The data is clear. Pew Research recently shared that more people than ever are moving to urban areas and the diversity of our nation’s cities is increasing dramatically. For business owners, this presents more opportunities for growth than ever before. Your city is full of people who don’t know you exist yet – and you can change that.
As more people flock to metro areas across the U.S., small businesses like yours are looking to expand, attract new customers and build their brands within those urban markets. And there are more ways than ever to accomplish this, thanks to frequent innovations, new technologies, and the omnipresent and ever-changing internet. You can change everything in the name of urbanization – your business’ footprint, your website, your services themselves and much more.
Simply put, the strategies for growth these days are diverse, endless and as unique as your business and brand. However, adaptation involves more than scaling down to a smaller square footage or slapping new paint on your digital presence. If you’re looking to break into the uptown, downtown or around-town markets – or if you just want to find more people in your neighborhood – here are a few ideas that can spice up your brand and make you stand out from the crowd.
Don’t Be Afraid to Challenge the Norm
There will always be an element of “this is how we’ve always done it” within our industry, and that’s not a bad thing. But that shouldn’t be the stumbling block of innovation within your business. You know your audience, your location and what people need in your area. Use that to adjust your business as needed.
No one is standing over you telling you that you have to run your laundry business a certain way. Don’t want to deal with quarters? You don’t have to. Don’t want to buy vans for pickup and delivery? There are workarounds – such as bikes or offering the service only within walking distance of your store.
The point is that you may have to take risks to get the most out of the new urban norm. The neighborhood laundromat isn’t just about one neighborhood anymore – it’s about who can take the next step and make it worthwhile.
Make Your Service Stand Out
Life is messy. On the front lines of the laundry industry, where you’re dealing with dirty clothes and linens, you probably know exactly how messy it really can be. Your job is to try to take other people’s lives and make them a little less messy – thus making you and your business stand out.
What does that mean for your business? It could be something as simple as transitioning away from the quarter. Find a provider who enables you to accept mobile payments, or start accepting debit and credit cards on your machines. Or consider adding ancillary services to your business – what about wash-dry-fold for busy professionals, or pickup and delivery for time-crunched working parents? The sky’s the limit.
In other words, find ways to make life a little less messy and then innovate even further. Don’t stop testing and trying new ideas that can benefit your customers. If you can build yourself into their routine, you’ll be one step closer to a successful, modern urban laundry operation.
Engage… Don’t Sell
Focusing your services on urban areas means there’s going to be a lot of noise – and I don’t mean from all of the cars and people. I’m talking about noise from other businesses.
Go look at your Facebook feed, your Twitter timeline or anywhere else you get news about the world – and count how many brands you see in just one minute of quick scrolling. I’m willing to bet you see at least a dozen, probably more. They just don’t stop.
That’s what you’re competing against. You shouldn’t be worried about the laundromat down the street. You should be worried about the dozens of other businesses that you have to compete with for your customer’s attention.
When you just try to sell online, you’ll get a glance, maybe a click and then… what? Maybe a sale, maybe not. You certainly don’t develop a long-term relationship from that, at least not often.
But that’s what you need. Long-term relationships are worth more over time, can help your business grow through word of mouth and keep you in the running in your marketplace. You need to engage if you want to be successful.
Focus on the Community
We’re in the “give back era,” and that’s a good thing for everyone.
What do I mean by that? Take a look at any emergent (or resurgent) industry, and you’ll notice one major trend: they all give back.
For instance, take a look at the coffee industry. The focus is on building sustainable, eco-friendly farms. What about tech firms? Many industry leaders focus on sustainability, energy-efficiency and overall “green” living. Those are just two very obvious examples.
How does the vended laundry industry give back? Many businesses – and organizations – are already tackling this question with free laundry events, nonprofit donations and other initiatives. And they work.
Let me be clear: focusing on your community isn’t just about giving back. Sometimes it’s about offering a little bit more on the side. For example, free Wi-Fi access and on-location reading/learning spaces are great ways to give a little extra and to provide some added convenience to your customers’ lives.
Of course, at other times, focusing on the community is as simple as being present. Do you know your customers? Do they know you? The people you rely on for the success of your business aren’t numbers. You need to spend time with them.
The one clear takeaway is that businesses wanting to win in urban markets need to be willing to change. You can’t just count on foot traffic and traditional marketing if you want to win new customers these days. Work to become agile, streamlined, service-oriented and unique.
Help shape your community, and don’t just wait for people to come through your door because they need you. If anything, you need your customers even more. Innovate and find ways to show them you care before they walk in your door, and you’ll be one step closer to running a successful laundry business that will last for generations.