GLENDALE, Ariz. — Most people will tell you that location is the No. 1 factor in laundry business success. I agree that location is one of the most important factors (it made the list I’m sharing here), but it’s not in my top spot.
What is the No. 1 factor? Why, it’s you!
I’ve said this before, and will continue to say it: Without you, there is no business. The path to success depends primarily on you. Entrepreneurs make things happen, and everything else follows.
In Part 1, I identified you and your determination, choosing a location, and having sufficient capital as three important factors for reaching laundry business success. Today, let’s take a look at the remainder of my list:
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS
Building a personal connection with customers is another critical factor to achieving success. If customers feel you and your staff are making a real effort to help them, they'll appreciate it. Having friendly, knowledgeable staff is part of that, but only part.
The best retailers know who their target customer is and why those customers are shopping with them.
What do they want from your mat? Big machines? More selection? A clean store? A drop-off service? Why guess at what the customer may desire? Guessing and then finding out you guessed wrong can get expensive. Sometimes even the customers aren’t sure until you ask them to think about it!
Float a survey to ask them what they want, like, dislike, etc.
Engage the customer (notice, I didn’t say “greet” them). Merchants who station a greeter at the front of the store to parrot, “Hi, how are you today?” are not engaging. Some people may even consider them annoying.
The best retailers, the ones who hire and train better, know the game is to engage the customer in a conversation. That doesn’t mean to badger them with 100 questions, or to just point them to a sign in your mat.
You want to encourage employees to find a way to engage the customer in a short, pleasant, back-and-forth dialogue for a minute or two. To be helpful. To make them comfortable with the equipment. To be human. It’s a win-win.
KNOW YOUR COMPETITORS
Visit every mat in your trading area and learn what they do well and what they don’t do well. Not just before you open, but on a routine basis. Some great operators rarely visit their competition, but they are the exception. They know the business inside-out and upside-down, and they blow away their competition.
During my ownership years, I had competitors and newbies who were thinking about competing with me come in to my mats armed with video cameras. By the time we could get them out, they’d already recorded everything!
So, take a bag of laundry and go undercover as a customer in every one of your local competitors’ mats. Learn how their machines wash and dry. While you’re waiting, soak up every good and bad decision you can see. After all, you’ll have a nice hour or more to spend in each mat. Talk to the workers. If you’re afraid you’ll be recognized, then send in a trusted friend. Go on “reconnaissance,” soldier!
KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGY, AND YOUR MESSAGE
Laundromat equipment is getting more and more technical every year. This relentless advance into more and more complexity requires that you understand this evolving technology.
Programming your equipment alone can be challenging at times, but diagnosing and repairing the equipment can become a nightmare for someone who has no understanding of computerized, electromechanical things. So, attending some equipment repair seminars offered by your equipment distributor before you make the plunge could be very helpful!
If you have something really good to say, such as new equipment recently installed, or a great sale, then make sure the same message is consistently advertised throughout your mat, in your windows, on your website, and in social media.
Content of online ads should coordinate with actual store activities. All information should be up to date. Is your website mobile-friendly?
Use good photos. Pictures say a thousand words, yet are quick and easy for people to see, so I always like to attach a photo of what I’m talking about. The response is way better when you add a photo.
(Tip: I found that if you photograph your equipment using a tripod from a height around 4 feet, your equipment will appear larger.)
I’m not a big fan of push notifications or texting promotions to people. Push notifications can be annoying and should be used only when necessary. Still, those that come from an app of yours that your customer voluntarily downloaded tend to be better accepted, if you’re not always trying to sell something. People are getting weary of the near-constant assault of advertising.
You want to see your mat with at least a 4-star rating online. Anything less will hurt your sales.
I found that the best way to generate great reviews is to simply do a great job! Why pay for online ads when you can get the same or better results with a 4.5-star rating on Yelp?
When you do any online shopping yourself, don’t you usually look at the highest-rated stores, services or products? I also look at the 1- and 2-star ratings if I want to know what people don’t like before I decide to patronize a business.
Whenever you have a customer complaint, make sure you resolve it quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction! Turn an unhappy customer into a happy one by going above and beyond what they expect, and you effectively turn that person into an avid sales rep for you! You may even get a 1-star review turned into 5 stars!
There you have what I believe are the important factors to reach laundry success. I wish you luck in your pursuit.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].