CHICAGO — Earlier this year, we introduced “Incorporating Pickup and Delivery,” a three-part series exploring the hot service trend. Part 1 in February examined the labor and workflow considerations tied to such a service through the eyes of a trio of laundry owners. Part 2 in May featured several more owners who assessed the use of delivery vehicles, computer software and potential add-ons the new service can require.
As our series concludes this month, laundry service owners who contributed earlier return to answer our questions about marketing and promoting their service.
Q: Are there specific promotions or enticements that are better suited for pickup and delivery customers than other kinds of laundry customers?
Todd Ofsink, owner of Todd Layne Cleaners & Laundromat, New York City: Offering a heavily subsidized delivery fee, or sometimes free for customers that live close to our store, has been very helpful for PUD customers. A first-time free $10 in services is also a great way to stimulate a PUD customer to use you for the first time. At times, we will offer PUD customers $10 in free services for their first four times using us. This builds a routine for them and makes it more likely that they will use us in the future.
Hank Nelken, owner of three Half-Price Laundry locations in California’s San Fernando Valley: We offer a discount on the first order and 100% money-back guarantee. I think that helps new customers get over their resistance and actually place an order. That and I make sure to show a lot of reviews. Social validation is important, especially since they are not speaking to anyone directly.
Mark Vlaskamp, co-owner and managing partner of The Folde, a laundry pickup and delivery service that relies on laundromats it owns in Houston and Austin, Texas, as processing hubs: I've noticed that PUD ordering habits are impulsive. Something happens and you decide to get help with laundry. Our best ability is our availability. In our testing, customers that can’t get laundry picked up within 24 hours tend to fall out of the funnel, likely opting to handle the laundry themselves. Also, knowing that laundry service orders are impulsive, we try to keep a constant reminder to our customers that we're here to help.
When route density is low, you’d be shocked how many orders you can get by simply texting the customers asking if they want to schedule a pickup. We’ve found text marketing and automation converts around 25%, which is about triple what our best marketing email converts. It’s a handy tool in our tool belt to make sure route density stays optimal.
Kristyn Van Ostern, co-owner of Wash Street, a laundry services company based in Manchester, New Hampshire: Pickup and delivery customers are more likely to be online, so they are more interested in coupon codes and specials that incentivize certain pickup or delivery days.
Colleen Unema, owner of Brio Laundry, Bellingham, Washington: Yes, we feel they don’t need discounts, they need service. So we simply offer additional services that our route drivers pick up on: dog beds, bedding, baby stuff. This suggestion is usually on the thank-you card or additional note written by the driver: “Did you know we do dog blankets and beds? Let me know if you want me to take them in next week, xxx-xxxx.”
Laura Simoes, co-owner of Wash Street: Having an app allows us to update offers frequently, and time discounts for slower days.
Lloyd Silver, owner of Sage Laundry, Woodland, California: I’m a big fan of guarantees. You need to place some parameters around your guarantee to protect yourself from abuse, but for many people this might be their first time using a laundry service and they are nervous. The more we can assure them that their laundry is in good hands, the easier it’ll be for us to get them as a customer.
The real secret of guarantees is that hardly anybody will take you up on it. There have been plenty of research studies that show this to be true. So far, I haven’t had a single customer raise the guarantee issue although there have been a couple of cases where I’ve reached out with our guarantee in mind when I read feedback that I wasn’t 100% happy about (it wasn’t bad, but didn’t meet my personal expectations).
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about marketing or promoting a laundry pickup and delivery service?
Nelken: Do anything you can do to entice a customer to place that first order. Then win them over with excellent service and you’ll have them for life.
Vlaskamp: Marketing to delivery laundry service customers is a different game than marketing to traditional laundromat customers. You’re not competing against local laundromats, you’re competing with digital-first laundry apps. These digital-first laundry apps do not process any of the cleaning, instead pairing the customer with a cleaning partner (whether laundromat or freelance contractor) to do the laundry. With no laundry to worry about, these apps hone their focus on marketing. Traditional coin-op marketing typically doesn’t cut it when it comes to PUD.
Van Ostern: Our pickup and delivery service didn’t start to really take off until we added paid advertising (Google Ads). For us, Google Ads have been much more effective than social media ads and marketing.
Unema: Follow up on requests! Do not leave them hanging for a callback. Start to keep track (of) where/what type of requests you are getting and create a plan to serve them. Then call them back and offer it. Second, stay focused on the prize! Self-serve laundry is No. 1, in-store laundry No. 2, and No. 3 is PUD service. So don’t convert your self-serve laundry customers into PUD customers! Let them be, and focus on expanding your reach with PUD; get new PUD customers and convert them to self-serve customers.
Silver: It’s critical that you understand the value of a customer. Once you have that in mind, you can determine how much you can spend to acquire that customer and still achieve your desired ROI. To understand that value and the costs associated with your marketing, you need good data and a way to process and analyze that data.
Ofsink: We are located in New York City and have many new “competitors” that don’t have a storefront, laundromat, or anything else. They are simply technology platforms that use drivers to pick up/deliver laundry and outsource all work to other laundromats. It is essential in a metro area where these services operate to let potential PUD customers know your large competitive advantage—that you do your own work, and emphasize your high quality standards. When you bring this to the attention of potential PUD customers, they will almost always stick with you.
Laundromat owners should post this information on their website, Google Dashboard, review sites and all other social media platforms. We have found that PUD customers are very attached to their garments and some of their most important concerns are related to potential loss and damage. Letting them know that you do your own work just emphasizes that you can be trusted.
Miss earlier parts of this article? You can them here: Part 1 — Part 2
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].