GLENDALE, Ariz. — Promotions can be of the long-term variety or the short-term variety. An example of a short-term promotion is a sale on a group of washers to get a quick, measurable boost in store traffic. Long-term promotions are designed to create more awareness of your Laundromat in the eyes of the general public so when someone needs to use a mat in your market, they’ll think of yours first.

That said, the best long-term promotion, the one that will indeed boost your bottom line, is simply keeping your mat in pristine condition. Let your competitors offer the public a run-down mat. Your mat should be the nicest, cleanest, best-running mat in your area.

Yes, this costs money and time, but you will be rewarded with excellent word-of-mouth advertising. No better advertising than that.

Let’s say that, for $25, you can drive a car that’s beaten up but runs. But for $35, you can drive a fire red sports car that looks like it just left the dealer’s lot.

This is exactly the same thing when comparing a cheap, run-down “charity” mat to a beautiful, well-run mat where everything looks and operates like brand-new. You get to charge more on just about everything in your mat (unless you run a sale).

So, step back and take an honest assessment of your business from top to bottom. Your goal? To simply make it the best mat in your area.

Your water should be hot enough. Your dryers should be hot enough. Your washers should show a satisfying water level. You should have enough laundry carts, folding tables, and seating. You should have plenty of lighting and surveillance cameras to make people feel safe. The inside temperatures should never get too hot or too cold for customers.

Simply put, your mat should look and operate as close to being a brand-new mat as possible. Keep your mat looking like new and your sales will grow.

There are other promos that will boost your bottom line:

HIRE GREAT EMPLOYEES AND INCENTIVIZE

Give these employees a “piece of the action.” Be creative. Maybe a small percentage of your over-the-counter sales or drop-off service. It’s up to you, but if an employee has a vested interest in your mat, your sales will grow. That’s especially true nowadays in this strong economy where it’s hard to find and retain great workers.

BOOST YOUR SLOW DAYS

What better way to increase your sales than by drawing people who can use your mat on its slowest days? The best answer to that is offering a senior citizen discount.

Retired people can come any day of the week. Working people cannot, which is why we get jammed up on weekends and holidays when working people are off.

I’ve seen supermarkets that will offer a mid-week senior citizen discount. So give them something like 10% off, or free detergent, or a “Dollar Back Deal.” Be creative. And it’s so easy to identify seniors—just ask to see a driver’s license.

DISCOUNT A GROUP OF WASHERS

Smart store owners are already doing this. Take your slowest (least-used) group of washers and do something like a half-price summer special, or a buck off your triple loaders.

If your slowest washer group is located near the back, so much the better. People will have to pass all the other washers to get there. People will be lured into your mat to check out the discounted machines, but some will stop to use other washers on the way, simply out of convenience.

It’s a trick that department stores use. They make you pass key, high-profit departments (think jewelry, makeup, etc.) before you get to the mattresses that they have on sale, for instance.

CONSIDER THE POWER OF ‘FREE’

It’s one of the most powerful advertising words out there. Advertising a low sale price on your slowest group of washers is good, but a “Use One Double-load Washer, Get the Second Machine Free” deal really gets their attention!

Make sure sales like these are always temporary or else you run the risk of a competitor matching your deal or worse—lowering all their prices. If you run a sale for one or two months, your competitors will be much more likely to simply wait out your promo.

A limited-time offer also has the benefit of motivating customers to come in right away so they can grab the sale before it expires.

An effective trick that I used with great results was putting a big sign in the window advertising the sale and noting when it would be ending, complete with a “daily countdown” of days left. The last sale week was a doozy when customers rushed in every day to take advantage of the deal before it ended.

Offering free dry is something that many veterans stay away from. Yes, it is one of the most powerful promos that a mat can offer, but it tends to ruin markets because competitors will be highly motivated to match it.

Free dry can be an effective tool, especially if you have a card-operated mat and you can raise your wash prices to help fund the free dry. So if you decide to do this, keep in mind that you will almost surely have more than one competitor match you and maybe even outdo you with lower wash prices. It can get ugly.

GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY

Contact the LaundryCares Foundation or a local charitable organization to see if your mat is large enough to host a “Free Laundry Day.” If done correctly, the local media will publicize the event and your store. You may even get your local politicians to show up, especially if you are also incorporating a community reading program that is often part of these events. For example, Libraries Without Borders teams with LaundryCares to bring in trained people to help your customers’ children to read at your mat.

You get lots of publicity and response, plus you get to be the good guy by giving back and helping out your community.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!