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You’ve decided to take the plunge and open your own carwash. Congratulations, but the hard work is far from finished. Now come the tasks of hiring, scheduling, managing, attracting and retaining customers — the list could go on forever, but for good reason: Each and every action brings you one step closer to achieving your business potential.
Make the Internet work for you
Perhaps one of the most important ways to help get your carwash off the ground — or, if you’ve been open for a while, introduce your concept to a new audience — is through an integrated marketing program. Initiatives have largely been focused on print media outlets, but with the rise of the Internet, marketing in this forum has proved to be an effective addition to traditional marketing programs in reaching a wider variety of potential customers.
Here are a few ways to utilize the Internet for you — and your business’s — advantage:
1. Target your ideal customers.
Ask yourself who your ideal customer is and how your business can benefit them. This will help you to determine how to get your products and services in front of them most effectively.
For example, if your ideal customer is a 30-something male with a high-end vehicle, think about what he needs to keep his vehicle in top condition and utilize these keywords to your advantage. The higher the frequency of these keywords appearing in your materials, the greater the likelihood is that these ideal customers will come across your business in their search and patronize your business.
2. Tap into social media.
It’s hard to go a day without hearing someone talk about Twitter or Facebook — use that to your advantage. Set up a fan page or group page on Facebook. Include:
- Information about your carwash or detail company;
- Before and after photos of your work; and
- Ongoing and upcoming specials and send your existing customers invitations to join.
If customers are satisfied with the work you’ve done for them in the past, they will let their friends know and their friends will let their friends know and so on which will grow your network and maximize the potential for new customers.
Twitter is also an excellent resource because you can see what people are talking about in real time. Search for specific words or phrases pertaining to your business to see who is talking — or “tweeting” — about those topics at that particular moment. You can then reply to their comment with a link to your site or with details about a related promotion your business is running.
3. Think about related industries.
Keeping a vehicle in good working order takes work — and a number of different vendors. Talk to proprietors in related industries like gas stations, quick lubes, and automobile maintenance shops about joint promotions to be featured on both of your web sites. This way, you’re accessing an entirely new group of potential customers that already know and trust the company you’re partnering with and, given that level of familiarity, will be more inclined to give your business a second look.
4. E-mail in moderation.
Collecting e-mail addresses from your clients is a great way to stay connected and keep them abreast of any new happenings at your business they may want to partake in. A newsletter at the beginning of each month detailing deals, announcing new team members, highlighting a regular customer or two or inviting them to connect with you on Twitter or Facebook shows you value their business and are thinking of them.
Be wary, though: Many customers are hesitant to provide their e-mail addresses because they fear doing so will mean an onslaught of spam. If you assure them you will only be e-mailing them once a month, after they come in for service or another set amount, they will be much more receptive to opening the lines of electronic communication.
5. Monitor and reply to feedback.
Portals like Yelp and Citysearch are invaluable resources for you to monitor what your customers have to say about your business. If the feedback is positive, send a thank you e-mail and a coupon for a free car wash during their next visit.
If the comments are unsavory, however, don’t just sit idly by — take action. In late April of 2009, Yelp began allowing business owners the opportunity to publicly comment on reviews about their businesses and provide additional context around specific reviews.
This has proved to be extremely useful for countless business owners in several ways: Replying shows they care about their reputation and are willing to go the extra mile to ensure their customers are happy. And since this is done publicly, people searching the site see the vested interest of these business owners and may give the business a chance at a later date.
Whether you are just starting out in the carwashing business or are looking to expand, the Internet can play an integral role in growing your business. If used properly, you can gain access to a wealth of new customers, build lasting relationships and ensure your business’s success now and well into the future.
Ron McArthur is the president of WSI, a provider of Internet marketing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses with more than 1,500 Internet marketing experts in 87 countries. He can be reached at 888-678-7588 or via e-mail at email@example.com.