CHICAGO — The simplest definition of “marketing” is any activity that helps bring an “aware” pool of consumers a product they need or desire at a price that offers a perception of value. Within that definition are the commonly accepted “Four Ps” of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion and Place. Together, these factors define your brand.
The January issue of American Drycleaner, which announces the winners of the 50th Annual Plant Design Awards, focuses on “Place.” Place is any environment in which consumers can take advantage of your product and services—your store, your routes, and even your website or drop box. You probably know that your plant is a primary Place already, but you may not know why its design matters.
You bought or built your plant to help bring an aware pool of consumers a product they want at a price that offers perceived value. But the plant is more than a factory for cleaning and pressing clothes. It should bring greater efficiency to the process, allowing you to turn a profit, attract more customers, increase their loyalty and lower cost-per-item.
Most cleaners want to deliver a good-to-great product, at an affordable price, to an appreciative customer. They do it to make money, and a good plant design helps them do so. The better your plant design, the better the foundation for growing your business.
A good plant design can turn industry challenges such as regulations and shrinking markets into opportunities. Operations that meet the challenges head-on—updating to new processes, complying with regulations, and building the most efficient plant they can maintain—will win a competitive (marketing) advantage.
For example, operators who went “green” early on gained a marketing advantage when consumers started buying more “green” products and services. That distinction is now a fixture in most larger markets, of course, and for those late to adapt, “greenness” is just an added cost.
But it is not just your ability to do the work or comply with regulations that makes your plant such an important part of Place. A new build or remodeling project can create awareness and excitement in the marketplace, helping with Promotion. A “Grand Opening” or “Grand Reopening” is in order; even a renovation is cause for celebration.
“Curb appeal” isn’t just for houses; it also sells your services. In parts of Europe, it is still common for store operators to scrub the sidewalks with soap and water every morning. Why? To make the store more appealing to people who walk by.
If your storefront is worn, dated or dirty, it produces no excitement. It is just there—something in the environment to be ignored, or worse, an eyesore or embarrassment to be avoided. But change it, and wow! There’s newfound interest, just because it’s not the same. Interest brings awareness, and awareness brings trial. Trial—if the product meets or exceeds expectations—leads to repeat business and eventually, to core customers.
Likely the most important aspect for attracting new customers is how your plant and stores look on approach. If a store doesn’t look “nice,” “clean” or “safe,” you keep driving; how many of your potential customers are doing the same? Even coupons can’t guarantee trial if you look bad.
It doesn’t matter if you have one store or a chain—plant design is a competitive advantage. A good plant allows you to deliver a better product at a lower cost. It attracts business. And if there is anything new about your plant, it gives you the opportunity to make a splash in the media.
You can highlight your new build or renovation on your web page and/or Facebook fan page to reach consumers in the comfort of their own homes. You can blog about your progress. Get customers and noncustomers involved, and they will cheer you on. “Here’s a cleaner who’s trying to make things better,” they’ll think. “Way to go!”
Too many businesses make the assumption that their milestones are not a big deal. And they aren’t, if you never share them. Your big news can be as simple as a reprint of the American Drycleaner page showing your plant. Your customers will see it on the wall and say, “Wow, a national magazine wrote an article about my drycleaner.”
If you still don’t think that a good plant design is one of your strongest marketing tools, try substituting “plant design” for “marketing” in its definition: “A good plant design helps bring an ‘aware’ pool of consumers a product they need or desire at a price that offers a perception of value.” How can you argue with that?