By Alex Kane | Sep 15, 2010
In the coin laundry business, it is important to always keep one step ahead of the pack. It is not only necessary to keep your existing customers, but perhaps even more importantly, you must obtain new customers to gain market share. At the very least, you need to replace customers who have moved or otherwise stopped patronizing your laundry.
In the past, the telephone directory was an optimum source for the consumer to find local businesses that offer the services they need. In this digital age, a more effective tool for consumers to find your business is the almighty Internet. How can you ensure that your customers find you? Building and maintaining your Internet presence is the key.
I’m going to share ideas for building a web presence without creating a custom website. There are many websites where you can “fill in the blanks” on large established networks like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. The best part is that basic listings on these sites are completely free – all it takes is time.
I’m listing a few specific options below, which I feel are best suited to a self-service laundry business (in order of priority):
The most obvious place to start is with the leader in Internet searching – Google. Since most people use Google as their preferred method to search the web, it makes sense to be sure that Google has complete information about your business. Start by visiting Google Places at www.google.com/places. If you don’t have a Google account, you’ll need to start by signing up for one. After you sign in, click the “List Your Business” link and follow the instructions. Include as much information about your business as you can provide. This will help Google to list your business in the results when someone searches for your business type and/or location. You can also explore business listings on the other popular search engines like Yahoo, Bing, Ask and AOL. (Ask and AOL get data on their business listings from infoUSA).
Yelp is a website that allows consumers to review their experiences with businesses they have visited. If your laundry business is not currently on the site, a customer can add your business if they want to write a review. You may already be on Yelp.
To get started, visit www.yelp.com and search for your business, which you can without signing up. If you find your business, you can click the red “Claim This Business” button to start refining your listing; you’ll have to sign up first, but it’s very simple. If your business is not listed, you’ll definitely want to sign up and get yourself “on the map.”
Make your listing as relevant as possible by adding store hours, photos and even special offers. Also, by taking an active role in your business listing on Yelp, you can respond to any review or comment with your “own side of the story,” either publicly or privately.
Yelp also has applications than can run on most of the new cell phones and mobile devices. Running these “apps” is a wonderful way for customers to find businesses close to them, especially when traveling in an unfamiliar city. Make sure you capture these customers by ensuring that your laundry is listed.
YouTube allows users to post videos of virtually anything. What better way to show off your store, equipment and amenities than with a video? A quick video tour of your store with simple voiceover explaining what is being seen is both easy and informative. Don’t have a video camera? Ask your friends or family if they have one you can borrow. You can even buy a simple video camera that is made to shoot videos and post them to YouTube for just over $100. Make sure to keep you overall video short (about three minutes). After all, the attention span of the typical Internet user is short.
Once your video is ready, log on to www.youtube.com and sign up for an account. Click on the “Upload” link on the top of the screen and upload your video. Make sure to fill in the information associated with your video while uploading to get the maximum exposure. In the tags section, list words that you think people would commonly use to search your business (laundry, laundromat, your city name, your neighborhood, etc.).
No article on increasing your web presence would be complete without listing the king of social networking sites, www.facebook.com. However, you’ll notice that I’m not listing this site as the top priority. Having a Facebook page for your business is probably a good idea, and it can be used to promote your business. However, I don’t think people are using Facebook like a phone book to find local businesses (although that could change in the future).
To create a Facebook listing for your business, you first need to sign up for an account (for you personally) and then you can create a page for your business with the following link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php. Once your business page is created, you need to get people to connect to your page, generally by clicking the “Like” button on the page. By doing this, you will create a network of people who you can connect with.
One important note regarding Facebook: it is best to create new posts frequently. These can be announcements of special offers, new services, relevant news articles, videos or anything else. The most important way to benefit from Facebook is with consistent and fresh listings on your page.
Twitter allows users to post short messages (under 140 characters) and share them with the world. There has been a lot of talk about www.twitter.com being the next best thing on the Internet, and it does have some specific uses. As far as its relevance to a coin laundry owner, I’m still not convinced.
If you want to experiment with Twitter, it’s very easy to sign up and start “tweeting,” which is what it’s called when you post a message on the site. If you are using this exclusively for your business, be sure your user name contains your business name (i.e. tomslaundry). To use Twitter effectively, you must tweet often and consistently. In the land of Twitter, anything older than a week is irrelevant.
FourSquare is a newer website that is similar to Yelp but with more of a social networking style. With this site, people can locate friends in their social networks and arrange to meet up at featured locations. They can also leave short, Twitter-like comments on the sites they are visiting. Although enhancing a location listing on www.foursquare.com couldn’t hurt, this site might be more suited to a restaurant or bar or other social gathering point. I list it here because it’s an interesting blend of the above sites, and it may be something to look out for in the future.
By following these simple guidelines, you can easily create a web presence for your business without spending any money or creating a custom-built website. I think you’ll be surprised how many people find your coin laundry by searching the web.