NEW ORLEANS — Print and word-of-mouth advertising are go-to tactics for many coin laundry store owners in promoting their business, but as usage of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter has become the norm for many consumers, how can store owners create a stronger presence online?
As part of its educational session lineup during the recent Clean Show, the Coin Laundry Association (CLA) hosted a panel discussion regarding Internet marketing, and how several laundry store owners have mastered a plan for making their business’ presence known not only locally but in the online community.
The panel featured Tyler Blair, owner of The WashBoard Laundry in San Diego; Deborah Dower, owner of Paradise Laundry in Northern California; and Duane King, owner of LMARIES Laundromat in Bowling Green, Ohio. CLA Digital Marketing Manager Jamie Sewell acted as moderator.
YOUR DIGITAL DOORMAT
For Blair, marketing The WashBoard was paramount. Though the store had been around for 20 years, he explains that its previous owners did little to market and manage the store.
After dabbling in print marketing, and seeing little return, he decided to increase his online efforts by setting up a website.
“What I did with my website is that I really wanted to drive people to these other places [like] Facebook, Yelp [and] Google Places,” says Blair. “The website is almost your digital doormat.”
He primarily uses Facebook to promote store happenings and deals.
“As a business, it’s just a great way to create kind of a community. Customers post pictures and comments [and] you can get the word out about deals,” says Blair. “The one thing I like about putting ads on Facebook is you can do it by ZIP code, gender, age or interest.”
He has found the greatest success with local business-review website Yelp, saying that more than 95% of his new customers discover his Laundromat on the website.
To date, The WashBoard is the highest-rated Laundromat among residents in the San Diego area, garnering a five-star rating and more than 80 user reviews, according to Blair.
Though he’s used websites such as Groupon to offer deals and promotions, he prefers Yelp’s system. “What’s interesting about Yelp versus Groupon is people actually go to Yelp’s website to read about your business, whereas Groupon … sends an e-mail blast out. So when someone goes to your website, they clearly have a need for laundry.”
One area of his business that Blair decided to promote on Yelp and Facebook is fluff-and-fold.
“When I bought the Laundromat, the previous owners were [making] between $300 to $500 a month on fluff-and-fold. About halfway through 2011, I decided I was going to push fluff-and-fold on Yelp and Facebook to see what would happen.”
The risk paid off. By the end of 2011, he generated $9,666 through the service, making even more as time went by. By the end of 2012, the service made $32,743. He reports that, as of May, he’s already made $40,536 in fluff-and-fold sales this year, all from promoting the service through the websites.
“I never expected this,” he says. “It’s causing me to rethink my whole business model because [fluff-and-fold is now] almost 35% of my revenue.”
One other aspect about Yelp that Blair likes is the ability for customers to leave reviews.
“When a customer leaves comments about your business, I think that has much more clout because you’re not paying them to say things about your business.”
POWER OF USER REVIEWS
King can attest to the power of user reviews. In addition to managing a website and various social-media accounts to promote LMARIES Laundromat, he uses Google Places to gauge customer feedback.
“A lot of you probably haven’t gone to Google Places [but] other customers have. They’ve already written you good or bad feedback,” says King. “I don’t know about you, but when I read a website’s … reviews, I’m not only interested in the good reviews, I want to know the bad reviews.”
Blair agrees, adding, “Negative reviews [are] ways you can correct business operations.”
The work involved in setting up a free Google Places page is fairly minimal, according to King. Because many businesses may already be listed on the website, all owners have to do is “claim” their page through a phone verification process, allowing owners to edit and manage their listing.
For King, the benefits of using Google Places have added up. “If you have one referral from Google Places a day, assuming 10% of clicks become customers, that equals about 36 customers per year,” he says. “That results, in my average customer use, about $18,000 a year in new business.”
Another way that King has tracked his business growth using Google Places is through new card sales.
“[In] January I … checked the activity on Google for every day of the month, and I also went out to my card system and I checked new card sales for every day of the month. All the new card sales [were] on the same day as people went to Google Places. I remind you, Google Places did not cost me anything and it’s driving all these new customers to my store.”
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!