A Look at the Various Tools Available to Get Out the Word About Your Laundry Business[This is the second of a two-part series on successfully branding a vended laundry business.]
In my last article, I discussed the promises we make to our customers at Perfect Wash – Express Laundry Center. As a refresher, the word “promise” was taken from Entrepreneur Media’s definition of branding:“Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”
In the first part of this series, I explained that our brand includes having the cleanest store in Southern California. We’re also friendly and safe, as well as modern and able. We’ve woven ourselves into the fabric of our community by renewing our promises to our customers every time they visit.
This time, I’m going to highlight the tools we use to broadcast our brand to our customers.
Marketing is easier if you’re marketing something of substance and your message is authentic. Therefore, the single greatest attribute of Perfect Wash – as well as my greatest success as its owner – is authenticity. You can sell your customers practically anything… if it’s authentic.Website and SEO
Like most businesses, today’s laundries can experience great exposure just by having a simple, credible website. Perhaps surprisingly, only about 28 percent vended laundries boast any type of website or online presence, according to recent Coin Laundry Association statistics. As a result, just having a decent website will place your store at the top of an extremely localized market.
My site – PerfectWashHB.com
– is a simple site that was built by my distributor’s creative services department. It features only a handful of pages, which outline the details of our services: self-service, drop-off service, pickup and delivery and specials. It also contains our contact information: how to reach us, how to find us and a photo gallery.
Our site’s strength is in its simplicity. It’s straight forward and easy to navigate – all of the links work and take you to a logical destination when selected. Our business hours (including holiday hours) and contact information are repeated throughout the site.
Of course, this organically adds to our search engine optimization. SEO is how Google determines which sites to display first. And, clearly, in an industry where less than 30 percent of laundries are online, you likely don’t need much SEO to reach that first page – unless of course you’re located in a fiercely competitive market that contains competitors with strong online presences.
A solid website acts as the mortar that connects all of your online pieces, including social media. We also use Google Search ads, which have proven helpful in driving traffic to the website. Presently, I have separate messages advertising our three main service offerings – to help customers not only find our business, but also the appropriate service offering to suit their needs. We also have a modest YouTube channel; it’s linked to the website and helps drive traffic, as well as adding to the organic SEO with every view.
With any luck, your online presence will make potential customers comfortable enough to try out your store and discover your brand.Social Media
Facebook and Instagram have proven their worth for Perfect Wash – Express Laundry Center. Facebook provides a website-like platform on which to promote the store and participate in our community. Photos, posts and reviews help illuminate who we are and what is special about our laundromat. It also can be an enjoyable way to communicate your personality and to directly interact with potential customers interested in sampling your store – somewhere between your website and actually walking through the door. I’ve gained several customers who first reached out through Facebook.
I’m also a strong proponent of Facebook ads and “boosting” posts. Almost any wall post can be boosted, or put in front of eyes that wouldn’t have otherwise seen your postings. You can deploy a wide array of demographic, geographic or interest/topic-based targeting strategies. My advice is to start with a simple, inexpensive ad showing what your store has to offer – run it for a couple of days in a small area and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised by how many likes, views and comments you can generate. This is all about bringing attention to your store and your brand.
As you get more comfortable, place some ongoing ads or promotions. We’ve had great success with geographic targeting. Since the population of our seaside tourist resort town nearly doubles over the summer months, I can target Facebook users within a one-mile radius; people sitting on the beach a mile away could be scrolling through their newsfeeds and see our post – and now we’re in their heads. When they need laundry service on vacation, they’ll think of us.
We’ve even been so bold as to post “public service announcements” on community forums that don’t allow advertising, yet have a wide local reach. For example, one post announced a lost stuffed bunny that someone had left behind in a washer. In addition, we will announce when we’re planning to donate any “lost and found” items to a charity, which serves to encourage customers to take one last look for any items they may have left behind, as well as to show one of the ways we contribute to our community.
We even posted a PSA when our laundry cart, “Carlos,” went missing. That post generated a strong response. Several angry customers commented, genuinely upset that someone would take a cart from their
laundromat. The attention that post received was worth well more than the cost to replace the cart.
