One of the most difficult tasks for any small-business owner is marketing to new customers and communicating with existing customers to keep them coming back. As those who own or manage a self-service laundry know, the industry has undergone a transformation of late. Visiting a Laundromat can be more of an enjoyable experience, which can help take the drudgery out of doing laundry and will attract more customers.My Quark team (Quark Inc. helps small businesses create professional marketing material) recently set out to learn about the challenges that small businesses face, and specifically about some of our first target customers — which included self-service laundry owners and drycleaners. What I learned about the changes happening within the self-service laundry industry was eye-opening.I discovered that more and more self-service laundries are featuring a variety of services, comfortable atmospheres, and even fun events. However, the challenge that many of you face is informing customers of these positive changes. Increasing visibility and creating more traffic does not have to be difficult. A self-service laundry owner can attract new customers through a simple plan that is based on direct communication with the potential customers near your store.GEO-TARGETING CUSTOMERSThe first order of business is to determine who you will target. For a reasonable cost, you can purchase lists of residential addresses by ZIP codes from list vendors or direct-mailing services. Laundry owners can determine the ZIP codes near their stores that might generate the most potential customers. It will be more expensive to get the names of each resident, so to cut costs you can send postcards and other marketing items to the “Resident” at each address.DIRECT-MARKETING THAT SELLSCreating direct-marketing pieces that are both informative and well-designed has traditionally been left to professional designers. While a designer can deliver a unique logo, the services to create items such as brochures, postcards, and other promotional material can be cost-prohibitive. The good news is that it’s easy to find an online service that allows you to easily create professional-looking marketing material, such as business cards, postcards, brochures, flyers and coupons.When looking for an online service to help you create the marketing essentials required to help you promote your business, be sure to look for:
- Professional marketing copy — If you’re not a designer, you may not be a writer, either. Get a head start by choosing a service that provides marketing copy that is written specifically for the laundry industry.
- Color themes — It’s likely that you already have a logo that works for you. Be sure that the online-marketing template you chose allows you to upload your logo and choose a color theme that complements your logo.
- Photography — Imagery is a must! You can say a lot with a photo of your sparkling-clean laundry or your cozy waiting area. Regardless of what image you select, be sure the service allows you to upload your own photography.
- Stock photos — If the photos from your digital camera aren’t quite what you had in mind, check to see if the online-marketing service offers free stock photography. Some services charge for extra images, while others encourage you to select from a wide variety of industry-appropriate photos.
- A network of professional printers — If your current strategy is to print at home, think again. You will normally spend more money on toner — not to mention your time — than if you have your printing done professionally at a local printer.
COMMUNICATION FREQUENCYNow that you have your marketing materials and mailing list, it’s important to create a plan for reaching out to people on a regular basis. Frequent communication creates a relationship that nurtures customer loyalty and drives visits.There are a number of reasons for communicating with people:Store amenities — Did you recently install card-activated machines? Potential customers may not know how easy it is to pop in for a load or two of laundry. Have you started to offer drop-off service? Do you have large front loaders? Have you added a 75-pound dryer? Even folks with a washer and dryer at home may sometimes need a machine that accommodates larger loads. Let them know that you can help.
- You’re the expert — People often mistreat everyday stains like grease or ketchup. Become a trusted source by sending a direct-mail postcard that includes your stain-removal “tip-of-the-month.” This will help you be perceived as a valued resource to potential customers.
- Make it fun — People put off doing laundry, but perhaps they would stop procrastinating if they could spend the wait watching a hilarious blockbuster or Hollywood classic. Consider starting a weekly movie night to attract customers who like doing laundry late in the evening.
- Partner with a neighbor — Is there a coffee shop, deli, or bar next door? Ask them to offer your clients a coupon for a snack or beverage, and if they do, you’ll encourage your clients to visit them while they wait for their laundry. You’ll both get exposure, and your customer wins, too.
DON’T FORGETIt may sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes the most obvious information is accidentally left off of marketing material. Before you hit the “print” or “send” button, double-check that you have included the following on all your customer communications:
- Hours of operation
- Phone number
- Website URL (if applicable)
- Call to action!