Originally posted – May 16, 2013
A topic that has been causing some buzz within the self-service laundry industry in recent years is online marketing.
And with good reason – it works!
Therefore, this month, I’d like to discuss promoting your laundry business online – specifically through e-mail marketing.
As soon as I launched my store’s website, I began collecting the e-mail addresses of my customers – both self-service and full-service clients. And one of the most effective ways I used to build that database was through my laundry’s Wash Club loyalty program.
Of course, when I first started in the industry, I had a punch card loyalty program, where customers would fill up their cards to earn a free wash. However, the obvious problem with punch cards is that such a system doesn’t enable you to collect any information about the customers, so you don’t know how often a customer comes in, or how valuable he or she really is to your business.
By contrast, once you integrate your loyalty program into your computer system, you can start to keep track of how valuable those customers are.
In addition, with my old punch-card system, I didn’t know when I had lost a customer. However, when you’ve got a loyalty program on your computer, you can keep track of lost business.
One of the keys of marketing is knowing how effective your communication is and having the ability to communicate to your customer about what is going on with your business on a regular basis. That’s why collecting e-mail addresses has become one of the most critical marketing activities of any business.
It seems like everybody wants to get your e-mail address. And it’s the same in the laundry industry. In fact, I suggest you bribe your customers to get their e-mail addresses.
At my store, we’ve bribed customers with free laundry bags, a free wash, a free dry and even discounts on wash-dry-fold services. Also, if customers want to become members of our Wash Club loyalty program, they have to give me their e-mail address.
Another great way to build an e-mail list is to survey your customers, and ask for their e-mail addresses right on the surveys.
Next, once you obtain a customer’s e-mail address, use it. You want to reach out to those customers on your list on a regular basis.
Fortunately, there are a number of great, easy-to-use e-mail marketing providers these days to help you every step of the way. Personally, I use Constant Contact; however, some other popular providers include iContact, Vertical Response and Benchmark.
When choosing an e-mail marketing provider that’s best for you, I’d suggest visiting email-marketing-service-review.toptenreviews.com, which does an excellent job of explaining the pros and cons of the various providers. Basically, if you plug in the information, these companies will manage your contact list.
Once you begin to send e-mails to the customers on your list, be sure to comply with any spamming laws; you don’t want to send out your marketing messages too often. Then again, you want to be consistent. A reasonable goal is to send something to your customers every month.
We send e-mails to our customers on the first of every month, but then we also re-send that same message on the 15th as a reminder. So, my customers are getting two e-mails from me every month, although they are the same.
In my e-mail messages, I offer coupons for something different every month – something pertinent and relevant. And we plan these mailings so that the timing of our coupons makes sense.
For instance, we usually run two comforter cleaning specials per year – one at the beginning of winter and one at the end of winter, because that’s when most people are thinking about cleaning their comforters. This way, we get a coupon in front of them to make sure they’ll be bringing their comforters to us.
On the 4th of July, we clean American flags. At Christmastime, we give away laundry bags to anybody in the Wash Club program who brings in a coupon. And, throughout the year, we also e-mail coupons for specials such as a free wash, 30 minutes of dry time and so on.
In addition, we send out e-mails with coupons to our full-service customers as well. These coupons include promotions like $5 off a wash-dry-fold order and a car mat cleaning special every spring.
A big advantage of this type of marketing is that you can track your e-mails. You get reports telling you how many people actually saw your e-mail and opened it, as well as how many forwarded your message and coupon to another person, which is another critical part of e-mail marketing.
Whenever you send out a coupon, be sure to encourage the recipients to forward that e-mail to friends and family: “If you think this is a great deal, please share it with somebody.” Essentially, it’s digital word-of-mouth advertising.
In that way, it’s somewhat similar to marketing your business via Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. A lot of today’s social media vehicles are doing the same thing you can do with e-mail marketing.
Perhaps the best thing about e-mail marketing is, when you talk to customers every month in a controlled format, you’re less likely to lose them. With e-mail, you can maintain communication – as well as strengthening your relationship – with your best customers.