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Marketing a detail business

If you are going to succeed in your detail business, you need a well-rounded marketing plan.

April 28, 2014
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Whether you are starting up your business or need a refresher course on marketing your existing one, this article will help by providing you some tips.

You should know that your marketing efforts must include advertising in different mediums, according to your budget and your target market. You can use newspapers, radio, television, online and direct mail. Above and beyond these types of advertising, you probably have a lot of questions on marketing your business, such as: How do I find customers? How do I do a successful direct mail campaign? How do I brand myself? How do I market my business with a website? How can I market my business to gain a competitive advantage? How do I network? How do I market with emails? How do I use social media to market my business?

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Drawing on my years of experience, I will provide answers to these questions.

Want to find customers? Ask for Referrals

One of your biggest challenges is finding new customers. The best way to get new detail customers is through referrals from satisfied existing customers. Try these three unique ideas for asking for referrals that will actually work.

  1. Host an event. Event marketing can help you grow your detail business in a fun, relaxed way. Invite your customers and their friends to a special event sponsored by your detail business. Make it fun -- like a wine tasting party. It needs to be something that your customers and their friends would want to attend. Invite each customer to bring a friend. It is really a win-win because your guests have a great experience, and you get to break the ice with potential new customers. Have a door prize with a card the attendees fill out with all their information.
  2. Co-brand content. With this method, you get referrals from other automotive businesses. Develop a great content piece -- like a presentation -- and then look for opportunities to co-brand it with another company. Here is how it works: You are a top detailer and create a presentation Car Care for the Motorist. What other businesses would be interested in sharing that information? Body Shop? Accessory Shop? Car Wash? Repair Shop? Find the right person and then reach out to them. Offer to put both company names on the content in exchange for being introduced to their email list and social media contacts.
  3. Sponsor a contest. Everybody, no matter how rich, likes free things. Try using your Facebook page to host a contest in order to give away a free detail service to the winner – and then encourage your Facebook fans to enter by sharing the content with their friends. Everyone who shares gets an entry to win your free service, so the word spreads fast. Once the contest is over, you can reach out to entrants that did not win to offer your detail services at a special price.

Direct mail

Keep your direct mail out of the trash by doing the following:

  1. Select the right list. A crummy mail campaign sent to a good list can make money, but even brilliant mail sent to a bad list will fail every time.
  2. Update your list. Lists go out-of-date at a rate of 15% or more every year.
  3. Go bold! Choose a clear, bold headline and a color that pops for maximum notice!
  4. Watch out for "muleta.” Muleta is the little red cape that bullfighters use to distract the bull. Similarly, look for anything in your piece that will distract potential customers from your offer.
  5. Present a call-to-action and an offer. One of biggest the mistakes is burying(or not including) a call-to-action. Tell your prospect exactly what you want them to do.
  6. Commit! Be consistent and commit. Consumers rarely get multiple pieces from a business. Hit your prospect with different communication about the same thing, or hit them with different services with the same look or feel, or both. Repetition makes your reader think, "Hmmm ... these guys are still contacting me“. Demonstrate that type of persistence for added credibility.

Postcard marketing can work for you

You may be surprised to learn that postcard marketing still works in the 21st century. In fact, postcards usually produce better results today than in the past - especially when used for generating traffic to a website or sales leads.

One reason postcards work so well is that they are usually read. Postcards are small. Most are about 4 x 6 inches in size. That means your message must be brief. In addition, postcards are delivered with your message exposed and "ready to read.” This guarantees that almost 100 percent of the recipients will actually see and at least scan your sales message ... whether they intend to or not.

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But, do not try to close sales with a postcard. In most cases, there is not enough space on it to provide all of the information needed to close sales. Instead, design your postcard to attract attention to your detail service, and create a desire to find out more about it. Then tell the reader to get more information from a source where you CAN close sales - like your website or by calling you.

Postcard marketing offers a number of other major benefits for marketers, too:

1. Creating effective postcards is easy. Start with a brief headline to get the readers' attention. Then include a bulleted list of 3 to 5 major benefits followed by instructions to call you, visit your website, or come into your place of business.

2. The cost of marketing with postcards is very low. The cost of material used to make typical 4 x 6 or similar size postcards is very low. Even the process of printing them is simple and inexpensive, too.

Tip: You can create and print your marketing postcards with your own computer and printer for just a few cents each.

3. Postcards can produce quick results. Because postcards are simple to create, print, and send, you can get them in the mail fast.

Brand yourself for more success

You have to "brand yourself" in order to become successful. Branding yourself means to make yourself stand out from the other detail businesses. Be the one that people remember and go to when they need detailing services. Build your reputation as the "go to" person in your field. Below are some things you can do to start the branding process:

  1. Have a motto. Choose a motto to live by personally and professionally. This will stick in people's minds and help you focus as well.
  2. Connect with people. Do not just get through meetings, calls, appointments, etc. Take the time to really connect with the people you are talking to. Be open and listen intently to what others say.
  3. Personalize. Anytime you send emails, postcards, letters, or anything, make it personal. Address people by name.
  4. Professionally network. Join some good networking sites, groups and clubs. Make yourself available for advice, help and guidance.
  5. Always be honest and upfront. Let people know, honestly, what you can do for them. If you cannot meet their needs, point them to someone who can.
  6. Use body language. Always make direct eye contact. Use your eyebrows to show openness and understanding. Smile, keep your arms unfolded, and sit in a relaxed manner with good posture.
  7. Go the extra mile. Help people whenever you can, even if you do not see a sale happening. It sends a message about what type of person you are and what kind of detail business you run.
  8. Believe in yourself. Always be positive in mind, spirit and attitude. Be professional, and always create a positive image as well.
  9. Practice email and phone etiquette. Use proper spelling and grammar. Be courteous, friendly and helpful via email and on the phone.
  10. Be yourself. Do not try to put on a facade. Relax and let the person know how unique and authentic you are.

