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Getting Into the Marketing Game (Part 1)

Paul Partyka |

If you’re a self-service laundry owner looking for some marketing ideas, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re also looking for some basic information about marketing itself, you’ve also come to the right place.This industry has never been known for great marketing. This is more than my opinion; operators throughout the years have echoed this same sentiment to me during various interviews.You may even be surprised at how simple — and effective — some of these ideas can be. If you’re still hesitant about marketing, remember: It’s never too early to try to get an edge on your competitor.The following ideas/advice were submitted by a variety of marketing veterans.HAPPY CUSTOMERSBefore you focus on a marketing plan, think about your customers, especially your “loyal” ones. If you think you just need to go after new customers, you’re already on the wrong marketing track. Treat your existing customers as if they were new customers — or else your competitor may win them over.Find out, via survey or conversations, why they use your laundry. Doing this will help you ascertain your store’s strengths, and put together a marketing plan. Don’t forget to check out the competition. If you discover a competitor’s weakness, you might want to incorporate it into your marketing plan. For example, if your competitor lacks larger washers, and you have several of them, it might pay off to stress this in any flyer, newspaper ad, etc.If you are looking to promote a store advantage, think about:

  • off-street parking;
  • the number of washers and dryers you offer;
  • design features such as automatic doors;
  • your amenities such as seating; and
  • pricing discounts. 

GETTING STARTEDOnce you know your strengths (and your competitor’s weaknesses), put together a basic plan. Set a budget. And just as importantly, don’t rush your plan. Don’t let a burst of excitement sink it! Experiment with one mailing, ad, promotion or commercial at a time. It’s also important to decide what constitutes a successful marketing venture.Success can mean different things to different owners, but it helps to look at a certain figure — what the average customer spends at your store during a year. If, for example, regular customers spends $500 a year at your store, adding 10 new customers means you will be generating an extra $5,000 per year. This example might cause you to re-evaluate your marketing budget.TAKING IT INSIDEWhen you talk marketing plans, some operators immediately think about outside promotions such as door hangers and register receipts. You can also experiment with mailers or TV/radio advertising. Some may take advantage of public relations (often referred to as “free advertising”) using local newspapers or media outlets. Running a story about how your laundry washes Little League items can net your laundry a good boost.In-store promotions are a simple way to attract people. If you go this route, don’t exclude your current customers. Always make them feel valuable. When deciding what to give, don’t diminish what you offer by giving away free service!You can start with a drawing for free prizes or free washes. Explain the process through the use of good signage. Have some registration forms and pens on hand. Get your attendant involved. You can award a $25 prize if it’s a weekly event; if the drawing is a month-long event, a $100 prize might be in order.Punch cards can also be effective. Give away a free wash after 12 washes. Have the customers include basic information on the cards, such as home address, phone number, etc. Your punch-card promotion can create an important database for future promotions.Other promotions include:

  • offering a discount on services/equipment during slow times;
  • giving free quarters to the first people entering the store; and
  • offering prizes to children for reading books, etc.

The story concludes on Friday.

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.

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