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Harnessing the holidays

December 01, 2011
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During the holiday season, the only thing more common than family gatherings and shopping stress is downright dirty cars. Sure, we all know the culprits. Vehicles get caked with mud, ice and salt as drivers zip from store to store searching for the latest and greatest toys and electronics. And, a dirty car can be the last concern of a crazed shopper madly searching for the only dancing Elmo doll in the county.

Carwashes need holiday marketing ideas that will make customers slow down and remember their dirty cars. With so many shoppers whizzing by, a car care business can benefit greatly if it figures out ways to capture customer attention and facilitate a festive environment. Below are seven tips that will help you put your best foot forward and bring more customers into your carwash this holiday season.

1. Deck the halls.

During this time of year, everyone looks forward to twinkling lights, decorated trees and Santa's jolly, smiling face. Nothing will catch a customer's eye quicker than festive and friendly holiday decorations. "We let the staff at each of our locations decorate their store — usually this means a small Christmas tree, lights along the building and winter scenes painted on the windows of our kiosks," said Brian Guiniling, special projects director with the Cruz Thru Express Car Wash chain in California.

Still, when it comes to decorating a carwash, owners can unleash their inner Clark Griswold. String as many lights as your eaves can handle; pick the biggest tree and give it a place of prominence inside or outside your wash. And you can even let customers get in on the act. Make copies of paper ornaments; then let your customers' children color and hang them on the carwash Christmas tree.

But don't stop with just decorating the building. Employees can help a carwash feel festive as well. From simple Santa and elf hats to elaborate costumes, to menorahs, to snowmen, owners and employees can dress up and help get their entire business in the holiday spirit. Just think how a waving Santa standing by a carwash entrance could draw drivers' attention and help a carwash stand out compared to other car care businesses.

2. Make presents out of prepaids.

It's no secret; there are hundreds of last-minute shoppers in your market that are eager to scratch the last few names off their lists. Make it easy for them by offering convenient and affordable carwash gift cards. Prepaid carwash cards that are good for a certain number of washes are an excellent idea for the holidays.

A lot of customers buy prepaid carwash cards as stocking stuffers, according to Guiniling. Cruz Thru's "Holiday Special" runs through Dec. 31 every year, and it gives a customer five free carwashes when they prepay for five carwashes.

"We offer our 'Holiday Special' in an attractive card and envelope that fits nicely into a stocking; we've received a lot of positive feedback from guests that love giving these as gifts," he said.

3. Send holiday greetings.

Every trip to the mailbox during the holiday season seems special because there are often cheerful Christmas cards waiting inside. The holidays are the perfect time to contact customers and thank them for their business. These customer mailings can take the form of traditional post cards or classic holiday cards.

Holiday mailings should target a wash's best customers as well as wash club members. In addition to wishing your customers happy holidays and thanking them for their business during the year, cards should let customers know about any special offers. They can communicate any special holiday events that may be planned at the carwash as well.

4. Present them with presents.

Everyone knows it is better to give than receive, and a little giving can definitely help a carwash stand apart from the competition. One of the most popular gifts is, of course, candy. From a small chocolate to a full-sized candy cane, there is no better customer treat than something sweet during the holidays.

Warm beverages are always popular during the holiday season as well. Owners and employees can offer customers a warm cup of coffee, cider or hot chocolate, and a cozy waiting room can be a great place to share a few minutes of fellowship. The warm beverages and friendly atmosphere should make the waiting room a calm place where customers can recline and recharge while their car is given the star treatment.

5. Put them in pictures.

When the holidays roll around, every child's top priority is speaking with Santa. After all, the big red guy is ready, willing and able to deliver bags and bags of Christmas presents. Having an on-site Santa with a camera nearby gives customers and their children a great reason to choose your wash over the competitors.

A carwash can also offer other types of customer pictures. Employees can stand at the end of tunnels and click a Polaroid of a smiling family in their super-clean car. Carwashes also can offer waiting room pictures taken in front of a festive background or around a Christmas tree.

Cruz Thru locations offer unique in-tunnel pictures that are uploaded to the wash's Facebook page daily. Guiniling said the washes will offer a number of holiday themed scenes this year. "This is something we've been looking forward to doing all year."

6. Create a holiday commercial.

With the affordable video camera technology now available, it's easier than ever to make a commercial. Sure, owners can still pay for the production of a serious clip to play on local television. But a funny and festive holiday clip can easily be created solely for use on the Internet.

The only limits on Internet commercials are your creativity. An afternoon of shooting and an hour or two of editing are all that's needed to create a short Internet clip. Once finished, it can be posted on Facebook, and from there it can be easily emailed and shared on a multitude of websites. Once again, these commercials can be the perfect vehicle for letting customers know about special offers and thanking them for their business.

7. Get festive with Facebook.

When it comes to keeping in contact with customers, Facebook is a marketing tool that many businesses now use on a daily basis. Facebook walls and advertisements can be affordable ways to push prepaid sales, communicate special holiday hours and pass along the latest information about your business.

For the holidays, customizing a business's Facebook page is a great idea. First, you can update your profile with a holiday themed picture. Next, you can let those who "like" you know about any and every holiday offering. On Facebook, these special offers will be communicated to hundreds of friends with just a few clicks of the mouse.

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