CHICAGO — Consumer interest in wash-dry-fold (WDF) services had been on the upswing for quite some time when the coronavirus pandemic created an environment that emphasized staying clean to stay healthy. But what if a customer, aware of the risk of catching the virus by being around others, wouldn’t visit their local Laundromat but still wanted someone else to do their laundry?
Hello, pickup and delivery.
Now, this aspect of laundry service isn’t new. Self-service laundries, especially those in heavily populated metropolitan areas, have been picking up and delivering for years. But if ever there was a time to consider adding the option, this may be it. And even if your operation hits the road as a matter of routine, growth in the WDF marketplace could signal the need for you to fine-tune things to stay top of mind in your area.
The Coin Laundry Association (CLA) recently hosted a webinar that focused on starting a pickup and delivery service. President Brian Wallace moderated a panel of operators whose experience ranges from roughly a year to more than three decades.
In Part 1, the panel discussed preparations for starting pickup and delivery and how the offering differs from running a self-service Laundromat. In today’s conclusion, appearance, marketing and devotion are on the agenda.
LOOK GOOD AND SPREAD THE WORD
Customers who are paying for someone else to do their laundry have certain expectations about appearance and presentation, the panelists agreed. Pulling up in front of someone’s house driving a beat-up Honda doesn’t easily translate to high quality.
“I think it’s very important to have a branded, wrapped van,” says Chris Balestracci, owner of Super Wash Laundromat in East Haven, Connecticut. He’s been in the business since 1988. “If you want to get started on the cheap, what I did, you can go to U-Haul and buy a 1-year-old van with 10 or 12,000 miles on it for half the price of a new one. Or you can buy a used van that doesn’t look good but when you wrap it, it looks brand-new. You don’t have to spend $40,000 on a brand-new van.”
“We have hightop Nissan vans that are 9 feet tall,” says Dave Menz, who owns four Queen City Laundry locations in the Cincinnati area and launched a delivery service in 2016. “They’re covered in our brand and our phone number and our website. We have three on the road roughly 12 hours a day. Let me tell you, it’s tough to beat that because you’re where your customers are.”
Outfitting your drivers with branded apparel also projects confidence in your service.
As far as marketing goes, the discussion ranged from website development and online advertising through search engines and social media to print advertising and promotional materials.
“We have brought in customer after customer through our Facebook ads and Google ads. They end up working together with each other,” says Jonathan Babcock, who opened a WaveMAX laundry franchise in Knoxville, Tennessee, in late 2019. “Plus, you can’t neglect the grass roots stuff: boots on the ground, calling on different customers from the commercial side, door hangers and flyers. The one fun thing about Laundromats is the traditional stuff still works really well.”
“One of the things I highly recommend is have a great brochure with pictures, prices, and why it’s so valuable,” Balestracci says. “We put those in small plastic bags and put those on door handles and mailboxes (in homes) in higher-income neighborhoods.”
“No channel by itself really works,” adds Babcock. “It’s all the channels working together, where the customer sees you all over the place, is what really starts to work.”
“If we had this webinar five years ago, we wouldn’t be talking about search and social,” Wallace opines. “We’d only be talking about postcards and door hangers.”
COMMITMENT TO THE CAUSE
If you’ve never offered pickup and delivery service before, the panelists don’t recommend taking it on with anything less than total commitment.
“We’ve all talked about how this is a different business. Even if you’ve been in the Laundromat business for 10, 15, 20 years, you’re entering a new business, make no mistake about it,” Menz says. “You probably wouldn’t open a coffee shop if you’ve never done it before and show up once or twice a week and expect it to run smoothly.”
“If you want to dabble, drive your own vehicle and pick up your friends’ laundry,” Babcock adds. “If you want to dominate, you really have to do everything. You can’t dominate and still drive your own car. You can’t dominate and not use great software. You can’t dominate and not do marketing well.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
The Coin Laundry Association frequently offers webinars that cover topics such as marketing, store operations and management, new investor education, and more. Visit www.coinlaundry.org/events/webinars to learn more.