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Business Operations / Lustra™ Tip of the Month

Brand Matters

Lustra™ Tip of the Month

September 09, 2010
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Why Knowing and Living Your Brand Matters

Your brand is critical to your business success. Especially in these challenging economic conditions, your brand equity, in the minds of your customers, can keep them choosing your wash over the competitors in your area. So what is brand and why is it so important?

Brand is Perception

Brand is the perception of what your business is and what it represents to each and every individual that comes in contact with it. It is not a name, a product or an advertisement, as many might think. Brand is the concept in your customers' minds that says what your business is to them. It could be "best quality wash in town", "a clean, shiny car every time", "a great wash deal", "an inconsistent, often dirty car", or … nothing at all. Obviously you want your brand to be considered in a positive way.

Developing Your Brand

Brands are developed with a clear differentiated message, over time, with consistency, and frequency. First, you need to define what makes your business different from your competitors. What do you want to be known for? It must be unique and it must be memorable for your customer. The more unique and visually impressionable it is, the more your customers will remember it. It needs to reflect your business alone and not an imitation of any other. It is difficult to take over a spot already occupied by your competitor. Choose your brand carefully and keep it focused.

Your brand should define the unique value you bring to your target market, and your target market should be defined broadly enough to sustain your business and yet not be all things to all people. To reach a wide demographic segment like age, you need to determine the unique value proposition that transcends age as a category. McDonald's for instance focused on delivering quality hamburgers quickly. The speed of delivery was a value that people of all ages could relate to. In other demographic areas, such as vegetarians or some ethnic groups, hamburgers as a food choice did not relate well. If McDonald's had broadened their scope to reach all these markets they would likely not have achieved the same level of success. They would have lost their focus.

You need to decide what it is that uniquely defines your business and just how broad your intended target can be. Perhaps it's a fun place to get a car cleaned. If designed effectively that "fun" focus could appeal across a good range of demographics. Of course, some serious car enthusiasts might not respond to this brand positioning. However, continuing to focus on a fun wash and not trying to appeal to every serious car enthusiast could keep your brand strong and over time growing through word of mouth and good marketing. If you try to serve both markets your message could become confusing and ineffective.

Next comes frequency and consistency. To become implanted in your customers' mind you must present your brand to them with everything you say and do. Your car wash must project your brand to your customers. For example, if your brand is "best quality wash in town" then everything in your wash must say that. That includes your signage, the clean appearance of your lot, how your customers are greeted, the effectiveness of your wash, the maintenance of your equipment, your wash chemicals, advertising, promotional programs, how you thank your customers and how you ask for their repeat business. If any of these elements is out of line or inconsistent from visit to visit then your brand will be inconsistent in your customers’ mind.

Perception is Reality

It starts with what consumers see and perceive as they drive in front of your wash. Is your location's name and the words 'car wash' prominently displayed and visible on your road or building sign? Your signage should be attractive and inviting to the casual driver. Do other lot signs invite and entice the driver to get their car washed? Better solutions providers can offer advice and marketing materials to help drive your brand.

Your entire car wash location should reflect your brand, "We're the best quality wash in town!" Are your landscaping, lot and buildings attractive, clean and well maintained? Your signage should always be up-to-date, clean, attractive and easy to read. Does everything invite the customer to drive up and place their order? Making sure the bays are always clean and well lit will go a long way to creating the "quality perception" in your customers' minds that ultimately leads to brand loyalty.

Another critically important aspect is the customer service and purchase assistance the consumer receives while patronizing your business. Your people will be the key. Do they smile, greet the customer and say thank you? Do they appear clean, are friendly and know how to present your business in a way your customer says yes? If you have an unattended facility make sure your wash menus and supporting POP materials explain some of the benefits of your top packages and invite customers to select the best value package for their money.

Monitor Your Performance

Don't forget to monitor your performance on an ongoing basis. Do you deliver what they are expecting? Is your equipment functioning at 100%? Is your equipment in good working order? Does your soap deliver the goods and wow them with your super shine and sealant? Does the rinse water explode off the car and do your dryers dry the car? At the end of the process, don’t forget to say thank you for their patronage and invite them to come back.

Another way to monitor your brand performance is to ask your customers what they think of your wash. Why do they come here? If you are doing your job correctly they should mimic back your brand in their own words.

Finishing touches bring that extra value and pride and result in long-term brand loyalty to your business. Support your neighbors and help your community. Work on a charity wash program and partner with local organizations around you to offer that added value. Do you offer loyalty, coupon or gift programs to encourage customers to come again and invite their neighbors and relatives to give it a try? How about green products and helping protect and preserve your local streams, lakes and environment?

All of this is your brand. Every last bit of it says who you are, how you are different and why consumers should stop into your wash rather than the one down the street. Remember, it only takes one bad experience to get the customer to try someone else and not return. Don't give your competitors that opportunity.

By: Jim Wurm, Lustra Marketing

For more information go to Lustrabear.com.