Website marketing

A website is working 24 hours a day for a business. It must reflect your brand, professionalism and communicate the right message to engage visitors. To get your website to do this, remember these points:

  1. You must have a clear understanding of your objective. If you do not know or understand the needs and goals for your website, you cannot explain them to the web developer.
  2. Allow time to develop a plan and the site. You cannot be effective if you just slap six web pages together with a "Buy Now" button. You must develop your strategy and content before you start.
  3. Don't be married to it. Do not get too attached to your initial website idea. Be prepared for change.
  4. First impressions mean everything. The concept, content and message of your website are ultra-important. Your site needs to clearly convey your message or describe the benefits of your services, and visitors should easily be able to find the information they are looking for. You have 8 seconds to "capture" their interest.
  5. You cannot sell what people cannot find. Without traffic, your website means nothing. So, your next step is media exposure, from building your social networking connections to getting seen and/or heard in print and on TV and radio.

What is your competitive advantage?

You must be able to answer this basic marketing question: "Why should a prospective customer buy my detail service rather than a competitor's?" There are only two possible answers: Either the detail service is being offered at a lower price, or the offering must be differentiated from the competitions.

Companies such as Walmart have been extremely successful pursuing a low cost strategy. Walmart uses its massive volume to negotiate purchase prices that are well below what smaller competitors pay. Small businesses will not have the volumes to pursue this type of strategy. Such businesses are left with the need to differentiate their services from the competition's to give their customers a reason to buy that is not based on price.

Your detail service package must be more desirable to a particular segment of the market than the competitions. Also, the size of this segment must be large enough to be attractive to your business.

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Ask yourself what makes a market segmentation that will allow you to target your detail services profitably to customers who will pay a premium for them?:

  1. These customers must make the buying decision.
  2. Customers in this segment must be easily identifiable.

The key to effectively segmenting the market is to understand how customers make the buying decision for detail services. What characteristics of your detail service are most important to each group of customers? Advertising then must be specifically intended to position your detail services inline with the wants and needs of a given segment better than those of your competition.

The customers in each segment must be externally identifiable so you can reach them. You need to know what medium to use to reach the specific segments. The detail service has to be the most attractive alternative for a segment of the market that is large enough to give you sufficient business to justify market segmentation in the first place. For example, owners of Bentley’s may not be a large enough market in Eugene, Ore. versus Los Angeles.


Connections are critical for marketing purposes. Here are five networking apps that can help you connect with others:

  1. Bump: Use Bump to share contact information and photos by simply bumping two phones together. Feel free to bump contacts at networking events and even in the workplace. Who is to say that fleeting connections will not materialize into good customers down the line?
  2. Hashable: Make an intro with a hashtag. This is one of the easiest ways to manage contacts and to facilitate meetings on the go. Simply download the app, and then use the hashtag to communicate messages via Twitter. Specified hashtags can introduce associates to one another -- and if they do not have Twitter, it is alright: Hashable can send messages internally. Use the #intro hashtag to put two people in touch, or propose a #meeting at a #restaurant with a new acquaintance.
  3. Friendthem: This is a revolutionary location-based connectivity app, with fine-grained and easily-configured privacy controls, which is changing the way the world connects in a seamless and fun manner by helping them send Facebook friend requests to people they meet in the real world. Friendthem is a great tool for connecting with people you meet along the way and creating long-term relationships.
  4. MeetMe: This app is designed to help people meet in the middle. You input two locations (or use your current location and input your colleague's address), and it locates suitable meeting venues in the middle. The search can be narrowed down by type of venue, and you can store contacts and venues in your favorites for future use. From there, you can email directions to yourself and your colleague. The only thing left to do is meet up.
  5. ScanBizCards : If you like to carry and handout business cards, this handy app scans your businesses cards and automatically translates the information into a digital contact, letting you edit the information and add more.

Email marketing

Over the last few years, email marketing has proven itself as one of the most effective ways to target customers. If you have a professional looking email campaign that is well conceived and executed, you can drive customers to your detail business, and convince those who have never used your services to give you a try. Here are some tips and ideas to get started.

  1. Think of a call-to-action that will make a good subject line in your email. For example, "Express Hand Wax - $39.95". Always avoid words in your subject line such as "free" to make sure spam filters do not reject your message.
  2. Keep your service offering concise. This keeps the buyer decision process easy. Sometimes more information and choices only creates doubt and uncertainty.
  3. Frame the email offer as a message to those who will be buying the detail service.
  4. Improve your success by giving customers the option of purchasing a gift certificate. Include examples of gifts at different price points so they have an idea of what the certificate will buy.
  5. Send a reminder email just before a sale or holiday. That will catch the last-minute shoppers at the right moment. Make sure that your delivery processing time is accounted for in your email timing, so the email recipient can still rely on getting the gift sent on time.

Increase responses and lower your costs

The best way to lower your cost per customer acquisition is by identifying the right markets for your services. Marketing drives your lead generation program effectiveness — great marketing yields higher response and better conversion at lower costs. Your phone will ring more frequently and at less cost per call.

To accomplish this, implement a more focused marketing plan:

  1. Figure out who your current customers are.
  2. Figure out where your customers hang out.
  3. Learn what kind of vehicles your customers own.
  4. Figure out what most of your clients have in common.
  5. Start a mailing list of your customers.
  6. Buy several mailing lists.
  7. Create awareness via direct mail, newspapers, magazines and local TV to raise the level of awareness of your company.

Create the right message, create the right image, and present it consistently in the right media and presto -- you have an effective lead generation strategy. People will get to know you. Then the phone rings.

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