The excitement and anticipation of what any new year can bring should never be lost on anyone, much less someone who has been in (and presumably, survived) the carwash business during the past few years.
Each new year always brings new dreams, new plans, and, of course, new challenges. How thoroughly and effectively you plan today to deal with your challenges in the coming year determines how successful your carwash will be in 2008.
So, before the clock strikes midnight: read, take notes, but most of all, take action concerning these New Year’s resolutions.
1. Commit to operational and service excellence.
First and foremost, make your carwash the best in your local market. See your carwash as a valued customer would see it. What can you do to improve the total wash experience of your best carwash customer?
Conduct periodic on-site surveys to measure your success, and learn what your best customers think you are doing well, and what you could be doing better. Ask them why they are washing their car at your business and catalog their responses — this will help you capture other customers just like them in the future.
2. Engage, educate and invigorate your employees each day.
Industry leaders in every market always have an excellent reputation for exceptional customer service — and exceptional employees are always the reason why. Create best customer service awards for your top producers. Have a written customer service policy for employees and recognize those staff members that follow-through.
Feedback from your employees is critical for your continued success. Create an environment where everyone wants to be a part of the team, and let them share and contribute their positive ideas to your vision.
3. Expand your vision, embrace more customers.
Recognize that your carwash is a retail business, and you have to compete each day for your customers with every other retail business. As a leading retailer, be ready and able to devote exceptional care and attention daily to build a strong and consistent customer base.
Start a “free carwash on your birthday” promotion for all of your customers. This type of positive buzz in the community is an important part, but a first step only, in your building a loyal customer base.
4. Create a written marketing plan, and implement it each week and each month.
In a constricted market, don’t leave anything to chance: plan monthly and seasonal promotions. Find new and innovative ways to bring customers into your carwash. Print advertising is available (and very cost-effective) in most markets. And don’t forget to invite new movers into your carwash.
Make marketing a top priority even during the slow months. And rest assured that your competitor, who is not marketing then, will have many more slow months than you.
5. Reach out into your local community.
Almost without exception, most of your loyal and repeat customers will come from a three-mile radius of your site. Make it your goal and mission to establish top of mind presence and recognition in the consumers’ mind in your three-mile market.
Sponsor a high school baseball team. Have a “Teacher’s Appreciation Day” at your carwash. Cross-market your carwash with other active and leading local retail businesses.
6. Determine who are your “best” customers.
A “best” customer can be one who washes each week. She can also be the president of the local Chamber of Commerce or the owner of the closest real estate office. Or maybe the president of a local classic car club. Regardless of who the best customer is, you need to know all of the movers and shakers in your market.
Thank all of your best customers for their loyal patronage, and be certain to give each of them superior service. Then, they will have every reason to continue to get their cars washed each week, and will consistently refer customers to your wash.
7. Negotiate your service and chemical agreements now.
Strengthen and consolidate your business relationships with all your key service providers to keep your equipment up-to-date and working at peak efficiency. If possible, lock in your service and chemical prices now, and have your providers guarantee their rate and prices for the next 12-18 months.
Become known as an operator who will test and evaluate new products and services as they become available on the market. Your suppliers will appreciate your feedback, and your customers will see that you are on the leading edge in operating a quality-oriented carwash.
8. Attend Car Care World Expo 2008.
This year, the Car Care World Expo is meeting April 7-10, in Orlando, FL. This has become a very big, and very impressive trade show. The exhibitors are great, and the educational seminars are even better. If possible, bring along two or three of your most valuable employees or top producers, too.
9. Know what you can control and what you can’t.
As you plan for 2008, remember there will be many factors out of your control. These include gas prices, weather conditions, local economy, utility rates and your competition.
But do keep in mind that your own initiative and activity (or lack of activity) is in your control and will be noticed by your customers.
Be emboldened by these inspiring words from Abraham Lincoln, a tortured man who had to overcome and endure many hardships throughout his life: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”
10. Examine your past, and then elevate your expectations for 2008.
Reflect over the past 12 months and record what you have done well, and what you haven’t done well. Write down business management techniques and strategies that have worked exceptionally well and also, aspects that you want to improve.
Do not forget the immutable law of carwash marketing for owners and operators: if you don’t take active and effective control of your carwash marketing, your customers and your carwash’s future will be in the hands of your competitors.
Happy New Year
To make 2008 your best year ever, be comprehensive, creative and proactive in your management and marketing. You will have greater control of your carwash, be better known in your community, and enjoy a more profitable future.
Lastly, since every company today wishes to add value to their service offering, let me take up that challenge and make one further suggestion: read at least one good book before the end of this year. You might consider “Customer Mania! It’s Never Too Late to Build a Customer-Focused Company,” by Ken Blanchard, or “Guerrilla Marketing Excellence: The Fifty Golden Rules For Small-Business Success,” by Jay Conrad Levinson.
Mike Perry is the owner of Total Marketing Concepts, a consulting and marketing company for carwash distributors and operators. He is based out of Atlanta, GA. Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 770-330-2490.