Originally posted – Nov 26, 2012

The paramount universal truism of business is that all customers are people.

Therefore, it’s logical to assume that, if we become proficient at understanding the psychology of the human organism, we should end up as improved marketers. After all, if we really know how people technically think and function, then we should be able to profoundly affect their behavior by virtue of our marketing, advertising and store presentation. And that’s the ultimate goal.

This sounds pretty easy in principle. But, unfortunately, the majority of small-business owners are not trained to understand the specific technical aspects and defined laws of human psychology that are the foundation for valid marketing. As a result, they inadvertently make a lot of costly marketing (including advertising) mistakes. In other words, just being human does not qualify you to understand other humans. This may seem strange, but it’s absolutely true.

The harsh reality is that we all too often mislead ourselves by assuming we automatically understand the behavior of others, specifically in the areas of their perceptional and motivational functioning – and, thus, market our business in a manner that we just “know” is going to work.

Unfortunately, the old cliché – “it takes one to know one” – happens to be a false premise on which to hang your hat, especially when it comes to advertising human to human.

As a result, understanding the technical aspects of human behavior is the important first step to developing effective marketing. And the second step is to apply this understanding in a practical manner so that you get the most bang for your advertising buck.

The broad field of psychology contains numerous long-standing technical principles developed by a variety of recognized social scientists over many years. So, I’ve selected what I consider to be the nine most relevant and appropriate of these to paraphrase for you in non-technical language, along with how to actually use them for developing marketing and advertising for your laundry business.

Doing this will make you far more efficient and proficient at improving the impact you’ll have on your customers’ (and potential customers’) buying behaviors – therefore improving your market share and overall business results.

Becoming uncommonly successful in business is accomplished by being creative, not competitive. In other words, become substantially different from your competitors, and you will find that you don’t even compete in the same marketplace. If your competitor can “invade” your business because it’s not significantly different from theirs and you can’t reciprocate, then you’re just another laundromat.

Want to become a coin laundry marketing superstar? Simply adhere to the nine laws of psychology listed below. Understanding these basic principles will provide you with many refreshingly liberating marketing insights, which can be the best cure for “marketer’s block.”

The Law of Gestalt

What this law states is that people tend to see things as a whole, rather than the sum of its constituent parts. The whole is viewed as being greater than the sum of its parts. And it’s perceived as a structured whole. So, when customers enter your laundry, they very likely may not notice some of the individual small parts and simply view the laundry in its entirety.

How to use the Law of Gestalt: When you add some strong new selling features, improvements or make changes to your laundry, make sure you are obvious in pointing them out to people; otherwise, they may not notice them. If you want to get credit for these changes and additions, it’s best to make a big deal over them.

Hick’s Law

Hick says the time it takes people to make a decision is directly related to the number of alternatives, options and choices presented to them. A great example of this is the amount of individual items often appearing on a restaurant menu. Think about how many times you have said in a restaurant, “There are so many choices; I just don’t know what to order.”

How to use Hick’s Law: This can pertain to the amount of choices offered for your ancillary vended items – such as snacks and drinks – or perhaps the amount and colors of laundry bags you offer for sale. Offering too many choices can actually cause a customer to not make any choice and to actually put it off due to feeling perceptually overwhelmed or confused. The old expression “food for thought” is a good one, but just don’t offer too much food.

The Law of Reciprocity

This law simply says that people have a tendency to return a favor. We see this all the time in everyday life. Therefore, if your attendants are known to be helpful, flexible, generous and kind, then your customers will tend to respond accordingly over the long haul.

How to use the Law of Reciprocity: Train your attendants to go out of their way to be extremely helpful to customers. Perhaps they can offer them free samples of items in your vending machines, remind them of your enter-to-win loyalty programs or give out fun stickers to the kids in your store. The list is endless.

Attendants also can make an effort to get to know your customers and show a sincere interest in their lives. Doing so will cause people to respond by being loyal customers and by telling others just how wonderful your laundry and employees make them feel when they are there.

The Law of Social Proof

This law states that, when people are unsure or need to make choices, they most likely look to the actions of others, accept them as correct and take direction from them. I like to call it “social verification.” In other words, people are comfortable doing things they see numerous others doing. This releases people from having to carefully weigh or examine every decision they have to make in their lives.

How to use the Law of Social Proof: This one is pretty simple. Just make sure that, when you advertise, you show or allude to having a lot of people in your laundry. This can be done easily, for example, with television commercials and photos in direct-mail pieces.

The Law of Authority

According to this law, people tend to respond and listen to authority figures. Without getting too Freudian on you, I think this likely relates back to our early childhood and how we initially related to our parents, who were most certainly our first authority figures whom we listened and responded to.

How to use the Law of Authority: Endorsements from well-known people can work wonders; you can see examples of this all over television and in print ads for every imaginable product. Although it’s unrealistic to think that that you will be able to afford having Jack Nicholson, Brad Pitt or Serena Williams endorse your laundry, it is certainly possible to find a local celebrity type who would be willing to do so for a nominal fee.

The Law of Liking

People are best persuaded by people they like. No, this not a rocket science disclosure; however, the lesson here is to only have people in your advertisements that are perceived as highly likable. I certainly don’t want to dent your feelings but, despite your charming personality, that may or may not be you.

How to use the Law of Liking: This is another no-brainer. Simply use individuals in your ads that are genuinely likable – no ifs, ands or buts. Believe me, there are plenty of them around. And, of course, it’s certainly possible that you’re already one of them.

The Law of Consistency

Once people have made a choice they will tend to behave consistent with that commitment. This is psychologically true because we tend to view the choice we’ve made as being congruent with our self-image. This law answers the age-old industry mystery as to why people will continue to patronize a clearly inferior laundry.

How to use the Law of Consistency: Granted, it’s a bit of a simplification, but once people have selected your self-service laundry as the laundry, their loyalty is generally yours to lose. So don’t.

The Law of Scarcity

Simply put, perceived scarcity by consumers will create and increase demand. Offers that are available for only a “limited time” encourage sales. This is well known and is used consistently and successfully in most industries. It works because people don’t want to think they placed themselves in a missed opportunity situation due to their own inaction. In a way, it’s a sensitive self-concept tampering strategy.

The popular taglines in such commercials are typically: “Hurry – This all ends Wednesday!” or “We only have limited supplies!”

How to use the Law of Scarcity: Create some offers that, in fact, do expire. They can take the form of discounted prices on wash-dry-fold, special pricing on snacks and beverages, or perhaps an opportunity to enter to win a specific prize. Again, you have as many choices as your creativity will allow.

The Law of Effect

This is the all-time, supreme granddaddy of them all! Essentially, this states that the frequency of a given behavior – such as people repeatedly using your coin laundry – is largely a function of its consequences.

Behaviors having good consequences tend to be repeated, whereas behavior that leads to bad or negative consequences is not repeated. According to this psychological law, the rate at which a certain behavior occurs is determined not by what proceeds it, but by the consequences that follow it.

What steps do you have to take to ensure that this important bottom-line 9th Law of Effect will always be in play to consistently benefit and grow your laundry business?

Do the math. Since one plus eight equals nine, simply use Psychological Laws No. 1 through No. 8 first.

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