Making a Good First Impression

By Brian Dyches posted 08-30-2017 13:35

Here Are 10 Key Exterior Design Elements That Impact Your Customers Before They Ever Walk Through Your Doors

The exterior setting of your laundry can – and will – have a direct impact on your store’s overall performance. Simply put, it’s all about perception and its impact on your brand values.

When was the last time you looked around your parking lot, or at your neighbors’ lot? And what impact are those tired old window graphics having on your marketing message?

Whatever the eyesore, be assured that your customers are affected by these negative elements as they walk into your laundry. The old adage of “judging a book by its cover” has never been more applicable.

With that said, how can you turn any negatives you (and your potential customers) may notice into positives for your business?

First of all, there are 10 key exterior elements that make the strongest impact with customers. Each of the following elements should be reviewed on a regular cycle to ensure its compliance to your brand message:

1. Storefront signage
2. Roadside signage
3. Windows
4. Building exterior material (wood, metal, etc.)
5. Pavement
6. Ease of entering/exiting
7. Parking layout
8. Lighting
9. Sounds
10. Landscaping

I suggest a complete walk around the exterior of your laundry business – armed with a legal pad and a camera. This will enable you to notate obvious issues, and the photos will allow for an ongoing assessment, as well as documentation of progress.

In addition, consider asking a long-term customer and a brand new client the following: “What’s memorable about our exterior?” You likely will find the answers insightful and useful as you map out your exterior strategy.

Best Ways to Impact Exterior Elements

Storefront Signage:

• Red is the most dominant color in signage.
• Use a little “kiss” of this color, when allowed by landlords or city ordinances.
• Red is always the preferred signage color, when appropriate.
• Too much red can result in a passive attitude. It’s all about balance.
• Red can be used either in the lettering spelling out your name, or as an icon shape clearly indicating your service offerings.

Roadside Signage: Less is Truly More

• Look first at the average speed at which a customer passes by your store. Once determined, this will allow you to gauge just how many seconds your storefront and sign have to make an impact.
• The sign should be comprised of a simple-to-read font (such as Arial) and be as large as possible.
• The wording should be nothing more than the highlights (i.e., Wash-Dry-Fold), versus a long marketing tag line.
• Remember, at 45 mph your sign must be read in less than three seconds.

Store Windows:

Similar to signage, a window should be “read” in a matter of several seconds. Windows are not meant to “window shop,” except in rare cases. Therefore, a window should be considered a “marketing message,” versus strictly a portal. Due to the reflective nature of glass, it’s imperative to remember the simple rule of window merchandising – less is more. The most impactful displays are those with color and graphics. It’s much more memorable to see someone enjoying a clean sheet or shirt in a large-format image.

Building Exterior Material:

The exterior materials of a building will have an impact on price/value perception. A clearly metal building will give off a “warehouse” feel and image, while a stucco building will appear more upscale. Regardless of your circumstance, it pays to be aware.


Pea gravel or asphalt? Whatever the surface of your parking area, be aware that, once feet hit the pavement, the perception game is notched up a level. Keeping the surface clean and smooth is the same as having clean water. Clean, well-marked parking lines are always a great welcome mat. You need to sell clean at every step.

Ease of Entering/Exiting:

After a hectic day or drive, your customers don’t want to have to “search” to find the front door. Look carefully at your layout and determine if your entry point is in full view and easily located. If not, consider adding color to the doors to make them stand out. Also, a colorful walk-off mat with your logo and plants make the entry not only visible but pleasant to look at as well.

Parking Layout:

Determine the make and model of the cars most often found in front of your laundry. If within your influence, gauge the size and angle to ensure that adequate space allowance is made. Consider striping your lot with mini-logos, versus the standard white/yellow lines. (Of course, handicap spaces will still need to be painted in a blue color, as dictated by ADA rules and regulations.) This added touch plays well within the mind of your customers, when they aren’t frustrated by having to squeeze into a small space or are being asked to parallel-park against a building.


Ample lighting in a parking lot lends to an increase in safety perception – both for the customers and for your own sake. Regardless of your location and hours, lighting is one of those choice picks when it comes to enduring impressions. By seeing those light poles, customers (and would-be vandals) are given the impression that you care. However, it pays to be selective when choosing the light fixture itself. Select a look that not only fits your building’s architecture but also distinguishes your locale as a special place.


A noisy highway or a major intersection is a distraction. What a delight it is for customers to arrive, open their doors and hear music or recorded marketing messages masking all of the noise distraction. Whether delivered via “rock-like” speakers or some other means, reaching your customers with audio will make a strong impression. I would suggest playing only instrumental selections, as these are best at connecting emotionally to the buying desires.


A few plants can make a big difference and are the perfect way to bring some color to your storefront. Putting them on rolling platforms will make moving them at night easy, while rewarding your customer with a pleasant setting during the day.


Get Set for Success

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