MIAMI — When a competitor opened its doors within a mile of my Laundromat, 2018 became a challenging year — very quickly.
Knowing that customers are price-sensitive, one obvious answer might be to lower prices. Yet, it’s a short-term solution and one that could trigger a price war, decreasing revenue even further. More important, it could hinder the opportunity to try new ideas.
One of the marketing basics is understanding customers’ needs and wants and then delivering the products and services better than the competition can. Going back to basics seemed to be the right approach, and it starts with learning more about the customer base.
TOP THREE AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT AND NEW IDEAS (CONTINUED)
In Part 1, I said there are three areas for improvement and new ideas, beginning with enhancing comfort. Here are the other two.
2. Making My Location Easier to Find
A lot of customers learned about my operation by driving by it. But what about potential customers who don’t drive by because their work and lives take them down different routes? Even though most of my customers live within a mile or so of my Laundromats, I discovered that customers looking for local laundry service didn’t always know my store was nearby.
I’ve tried some TV advertising, which is great and allows you to target perfectly, but it’s only useful in certain areas. The problem with direct mail is that people get so much garbage in their mail already, they tend to throw it out without even looking at it. Social media, however, offered some new possibilities.
Many of my current customers turn to the web to learn about a variety of products and services. It seemed logical that potential customers might also turn there to find a local laundry service. The key, then, becomes getting your store to come up first, or at least easily, when prospective customers are conducting a search for laundry services. When your store rises to the top of a search, there’s a better chance (if the messaging for your store is appealing) a customer will visit your Laundromat.
For me, the web and “search engine marketing and optimization” is new territory. There’s a lot to learn, and it takes work to keep your operation highly visible. In fact, I knew I would need help. Suffice to say, I contracted the services of a professional to help market my Laundromat on the web for 2019.
3. Improving Customer Communication
Part of the reason for conducting informal surveys was to create a database of customers. The goal is to create “relationships” in a business where brand (Laundromat) loyalty is largely driven by price and proximity. Reminding the customers that you’re there, are keeping in touch, and occasionally offering them a special deal goes a long way toward building a connection with them.
Building connections is most important at the store level and especially for building loyalty with wash-and-fold customers. The topic would require a larger chapter.
Understanding the customer better, through surveys, conversations or other methods often leads to new ideas – or maybe not new, but at least untried at our Laundromats. For 2019, we are going to try a pickup and delivery service, which customers can access by phone, the web or by using an app. While we know that the laundry business is price-sensitive, certain customers are willing to pay for this convenience.
When it comes to retaining and attracting customers, there’s no substitute for having a Laundromat that offers comfort and convenience in many forms. It’s the basics we all know, executed well. Yet, sometimes we overlook or don’t give enough attention to the little details that accompany those basics. Where the hidden gems may be uncovered, however, is by learning as much as you can about your current customers and thereby discovering what may attract new ones.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].