CHICAGO, Ill. — In my last column, I wrote about how some operators get fixated on costs, and how you need to get past this thought process if you want to be a good operator. You need to ask yourself one basic question: What makes the customer come to me instead of the guy down the street?
Price is not the major factor when it comes to attracting customers. When customers visit your laundry they want a good experience. To create this experience, you first need to go through your laundry and see what you have to offer and what you are missing. Once you get your business in order you need to get more eyes to look at your store.
TWO TYPES OF ADVERTISING
Most laundries draw customers from a small geographic area. There are two basic types of advertising that need to be practiced. One is for the current customers. For them, you need to run in-store promotions and giveaways. This will keep your steady, regular customers happy. These customers will tell friends about what you do for them.
How many people will go home and tell their neighbors that they won a prize or received free food or soap at “their” laundry? It becomes almost like a point of pride with some people telling their friends and family about how good their deal is. Do something small for the current customer today and their appreciation will grow your business tomorrow.
The other type of advertising is a little harder. How do you deal with a person living outside your normal geographic drawing area? These customers are hard to get and harder to keep. You will need a plan to reach them and then hold onto them.
You can try direct mail pieces with great offers and specials touting your store’s features, advantages and benefits. These people need to get something that will make it worthwhile for them to change their routine and visit you instead of their regular stop. Once you get these people in your store, you need to be on your game and offer the best experience possible. It’s a good idea to have your house in order before you go through the expense of bringing these people to your store. Like they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Get ready and give them a great experience.
Today’s customer is more knowledgeable when it comes to what they want and need. When you look at your area and your store, you have to make sure you offer services that make sense. Don’t offer things that you can’t do well or services in which you're not committed to being the best.
The No. 1 need and want for today’s customer is time. No matter who it is, everyone seems to have less and less time to complete their chores. Let’s face it: most of our customers think that laundry is a chore, no matter how fun we make it.
What if we tell customers what they need and want? It’s funny to hear someone say, “Take my advice when it comes to laundry.” We can give that to our customers through our choices. When you purchase 75-pound machines you’re telling the customer that he/she needs to use a larger, more economical machine. You have just helped your customer, as well as yourself, save time and money. If you have one of the first stores with 75-pound stack dryers to go along with the larger washers, you again are telling the customers what they need and want.
Remember, the customers’ needs are changing. You have the ability to make decisions, through your offerings, to deal with those needs. At the end of the day, you and your customer can both win. The question is, will you act before your customer leaves you to find someone else to satisfy his wants and needs? Will you tell them you have them covered without anyone even knowing what you did for them (and yourself)? Is your store going to be a market leader or are you going to play catch up with the big boys? The choice is yours.