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Business Operations / Sonny's-Carwash College™ Tip of the Month

Opening a Wash

CarWash College™ Tip of the Month

November 30, 2010
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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being part of a team opening a new Flex-Service wash. This wash was beautiful, had all the bells and whistles and it was in a good location. This month, I am going to highlight what it's like to open a new facility and all the joys and fears of doing so, and what can be done to make it a success.

The first day we opened to the public we washed cars for free. We opened at about noon after resolving some computer issues. While the car wash was down, the owners watched in fear as the technicians worked out all the bugs. I assured them it was perfectly normal to have problems in the beginning, and this was why I asked them to wait a month before holding the Grand Opening. During the first day, they washed over 650 cars in a seven hour period. The owners were thrilled! They had big smiles on their faces and went home happy.

The next day the wash opened for paying customers and only washed 150 cars. The owners came to me that night and asked if they had made a mistake in building the place. I laughed and told them not to worry, that they had only been open to paying customers for one day. Over the next two weeks volume continued to rise and their fears have since receded. Let's look at some of the things that were done to ensure that volumes will continue to rise week after week.

Before opening we had implemented a marketing plan targeting customers within a 3-mile radius of the wash. Using a direct mailer we sent out about 5,000 free wash coupons announcing the car wash opening. Additionally, brochures and a custom designed menu were created outlining the wash packages, Unlimited Wash Program, VIP Club benefits and the wash’s mission statement. The brochures were handed out at the wash and to area businesses letting them know how glad we were to be part of the local business community. A simple, yet very effective promotion was using a sign holder. We gave him a large arrow which read CAR WASH NOW OPEN and positioned him close to the road where he would be highly visable. We also changed the car wash sign using a flex face insert to read NOW OPEN.

During the first 90 days of operation employees will be placed by the pay stations to help customers understand the pay stations and answer questions about the wash. During this 90-day time frame, handouts are given to customers outlining the Unlimited Wash Program. The wash has already sold around 100 memberships during its first two weeks! Next month they will be holding their Grand Opening. All proceeds from the Grand Opening will be donated to the National Children’s Leukemia Foundation. The Grand Opening will be advertised via radio with the stations broadcasting live from the car wash the day of the event.

You only open your car wash once. Make sure you do it the right way. Not only do the typical marketing methods go a long way, but remember, everything you do – from the way your staff is dressed to the way they treat the customer is a form of marketing. If you have questions about marketing please send me an email.

Robert Andre is the President of CarWash College™. Robert can be reached at RAndre@carwashcollege.com. For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit www.CarWashCollege.com or call the registrar's office at 1-866-492-7422.