all of his customers that he is looking for referrals.

referral.card.frontThe Referral/Quote Card is a sneaky way to always be asking for referrals too. As you can see, one side asks nicely for referrals and other side is a quote. Everyone likes quotes. Each week you’ll have a new quote. Members attach these to all orders and they also pop these in jacket and shirt pockets for a nice surprise. You’ll get lots of positive comments with the Referral/Quote Card and referrals too.

Weekly Reminder Calls: Do you remind your customers the night before with areferral.card.back robocall that you’ll be picking up their dry cleaning in the morning? If not, you’re loosing up to 20% in revenue (that’s another article). Anyway, when you’re reminding your customers of tomorrow’s pick-up, you can slide in a plug for referrals.

Principle #4 – Reward, Thank & Recognize:

Most people don’t even want the $10 in free dry cleaning or the Starbucks card. But it’s a way for you to follow up and thank them. There are two ways we thank them: a personalized “Thank You Note” sent through the mail and in the newsletter. When you send out the gift card, you include a nice note thanking them for their referral mentioning the person they referred. It’s a nice touch and will be remembered.

In your newsletter, you recognize them with the others that referred that past month. You can see how I do it.

Principle #5 – Quality & Customer Service: You’ve heard this a million times before that quality and customer service will bring in all the referrals you can handle and you don’t need the rest of the stuff I just mentioned. I think it’s the foundation of getting referrals, BUT I also believe that if you’ve got your act together with Q&CS, you can double the amount of referrals with all the “asking” techniques I mentioned.

Member Grant Carson has built a huge route business in the very competitive market of California. Grant says “YES” to EVERYTHING! As he tells it, “When a customer needs something by Saturday morning and just gave it to us Friday afternoon, we get it to him. I know I just lost money on that individual transaction. But how much ‘referral capital’ did I just build?—a bunch! Do you think that guy is going to tell his friends, family and neighbors about what I did for him in his time of need? You bet he its. My drivers and employees are looking for that kind of ‘capital’ in all that we do at our dry cleaning business.”

Most dry cleaners look at that transaction as “what did that cost me?” Not Grant. He looks at it as, “How much capital did I just build?”

Same goes with your shirt service. Most of us dry cleaners keep our shirt prices down to get the dry cleaning. And along with that thinking, most (not you of course) dry cleaners don’t treat the cleaning of a shirt like they would a piece of dry cleaning. WRONG way to think!

You should pay MORE attentions to your shirts because they are going to keep the dry cleaning coming in. You could have perfect dry cleaning quality and less than perfect shirt laundering and your customer will leave you. They’re not going to take their shirts somewhere else and continue to bring you their dry cleaning because you do a fantastic jog with it.

If you look at EVERYTHING in your dry cleaning business as marketing, building referral capital, and customer retention, you’ll have a very successful “Referral & Customer Retention Generating Machine!”

I hope you enjoyed this, but better yet, I hope you start putting these ideas into action NOW!

Give me your comments below.


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2 Responses to “The Five Key Principles For Maximizing Referrals & Customer Retention!”

  1. Goretti Says:

    Great article , I love it

  2. Rosa Says:

    Great article!!!

    We will follow your principles.


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