BERKELEY SPRINGS, W. Va. — Now that your laundry is up and running, how do you make it meet or exceed the national numbers on turns per machine we all talk about?
I hope you have taken the time and made the effort to develop a marketing plan. This is essential for any business. Of course, you may be fortunate enough to have instant success due to luck. Ask yourself this question: Am I willing to hope all goes well with a significant investment on the line? If you don’t have a marketing plan, take the time to make one now and increase your rate of success. If you are rolling and feel it is not necessary, beware, after the newness wears off, business may slow down. The marketing plan may also increase your revenue and profitability beyond your expectations.
Keep things simple, and follow the acronym, KISS — Keep it Simple, Stupid.
A) Know your competition — What size machines do they have and what are the vend prices? Who are their customers? Do they offer drop-off service? What do they charge? What ancillary businesses do they offer? What is the overall condition/appearance of the store?
B) Know your product and your strengths — How important is price? Who is your customer and how do you appeal to that customer? What will attract customers to your store? A simple demographic survey of the local population can be of great value.
C) Emphasize aspects of your store that will make potential customers notice and spend money with you — Get the message out to them by:
• advertising — ads in newspapers, flyers, Yellow Pages listings, signage and direct mail
• in-store promotions — specials, free drying, giveaways, punch cards
• outside promotions — door hangers, register receipts and
• public relations — what others say about your store is vital to your success.
D) Track results — What is the revenue of each size machine? What specials work? What days and times are busiest?
E) Be repetitive and consistent — Repeat what works over and over, invest in what works, and don’t give up.
TAKING A CLOSER LOOK
Now that you have a plan in place, what works to attract business and increase revenue? Knowing which machines do the most turns is very important. Certain customers, both regular and occasional, use different size machines for different purposes. Large washers work for large families, as well as the homeowner with bedspreads, comforters, rugs, etc. Each turn of the larger washer and dryer offers more revenue and more profit. The expense per use does not increase that much proportionately per pound, while the vend price is substantially greater. It only makes sense then to promote the use of larger equipment.
Promoting the word “big” in the store name, advertising, flyers, drop-off service and signage should bolster the use (and overall profit) of the 40- to 80-pound washers and the 45-pound stack and 75-pound dryers.
Is it wise to offer specials when the revenue per turn is less than you want to earn? Maximizing turns is the name of the game. Earning something on each machine is much better than earning nothing. Normally, weekends are busy times, and specials may not be necessary on these days. However, perhaps promoting drop-off service to these customers would be smart. Getting them to drop off items while doing their laundry and picking them up on Monday or Tuesday gives your attendants work during these normally slow periods. Offering a discount to do this is a win-win. Quite often, the items dropped off will require the larger equipment, which, as already discussed, is more profitable.
Offering free drying at certain times or on certain days can increase overall turns and profit during normally slow times. Careful tracking of your business will point out times when specials and “good deals” can be helpful with profitability. Going to free dry every day should be carefully thought out. Will it increase turns on normally very busy days? This might actually decrease revenue.
Knowing your customers is vital. Eighty-three percent live less than one mile from the nearest laundry. Sixty-four percent visit the laundry once a week. A demographic survey can assist in determining family size. Who uses the smaller machines? Who’s using the top loaders? How many single people or students are close by? When do they do laundry (day and time of day) and what will entice them to your store? Perhaps door hangers in dormitories or in apartment buildings with a high number of efficiency and/or one-bedroom apartments can help bring them to your store.
Promoting drop-off service is a direct opportunity for marketing. You are after a customer who you “train” to get in a routine of consistently using this service. Convenience is a major selling point today. Perhaps you can train these people to drop off items on slow days when your attendants have more free time, and receive a free cup of coffee on their way to work.
Try using a punch card to document visits and reward customers for every six to 10 times they use this service. Run an ad in the paper offering coupons to use at your store. Carefully read the copy before placing the ad. An error could be expensive. Cash register tapes from the local grocery store or a consistent Val-Pak coupon target your customer. With the economy being slow, coupons of this type will be appreciated and more likely redeemed.
Targeting those people most likely to use your store, being consistent, being repetitive, keeping it simple, tracking results and offering enticing specials are all important. A well-thought-out marketing strategy, followed by its implementation, should help maximize turns per day.
With all this said about marketing, nothing can outweigh the positive effect of a well-run store. It needs to be clean and well lit, have good signage (in Spanish, as well) and enough dryers to prevent waiting, and have very personable attendants. A good attendant trained to promote your services and acknowledge regular customers will complete your marketing effort.