GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are not many things more important than the customer’s perception of your mat and whether they see it as “new” or not.

Your mat may be pretty old but if you do things to make people feel your mat is “relatively new,” you will draw more customers. It’s that simple.

In this column, I’m outlining strategies to maintain customer perception that your mat is relatively “new” and sharing tips to achieve this. I’ll conclude today with some ideas that are moderately priced or even considered somewhat expensive.

MODERATELY PRICED

What if you can’t afford brand-new equipment, or your already-energy-efficient equipment is only a little frayed at the edges?

Some manufacturers can sell you brand-new front panels and trims. While not cheap, the cost can be well worth it. I once did that with a bank of old dryers and the results were outstanding … and I didn’t even change the color!

You can keep your original panels to put back up after a number of years, making your current crop of customers think once again that you installed new equipment.

Don’t forget to change any knobs, decals, button overlays and trim to complete the task.

And you can change out the rubber washer door gaskets and soap box lids entirely. Most door gaskets come in either black or “battleship” gray.

Keep in mind that all rubber parts are not alike! If you use cheaper generic gaskets, I believe you’ll find they don’t last as long as OEM parts, and they often don’t fit as well, either.

Over the years, many customers asked us if we put in new equipment. My answer was, “No, but we had them ‘rebuilt’ from top to bottom.”

If your folding tables are showing wear or looking dirty, change the tops; consider some kind of quartz or granite. The prices for these beautiful materials have come down to earth somewhat, and they will always look good.

If your laundry carts are getting old, buy some new ones and try selling the old to another laundry. Everyone likes it when a mat puts in shiny, new carts.

Your mat seem a little dark inside? You may want to upgrade to new LED light fixtures. Nearly every local utility offers some kind of good rebate incentives for you to switch to bright, clean-looking LED troffers (rectangular light fixtures that fit into dropped ceiling grids).

I hear that some utilities will even install them for you. ConEd did that for me in New York some years ago. I got the lights from ConEd for half-price and they did all the labor.

Consider trying daylight bulbs at a color temperature around 5000k. It’s the closest you will get to real sunlight, I believe, which can enhance a person’s mood. If you can boost the light a bit more around the folding tables, customers may perceive that their laundry is brighter and cleaner.

SOMEWHAT EXPENSIVE

This level of improvement would mean retooling your mat with new equipment when necessary. If your equipment has not been well-maintained, and/or the machines are water/energy hogs that break down frequently, this becomes a vital and necessary expense if you want to stay profitable. New equipment always draws new customers, and you should promote your new machines as much as possible.

This is the time to dress up all the areas of your mat that need to be upgraded. This is your time to really wow your customers!

I know someone who put all-new washers in his mat. I suggested that he put a sign in his window to alert the neighborhood. He literally laughed at me, saying, “Paulie, that’s funny.” So, he spent $150,000 on his machines but nothing on advertising them! An opportunity missed, don’t you think?

If your mat looks old on the outside, what do you think potential customers will think as they pass your business? They’ll probably think your entire mat is old and tired without even stepping in! A new, modern storefront plus quality signage is in order. If you can add automatic doors, so much the better! Spend a few extra bucks to create curb appeal that wows everyone who sees it. You can justify the cost by looking at the fact that you can amortize it over many years. All the while, your modern, gorgeous storefront will be reeling them around the clock.

Upgrade your interior design. What’s eye-popping new as far as floors, walls and ceilings? Fast-food chains and hotels employ the best designers, so get ideas from those businesses.

Improvements can be financed so you can spread out the cost.

If you are putting in new dryers, I recommend springing for the stainless steel dryer drums. They look great even after many years.

Before you pull the trigger on new equipment, try selling your old machines to other mats first. I did that several times over the course of my career. The buyer can come to your store to see the equipment in operation, which gives him confidence to pay your price. Then you just agree on a price and a time (coordinate things so it’s the day you’ll get your new machines). The buyer could also see if your distributor would be willing to ship and install the used machines.

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.