Head ’Em Off at the Pass

By Stephen Bean, CLA Member posted 20 days ago

  
Use Preemptive Marketing to Outshine Even Your Toughest Competition

Are you are sitting down? I hope so, because what I am about to relay to you may be the single most amazingly powerful marketing technique anyone could ever use. Yet… I have never seen it done in the vended laundry industry.

If you use this method it – and use it properly – you will have a significant advantage over your competitors. And it’s so simple that it will shock you. It’s called “preemptive marketing,” and it’s sort of a “head ’em off at the pass” technique for besting your competition.

Here’s how it works: you simply take the time to explain in detail to your customer or potential client the processes that are inherent to your laundry business. I know this may seem overly simplistic (perhaps even ridiculous), but it is based firmly on the sound principles of consumer psychology.

Stay with me here, and I’ll give you a great example:

I was recently researching the marketing strategies used by the major beer companies to see what impact the myriad of new craft flavors have had on the sales and marketing of traditional brews. Clearly, my research had nothing to do with self-service laundries, but I’m endlessly fascinated by the impact of new products on the sales and marketing of older, established brands.

So, in doing this research, I serendipitously discovered what the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company (yes, it’s still around) did in the 1920s – at time when there essentially were 10 significant brewing companies aggressively competing for the same major market share.

Schlitz had not been doing so well, consistently stuck in eighth place in beer sales.

At the time, it seemed that all of the breweries used the same basic advertising message, generally focusing on saying, “Our beer is pure,” in some form. However, they all failed to explain to the beer drinkers what exactly “pure” really meant.

To help boost its sales, Schlitz hired a marketing consultant named Claude Hopkins. And the first thing Hopkins asked was to be taken on a tour of the brewery and shown – step by step – exactly how Schlitz brewed its beer.

When the tour was complete, he was extremely impressed with what he learned, and then the lightbulb went on in his head.

The Schlitz brewing facilities were located on Lake Michigan, and back then the lake water was very clean. However, despite the fact it was situated on a pristine lake, the company had drilled two 5,000-foot artesian wells because it wanted to go deep enough to locate the exact combination of water and minerals to create the best beer possible.

The Schlitz brewers explained to Hopkins exactly how they went through 1,623 separate experiments over a five-year period to identify and develop the finest “mother yeast” cell, which would produce the richest taste and flavor.

They also showed him how they conducted a process of distillation of the water before they used it to brew their beer. It was heated to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled down and condensed. And they did that not once, but three times to make certain the product was absolutely purified.

Next, they described the bottling process to Hopkins, wherein they steamed each bottle at a temperature of 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit in order to completely kill any and all bacteria and germs, which could contaminate the taste of their beer.

They further explained that they had every batch of beer tested to make sure it was pure and rich before they would consider bottling it and sending it out the door to the consumers.

The consultant was so overwhelmed by this brewing process that he advised the company’s executives to inform consumers about the extraordinary measures they took to brew their beer.

At first, Schlitz management was a bit confused. “Why should we do that?” they reacted. “All brewers do the same thing we do.”

“But no one in your industry explains it,” Hopkins replied, adding that the first company to tell the story and to explain how and why they brew beer the way that they do will gain distinction and preeminence in the brewing industry from that point on.

No doubt, Mr. Hopkins clearly understood – and perhaps even invented – the concept of preemptive marketing.

Schlitz then began to tell the story in its marketing messages and became the first and only company to explain exactly how its beer was made. This became the company’s “unique selling proposition.” And, within six months, Schlitz beer had catapulted from No. 8 in market share all the way up to No. 1.

Here is the take-away lesson for all business owners: tell your customers the facts. If you sell shoes, let them know that each stitch is reinforced 25 times and then inspected closely for any loose ends. If your products are painted, let consumers know that they’re painted three times, using a rare, specially formulated paint imported from Europe. I think you get my point.

Most people typically don’t appreciate what you do for them unless you spell it out in detail. Even if what you’re doing is the exact same thing your competitor is doing, if the public doesn’t know anything about it, when you finally explain it in detail it will be interpreted by consumers as a stunning revelation.

And, yes, vended laundry owners can do the same thing in this industry by developing a similar unique selling proposition for their businesses. For example, you can explain in detail some or all of the following 12 aspects of your laundry operation:

• How carefully your attendants are trained

• How your washers and dryers actually work

• How your machines are maintained and inspected for cleanliness

• How much thought goes into the selection of the items in your vending machines

• How you carefully maintain the condition of your parking lot

• The exact nature of your loyalty programs

• How you determined the hours of operation for your facility

• The best practices to follow when washing and drying clothing

• Exactly how detergent, softener and dryer sheets actually work

• How you handle customer complaints and why you choose to handle them in this way

• Details about your background and personal values as a business owner in the community

• Your business’ overall philosophy of respect for your customers

The list is almost endless. The key is to model your marketing message after the Schlitz example, but to tailor it to your vended laundry. Instead of merely providing the same old stuff that every other laundromat puts out there – store location, hours of operation, vend prices, etc. – take a preemptive approach.

It’s a bit ironic that I was able to use the Schlitz experience as the preemptive marketing model for self-service laundries. After all, the brewing industry and the laundry industry each have something very much in common – SUDS!
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