Developing a Strong Online Community for Your Laundry Business
We all know that finding just the right site for your laundromat can make all the difference in whether or not your new business is a success.
And the same goes for your “digital site” – that is, your store’s website.
That’s a common phrase one hears often in the digital marketing space: “It only takes one post.”
The idea being that it only takes a single piece of content – whether that be a blog, a social post or even a video – to convey your message to the right person or to make your brand explode. Of course, the “catch” is that you don’t know what specific type of content that will be – so you have to post way more than just once to achieve that magical “one.”
Similar to finding the right physical site on which to build your laundromat, developing an impactful online presence also is a matter of due diligence. It requires patience, persistence, and a clear, distinct process.
In this column, I’ll discuss one of the bigger picture elements that laundromat owners should consider when positioning themselves online; however, I want to take a different approach than you might be thinking. I spend a lot of time discussing the “how” of digital marketing – such as how to optimize your website or social profiles – but I want to take some time to talk about the “why.”
Not simply the “why” of winning more business – I’m going to discuss the “why” in a way that will help you build an online community around your business that’s much deeper and richer than ever before. And this will enable you to focus on finding that “one piece of content” we’re all chasing.
Building Community Online
I talk a lot about the need for businesses to be on social media and to have strong websites. These are powerful ways to build your business and to reach new audiences, but they’re also turning into maybe a little bit more these days.
Here’s what I mean – and buckle up, because this may feel like a slight tangent at first. But stay with me.
The “brand” concept is pretty ubiquitous these days. People are told to work on their “personal brand,” as if they’re a business. In addition, businesses are told to focus on their brands to acquire new customers and appeal to a younger audience. So, brands are everywhere.
It’s easy to look at all of this and think it’s just “noise.” But I want to challenge that notion. The generations that have grown up on the internet don’t see it as merely a way to quickly send messages back and forth. To them, it’s not just “noise.” It’s where the public forum is held these days – and it’s where you either have a voice or you’re missing out. They see it as community, real-life connections and friendships, just like the ones you make in elementary school. They want to feel connected online… and deeply so.
The businesses that we remember are the ones that make us feel like we are at home – like you’re not just another customer or another quarter down the chute. It made you feel like the people within the business were truly there and giving every inch that you were giving.
In many ways, it’s what brought the United States together – the scrappiness to be independent and to keep moving forward. To what? Better connections, better communities and so much more.
Can you imagine a deeply connected community around your business online? Where your customers come to share neighborhood updates, check in on each other and share their personal hardships? Perhaps it feels a bit far-fetched at first, but when you consider the digital lives we’ve lived during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult not to see a lot of sense in this philosophy.
So… where does social media and your digital presence come in? It’s where you go to build your online community, plain and simple. And you have a great model to follow: the local coffee shop.
The Coffee Shop Model
Coffee shops have a bit of a leg up in the “community-building” department, because they’re what many people think of as community hubs. It’s where people come to work, share stories, laugh, drink coffee (obviously) and connect. The content you see produced by local java joints mirrors these truths, and it’s why they seem to be so successful at using a digital community to build their businesses.
Good news: laundromats can create the same type of community vibe. However, comparing yourself to already-established brands can feel overwhelming. The “second wave” and “third wave” of coffee had a massive artistic impact that coincided with the rise of notable brands like Instagram and Starbucks. So, a little bit of their success was serendipitous, but it’s still absolutely possible for laundromats to become community hubs, both physically and digitally.
Let’s me be clear: building a digital community is hard work. It’s a grind, and at times it will feel like you’re not making any progress at all. So, comparing your laundromat to a coffee shop is difficult, but it also gives you a path forward when building your own community.
Remember that it only takes one post. The rest is about ensuring you keep certain elements in mind, which we can borrow from our coffee-loving friends:
- Use great photos to show off your services and to show people what they do.
- Actively comment on and participate with other local entities online.
- Develop customer-oriented initiatives and interactive content.
- Invest in other local businesses, organizations, artists, traditions and more.
Yes, these are tall orders. Building community is about being there for your customers when things are at their worst. It’s also about celebrating the good times, inviting and encouraging growth, and relying on each other when the chips are down.
My hope is that these thoughts help make you introspective. What are you doing to foster community around your laundromat business?
Don’t make it all about winning new customers or building your bottom line. Invest in the people of your community, and they will in turn help you build community around your business. Those relationships are the backbone of the local economy, and they can open doors to your next endeavor.
Take a page from the playbook of our friends down at the local coffee shop, and start finding ways to increase your equity in the lives of your customers through regular, meaningful content.