With Instagram, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Memes, store images, humorous events and just utter goofiness are commonplace on Instagram. We use it to add personality to our business, as well as to cleverly advertise our message through glamorous store photos and well-placed promotional images. Another favorite activity is cross-promotion. I like to snap photos of our delivery van in front of neighboring or new businesses or clients, to get the word out about them. This all adds to the ecosystem of Instagram and contributes to the comradery of your very localized business
In 2017, print advertising can be an interesting conversation – almost as fun as the “coin vs. card” debate. Some swear by it, while others flee from it.
What’s worked for Perfect Wash is the door hanger. I feel they are stronger than mailers, because your target has to see it to take if off of the doorknob. And, if it contains a strong enough hook and overall message, it will get read. I like to show my respect to the community by tucking the bottom corner into the doors’ weather stripping so the hangers are more secure and less likely to litter the neighborhood. Others owners have had great success with coupons in the Pennysaver
or ads in small local magazines. But it’s all market-specific. Sometimes you just have to keep trying different things (often multiple times) until you hit on a few that work for your very localized market
Our delivery van is another great way to broadcast our brand with a moving billboard. The vehicle screams professionalism and cleanliness, with a partial vinyl wrap on top of a handsome silver factory-painted van. I really enjoy driving around my very localized market
, having customers wave at me as I drive by. They can see how hard we work and how many businesses we partner with.Chamber of Commerce
Joining your local chamber of commerce is a great way to network with other local businesses, either as potential customers or just to be a part of the local business community. Your chamber likely hosts a number of helpful events, including business-building presentations and networking luncheons or dinners. As a result of participating in the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce, Perfect Wash – Express Laundry Center was publically recognized for its water conservation efforts during a the chamber’s Green Forum and Expo. We were the only small business recognized that year, alongside SoCal Edison, Golden West College and Boeing. Word-of-Mouth Promotion
Word-of-mouth promotion is the Holy Grail of adverting and brand broadcasting – and it’s also the cheapest. From a very localized
standpoint, it’s more viral than YouTube or Facebook. If you’re offering something of substance that means something to your customers, they will tell their friends
! When it involves your store, word-of-mouth truly is a beautiful thing to see in action.
Envision someone really expressing himself, with feeling, about a new movie: “Dude, you gotta
see that movie!” Well, that happens with my business: “Dude, you gotta
go to the laundromat on 17th Street!” It’s so rewarding to hear that.
Listen to your customers – they aren’t shy. They’ll tell you what you’re doing right and what you need to improve on. And they’ll also spread the word. All you need to do is provide them with the substance of their message – your brand. Good People
I read somewhere that we are not in the laundry
business; we’re in the people
business. That dovetails a concept my parents raised me with: “Nothing moves without people.” Both of these concepts really stuck with me. Nothing in my business moves without people. There’s no way I could do this alone.
My parents prepared me, my fiancé stands by me (often holding me up) and my customers support the store. And, of course, my crew executes my vision because they have bought into it – they are on the front line, serving as the face of the store and broadcasting our brand. Sally, Marguerite, Brittni, Liz, Uli, Cesar, Dulce, Chris and I have made Perfect Wash – Express Laundry Center what it is, and we work toward what it will become. Side-by-side, we all make up the team. We all work very hard, even the two women who are in their 70s and refuse to slow down. I can’t tell you how rewarding it has been to envision, create, build and run this small beachside store. It has touched so many lives in some way. We’re not saving the world here, but we are making a lot of peoples’ lives a lot easier.
Good people can create anything – and without good people, you will have nothing.
In last month’s article, I outlined my mission statement, which I crafted during the building process. This month, let me leave you with two final points – and the two most important concepts of Perfect Wash:
• Anything you bring in here, you’re either going to wear or sleep on, which makes it personal to you and important to us.
• When I’m here, I’m a business owner. However, I’m a customer everywhere else, so I promise to give my customers an experience that I’d appreciate as well.