By Bob Eisenberg | Sep 02, 2009
I recently received the following question to a past article I wrote for Planet Laundry:
“Do you have any great ideas for marketing in a middle-class neighborhood for a small, clean, meticulously maintained and middle-price store that recently re-opened? It is currently turning one cycle per day. My objective is to raise vend cycles and launch WDF ASAP. We have been putting out 800 flyers per week. Any ideas that may help?”
There is no “cookie cutter” answer to this question. There may be many different variables, and the answer may be complicated – but first there are several questions to ask:
1. Why did the store close?
2. What are the demographics?
3. What is the competition? And is there any new competition?
4. What is the parking situation?
5. What else is in the shopping center?
6. What are the current vend prices?
7. What are the vend prices in the area?
8. What is the age and mix of equipment?
9. How much equipment is out of order?
Assuming that there are no unsolvable answers to the above questions, the answer is a combination of marketing, advertising, store management, persistence and hard work.
Sending out mailings is good, but it’s what you say in the flyers that counts. When you see an ad for a department store touting “10 percent off,” does that move you to go there as quickly as 50 percent off? A store that closed was probably shuttered due in part to bad management and poor customer service; therefore, your message has to be dramatic in order to get customers back to a store in which they may have had an unpleasant experience.
Some attention-grabbing headlines on your ads, as well as on signage or banners outside your store, could be “Under New Ownership” or “Grand Re-Opening.”
Your re-opening specials should be half-price washers for an entire “Grand Re-Opening Month.” You need to get the customers back more than once to reestablish the habit of using your store. Yes, your customer is spending $8 per visit rather than $12 (remember, your dryers are still at regular price). However, consider that a regular customer who spends only $10 per visit is worth approximately $500 per year to your laundry business. What would you pay to get a customer worth $500 per year? Would you spend $20? Of course you would.
A follow-up special could be something along the lines of one wash free with a paid wash.
With regard to your wash-dry-fold service, which will probably be a major revenue stream for a small store in a middle-class neighborhood, try a “$5 off” coupon (with an order of 10 pounds or more). You may have to introduce this service to the neighborhood by saying something like: “Save time! 10-minute wash and dry – 5 minutes to drop off, 5 minutes to pick up! Results guaranteed!”
A follow-up special could be a “baker’s dozen,” every 13th wash-dry-fold order free (average poundage from the first 12).
Also, other follow-up self-service laundry specials can include:
• “$1 Tuesday” – for your 20-pound washers, which are normally $2.
• Bonus Club – one free wash during a certain time period.
• Postcard mailer to customers who register, featuring a coupon good for $5 off your wash-dry-fold service or one free wash with a paid wash.
• Free coffee and donuts.
• Pizza night.
• Grand opening gala.
• Monthly raffles – plus, basket giveaways during the Easter season; prizes and entertainment on Cinco de Mayo; a television giveaway on the 4th of July; turkey giveaways on Thanksgiving; and gift cards to popular retailers during Christmas.
• Market specifically to homeowners with advertising messages like: “Do your blankets, bedspreads, comforters and sleeping bags” and “Do your entire week’s wash in no time.”
Of course, in-store marketing also is important. Your attendants need to be trained to treat your customers exactly the way you want; they should be given an attendant manual (the CLA has great resources for creating such manuals), and they also should have clear job descriptions.
You also may want to reach out to the community, regarding your drop-off laundry business. Try to find locations where you can pick up several bundles at a time, such as office buildings, senior residences, apartment complexes and so on.
Network with other business. Join local business associations and go to the meetings. Advertise in the local newspapers, support local charities and organizations. In other words, get to know the community.
Clearly, it is important to set a budget for your initial – and ongoing – advertising. The CLA recommends 2 percent to 5 percent of your projected annual sales as an annual advertising budget.
In today’s economy, consumers are used to seeing discounts and flyers from all types of retailers. And, contrary to what many store owners believe, self-service laundries do indeed require advertising and marketing.