IF you’ve had any dealings in Portland, Oregon, you may know Portlanders happen to think the City of Roses is pretty special. In fact, there’s a whole TV show built largely around this premise (the IFC hit “Portlandia”).
Ken Kaveny, Owner of Portland’s Sage Facility Services, built his laundry operation on this premise. “Portland is a unique market,” Kaveny says. “There aren’t a lot of local laundries. What we find is that the concentration on getting products and services from local vendors holds up even when it comes to business-to-business purchasing decisions. Being locally owned and operated is an important message in our marketplace and one we put up front with pride.”
The other message Kaveny stresses is one of service. But how does he leverage this in a category where every third word is “service?”
“For sure, everyone talks about service ad nauseum,” Kaveny acknowledges. “For us at Sage, not only is our marketing message all about the personal relationship we have with our customers, but that’s what our whole business is about. After a certain point, with what we’re offering in this business, there’s a lot of parity. It’s how you offer it where you can get some differentiation.
“We put a lot of pride into listening to our customers, then designing programs specifically for them as opposed to just making whatever’s cheapest fit into their environment. Then we set expectations with them and try to be very proactive about managing their needs on an ongoing basis.”
When Kaveny set out to redesign Sage’s website, turnabout was fair play. He retained a local marketing firm that canvassed not only representatives of his staff, but also his customers, regarding their impressions of the company’s before cooking up an illustration-driven Internet presence that is now at the heart of the company’s public persona.
“We just rolled out our new site about six months ago, and it was about a year in the making as well as a considerable investment,” Kaveny acknowledges. “Before, we really had what was a very generic site, and I felt that regardless of whether we ever sell a ton of new business through the website, at least prospects get a flavor for who we are through this new site.”
In fact, Kaveny’s modest expectations for the site have already been surpassed.
“We actually get quite a few inquiries through the site, and the amount of traffic we get online has really gone up.
“In my mind,” Kaveny adds, “there’s not much of a difference between business-to-business and business- to-consumer marketing. People are going to Google ‘commercial laundry’ or ‘towel rental,’ get the results, and go from there.”
In Sage’s case, when a prospect clicks over from Google and is met by their site’s illustrative feel and fresh tone of voice, it resonates.
“We’ve only been in business for ten years, and with most of our customers, they’ve used most all our competitors, from the big national guys down to our local competitors. They’re looking for a change, and when they get to our website from Google, it’s clear that this is something different. We even say it—‘A Fresh Approach.’ We’re pleased with the results.”
The website has proven so successful that it has become the centerpiece of a complete rebranding campaign for Sage.
“We’re transitioning to the look and feel of the website being our complete corporate look, with everything from our trucks to our marketing materials. It will be a real coordinated effort and will feel the same and speak the same language.”
While Sage may have just relaunched its site, one thing that’s not new is its affiliation with Universal Unilink. Sage has been a Member of Universal practically since getting into the laundry business in 2006.
“At the beginning, we relied very heavily on Universal —the discounts were essential to us, because we didn’t have any kind of volume,” Kaveny says. “I have grown more into really appreciating the other benefits as well, for example, the magazine, which I read cover to cover each month. I enjoy reading about other members and their mindset.”
Sage’s mindset is on two things: Portland and growth. For Ken Kaveny and his team, it’s a good combination.