Paulie B’s Pointers: Promotions That Boost the Bottom Line (Conclusion)
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Promotions can be of the long-term variety or the short-term variety. An example of a short-term promotion is a sale on a group of washers to get a quick, measurable boost in store traffic. Long-term promotions are designed to create more awareness of your Laundromat in the eyes of the general public so when someone needs to use a mat in your market, they’ll think of yours first.
That said, the best long-term promotion, the one that will indeed boost your bottom line, is simply keeping your mat in pristine condition. Let your competitors offer the public a run-down mat. Your mat should be the nicest, cleanest, best-running mat in your area.
Yes, this costs money and time, but you will be rewarded with excellent word-of-mouth advertising. No better advertising than that.
Your water should be hot enough. Your dryers should be hot enough. Your washers should show a satisfying water level. You should have enough laundry carts, folding tables, and seating. You should have plenty of lighting and surveillance cameras to make people feel safe. The inside temperatures should never get too hot or too cold for customers.
Simply put, your mat should look and operate as close to being a brand-new mat as possible. Keep your mat looking like new and your sales will grow.
In Part 1, we looked at promos that will boost your bottom line, including hiring and incentivizing great employees, boosting your slow days, and considering the power of “free.” Here are some other promos that will do the same:
RUN A SALE THAT ‘NEVER ENDS’
If you think you can do this and not trigger a response from your competitors, so much the better.
You can run a sale that “never ends” if it means it will benefit you by consistently bringing customers while leveling out the traffic spikes your mat is seeing.
Or you can run the sale for a limited time, then bring it back again right before a slow time of year.
RUN AN ‘AUTOMATIC’ SALE
Sometimes, certain events—a snowstorm, or just cold weather—will cause customers to stay away. We had a nice promotion that would kick in automatically. Our signs read, “Whenever the snow is falling, so are our prices — $1 off any double loader.”
Since we were charging $2.50 at the time, that was a healthy discount, but there’s an old saying: Half a loaf of bread is better than none. This promo brought in some customers, enough to keep a cash flow coming during bad weather. And, more importantly, those customers would not be showing up when the weather broke, so we wouldn’t get so jammed.
Another promo was, “If it’s raining outside, ask us for a free plastic bag to protect your laundry when you leave.” Since we were paying 5 cents apiece for a 33-gallon, high-density bag, this expense was peanuts, but it helped bring customers in on those bad days. Again, not a whole lot, but enough to make a difference.
The nice thing about weather promos is that they happen automatically and some customers will respond.
ADJUSTING PROMOS TO FIT YOUR NEEDS
Before we started running a 20% off sale on drop-off service every Monday through Thursday, we would get heavily jammed up with drop-offs on weekends. That’s the worst time to get inundated with tons of work, when the store is already crowded with self-serve customers, and it’s harder to get employees to work on the weekends. And don’t even get me started on the no-shows who told us they needed their clothes “back right away.”
We originally offered a 10% discount every weekday, and that did shift customers from the weekend to mid-week … initially. Shortly after that, we started to see a strong and steady rise in people dropping off on Fridays. It became our biggest drop-off day because customers wanted to take advantage of the discount. So, we had to change the deal to 20% off Monday through Thursday.
We were still busy on weekends, and our error rate on weekend drop-offs went way down because the weekend crew was no longer overwhelmed with work. Morale went up, too!
Our weekday workload became steady and strong. If we got too busy, it was much easier to call in extra help then.
But, Paulie, weren’t you losing 20% income? Didn’t that lower your bottom line?
Yes, it did initially, but only for a short while. We had a weeklong flow of steady customers every day, and our sales went up due to the 20% off and the now-negligible error rate.
Next, we raised the prices of the drop-off service right from the beginning to help offset the initial sale expense. Six months later, we raised them again. We had to keep raising prices to limit the overall drop-off volume, because the store was reaching the point where storage was becoming a problem and we were tripping over drop-off bags.
To encourage quicker pickup to help clear out our shelves, we discounted any pre-paid drop-offs by a dollar (pre-paid drop-offs always get picked up much quicker). To make it easier for people to pre-pay, we had an ATM installed right next to the counter. Our transaction fee was $1.50, so the $1 off almost covered the ATM fee, making its use more attractive to customers.
We kept having to raise drop-off prices over the next couple of years until we reached a price equilibrium, a balance between volume and price. We charged practically three times what our competitors were charging, yet we were doing far more volume. It was a win-win.
There’s more to how we built up this level, such as great packaging and, more importantly, great employees, but the 20% is the biggie because it gives people control over how they want to spend their money on drop-offs.
I was always amazed at how so many people still came to the store on the weekend, fully prepared to pay 20% more. To them, the convenience of coming on the weekend outweighed the lure of a discount.
In closing, you should know that not all mat veterans agree with offering discounts. The opponents say a discount will hurt the bottom line.
I’m not saying you should discount your entire mat, just to run specific promotions within your own healthy price structure.
I believe that you will get more customers, your volume will increase, and you will have the ability to raise prices on other things to more than make up for your promotions.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.