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Creative integration for lube & wash

October 11, 2010
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Time is valuable, and more and more consumers are turning to one-stop shopping. Carwash/fast lube combinations are a result of this trend.

Cross-marketing centers

Running a site that has both a fast lube and a carwash presents unique challenges. Management becomes crucial and up-to-date information and accurate statistics form the basis for major and minor operating decisions.

Customer data, inventory levels, and service histories become more numerous and require efficient organization. As the management demands increase, owners must be willing to invest to ensure smooth and profitable operations.

In most cases, a computerized management system is necessary to handle the daily flow of information. As lube/wash combos become more popular, there is a growing need for operators to cross-market.

However, owners don't have to break the bank to increase business. Many of the most effective strategies for cross- marketing are inexpensive or available at no cost, such as:

Displays

While customers are waiting, the wash owner has a great opportunity to inform/educate them about additional services. Post signs throughout the waiting areas to let patrons know of the other operation(s).

Depending on the budget, signage can range from simple countertop displays to full-color posters to large outdoor banners.

Packages

Consumers love getting a great deal. Offer your customers several services combined together as a car-care package.

To create a package, bundle products and services that complement each other.

Next, set a price that gives customers a sizable discount over purchasing each service individually. Then, promote the great value and savings.

Be sure to offer several packages so customers will feel they have more choices. Car-care packages have a high perceived value and are good for selling slow moving products and services.

Coupons

Almost every carwash and fast lube in town uses coupons. However, an owner of a carwash and lube center can offer something many of his or her competitors cannot— an extra service.

While other lube shops will get into price wars and try to out-coupon each other, the dual profit center owner can stand out by offering a free carwash. The word free can be much more effective than $5 off.

Just add a coupon stating"free carwash with the purchase of a basic oil change," to whatever newspaper ads or mailers are normally used.

Run the new coupon side-by-side the original coupon and it will give consumers more choices. Advertise the new service and then test the effectiveness of the offer.

Customer database

So the carwash/fast lube combo has been open for a while, but an owner may still have customers that just use one service. What can be done?

The answer lies in the computer— the database. Run a list of customers that have had specific services before but haven't been in for that service in six months.

Send them a postcard inviting them to come in for that service at a discounted rate or mail them a certificate for a free basic carwash (with the opportunity to purchase an upgrade) to introduce them to the other location.

Personalized service doesn't end when the customer leaves the site. A computer allows the owner to send customized thank you cards or coupons such as:"Thank you for coming in Mrs. Bentley— receive $2 off your next full service oil change.

A good database can dramatically reduce the time it takes to gather this type of detailed information and simplifies bulk mailings.

Fleets

Some of the most consistent customers are fleet customers. Wouldn't it be great to extend that constant flow of traffic to another profit center?

For fleet managers, time is of the essence. Enclose a flyer with the next fleet statement, letting fleet managers know they can get their vehicles washed when they bring them in for their usual service.

Remind them they can stop by for a wash even when it is not time for an oil change. They'll get the same speed and high quality work they have come to know and expect from the lube shop.

For a more unique approach, call major fleet customers personally. It's a good opportunity to build solid relationships. Besides, it never hurts for them to hear how much an owner appreciates their business.

Receipts

An easy way to promote a carwash is through current fast lube customers— and vice versa.

Advertise to current customers by adding a few lines at the bottom of the receipt. Most software programs allow this to be done.

If not, create a stamp that can print:"Present this invoice next door and get $2.00 off a basic carwash."

In turn, carwash receipts could include:"Good for $3.00 off a full service oil and filter change."

Employees

Probably the most obvious, yet overlooked cross-marketing tool is the staff.

Employees have one-on-one contact with customers every day. What better way to promote multiple profit centers than with face-to-face, verbal communication?

Customer service is perhaps the most important part of any business. In fact, 80 percent of lost business is due to the failure of customer service rather than the result of poor quality.

Time is extremely valuable to customers. The more a business respects their time by providing efficient, quality service, the more satisfied they will be, and the more likely they'll be to return.

An effective management system is the solution that makes possible many of these cross-marketing strategies. When the time comes for an owner to make a decision about which computer system is right for their business, he or she needs to look long and hard at the capabilities each system offers.

Be sure to ask questions about:

  • The features and benefits;
  • The speed of processing;
  • The integration between profit centers; and
  • The available customer service features.

Owners also want to find out about what kind of customer service the computer vendor offers. How available are they to answer questions? Customer service should be as important to them as it is to the owner.

Service is essential

In the end, customer service is the key to attracting new customers and retaining current customers at any lube/wash combination site.

Investing in a powerful management system that allows an owner to shine in customer service not only increases customer satisfaction, it also improves the bottom line.

Trina Davis is the marketing manager of Integrated Services, Inc. (ISI) headquartered in Portland, OR. ISI is the maker of point-of-sale software systems for carwash and fast lube owners. For more information email isi@ints.com.

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