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In October 2005, Stacey Patulski purchased a run-down carwash with two in-bay automatics and one self-serve bay. In 15 days, he had completely renovated and re-opened the wash, but he was at a loss as to how to improve the reputation of the once-failing site. Enter: 107.7 FM Spa Radio, the carwash’s own on-site radio broadcast.
So how did this innovative marketing idea get started? Stacey Patulski tells you in his own words…
The evolution of 107.7 Spa Radio
We had so much to say and so little money to say it with. The foreclosed carwash facility that we recently purchased was in very poor condition and carried with it a bad reputation within the community for equipment reliability and wash quality problems.
These reputation issues presented us with the challenge of informing the community about our changes in business philosophy, equipment enhancements and service improvements on a very limited advertising budget.
To further complicate the situation, our local zoning board recently implemented very restrictive ordinances that do not allow the use of lighted scrolling message signs.
The only remaining options were the use of temporary banners, building signage or printed material. Each of these would quickly accumulate large expenses that we could not really afford at the time.
We kicked around many different ideas on how we could effectively keep our clients informed about all the changes and improvements at the Manistee Auto Spa while minimizing our cost. The basic idea was suggested by Auto Spa Manager Jason Winter during discussions about how our clients were already on-site anywhere from 6-20 minutes. We realized this was a captive audience of clients.
Jason then mentioned that we needed one of those broadcaster units used by the Parks Service to provide visitors with a wealth of information. He began researching broadcaster units. We needed a quality unit, but one that was also affordably priced and easy to operate.
Within one week we purchased our broadcaster unit and 107.7 FM Spa Radio launched. Spa Radio is now the main source of information for our clients and they love to tune in to hear what crazy marketing idea we have going on during each visit.
Buying a system
The broadcast system we implemented is a FM Transmitter and CD Quality Digital Recorder / Player built into one compact unit. It’s capable of recording up to 16 minutes of messages and commercials which are then continuously broadcast and with a system that has no moving parts, it’s expected to play trouble free for years.
The system set-up, programming and operations were so simple that we started broadcasting Spa Radio within 20 minutes of opening the box. Our chosen unit operates on 120V-AC wall adapter or the optional 12V-mobile power adapter.
This has been by far our most cost-effective and enjoyable marketing tool, and it evolved out of need. The one-time investment for the broadcaster unit was just over $300 with accessories. We then invested a few dollars in some initial signage and promotions directing clients to 107.7 FM.
Operators can easily record their own ads and information onto the system and update it regularly themselves. We recorded our own messages for several months and then chose to hire a service to provide us with new, professionally written and recorded messages every two weeks for a nominal fee.
Since this unit can be operated with a mobile adapter, we have used it to broadcast from Ms. Bug, our marketing vehicle. We park her around town with the message “Tune to 107.7 FM for carwash discounts!” written on her.
Get them tuned in
Several affordable strategies were implemented to get our clients tuned in when we first started. The first step was colorful eye-catching signage encouraging clients to tune their radio to 107.7 FM for discounts and information.
Then we promoted “107.7 FM Spa Radio” through some coupon handouts requiring clients to listen to Spa Radio for details about coupon value and redemption process. We continue to promote Spa Radio daily through attendant contact with clients.
To keep clients tuning in during each visit we offer exclusive Spa Radio listener promotions, informative car care information, upcoming fundraiser details and humorous messages. We update messages every two weeks to keep Spa Radio fresh and worth tuning in.
The only challenge we encountered during the implementation of Spa Radio was finding time to keeping the messages updated, interesting and effective. This system is simple to set-up and operate, but requires time to write ad copy and record new messages regularly.
In the beginning, we would write, read and record our own messages. As we would soon learn, this process is not difficult but can be time consuming. The process of writing an effective ad and then recording it took us about 5 hours to complete a 10-minute recording. This became easier with time as our experience and reference material grew. Keep in mind the time commitment is entirely dependant on the desired use and expectations.
We currently have the client greeting, special promotions and sold advertising messages written, recorded and delivered by JSW Concepts to save time and simplify this process. This service provides us with a completely hassle-free method of keeping our messages fresh and updated but is not necessary for this system to be effective. We still record some of our daily manager specials and regularly conduct “Live” promotional announcements.
Today, our broadcast includes:
- Exclusive Spa Radio listener discounts;
- Promotions for new products and services;
- Industry messages;
- Job opportunities;
- Contact information; and
- Even a little humor.
Spa Radio has proven to be a very affordable and effective marketing tool for our carwash facility. We hoped to shine a light on the positive potential such a system could have for other operators.
Our use of Spa Radio was a contributing factor in receiving the 2006 Midwest Carwash Association Creative Marketing Award. This exciting approach of communicating with clients is worth evaluating for any operator looking to introduce a fresh new marketing idea that can help increase per client sales, wash frequency and community exposure.
Stacey Patulski is the owner of Manistee Auto Wash in Manistee, MI. If you’re interested in hearing more about Stacey’s expierence with on-site radio broadcast, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Audio clips from Spa Radio can be found at the carwash’s website, www.manisteeautospa.com.