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Detailing's greatest hits

October 11, 2010
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In order to keep growing, detailers must constantly come up with new marketing and promotional ideas.

By taking advantage of the seasons, planning for add-on sales and making your detail business stand out from the rest, customers will notice.

Tax returns: A reason to buy
Shops should take advantage of the tax refund season. While most returns used to come in March, some arrive in February or even as early as January.

A lot of consumers, many of whom would be interested in a detail, often overpay on their taxes. As a result, the government owes them money at the end of the year.

Most look forward to this extra disposable income and usually spend it soon after receiving it.

Many people have already figured out how to spend the money, before they actually get it. A smart detailer will realize this and advertise to these customers beforehand to give them a place to spend it.

With the extra money they can now afford to purchase that luxury detail service they’ve wanted but felt was too extravagant — offering a buy now discount is one way to get them to purchase.

Show them how they will save by having their car detailed now. Show customers that they don’t even have to wait until they get their tax refund money. They can ride with pride in a clean car today.

Set a date
If customers are hesitant to spend money they don’t have, at least lock them in to the detail by getting them to make an appointment. By the time they receive their money, simply call them to come in and get their car detailed.

In conjunction with this approach you should also have specials during the tax return period that promote packages and make special offers.

Promote these using your normal channels of advertising, such as direct mail, print, etc. Make the sales time-dated to step up the urgency even more.

Tax refund months can be the best time of year for detailers. If you have a good customer base it’s wise to prepare them for this and maximize your potential sales.

Customer service is more than just a smile
Successful detailers often do extra things that make the purchasing experience more pleasurable and memorable. The immediate benefit is guaranteeing future purchases from the same customer as well as getting referrals from them.

As an independent business person, the more you can make yourself different and unique from others in a positive way, the better off you will be.

There are five things that you can do to make the buying experience more pleasurable for customers and give them more than what they ask for:

1. Make a poster of the person’s car — This works especially well after the detail. All you do is take a digital photo of the car with the customer standing next to it and with your store’s name or logo somewhere in the background.

Take this digital photo to a copy place, or send it to one of the many online publishing companies. They can make an inexpensive but very nice-looking 11x17-inch color poster for a minimal cost.

Customers love getting these posters, and you can be sure they will be seen by others, which is great advertising for you. Additionally, you can get two posters made and keep the second one to put up in your shop as a promotion.

2. Leave a rose or chocolate — Once the job is completed, many detailers leave a rose on the front seat of a woman customer’s car and a chocolate on a male customer’s car.

Customers appreciate this and it leaves them with a good impression about you and the detail job they just purchased.

3. Carwashes — This also works especially well after a complete detail. Give them a free hand-wash.

This shows them you appreciate their business and you are committed to keeping their vehicle in tip-top condition.

4. Bottled water or drinks for customers — If a customer is waiting around for their vehicle to be finished, it is a nice touch to offer them some bottled water or a soda to drink.

Little things like this leave a subtle impression on people and make it easier for them to return to your detail shop for future purchases as well as give you good word-of-mouth publicity.

5. Offer rides to customers leaving cars for a detail — Many detailers do this and, when possible, it’s a smart thing to offer. A shuttle or pick up and delivery service often makes it possible for the job to be done at all.

While these things are not necessarily the primary reason a person would or would not patronize your shop, they do help make their overall shopping experience with you more positive and create inducements for them to come again.

Leaders lead to walk-ins
In advertising and marketing, it’s all about getting the public’s attention and eliciting a response.

A good way to do this is to advertise a popular service at an attractive price. This can be done through normal advertising mediums, but can also be done at the shop itself.

Vinyl letter signs near the street, or posters or banners on the outside of the building that are clearly visible from the road and that specifically advertise options like a wash and wax, can really create some interest and bring people into your shop.

Once in the shop, customers can buy the service you’re advertising, but it also gives you an opportunity to use your sales skills and techniques to up-sell them on other services their vehicle needs.

Leave them with a reason to buy again soon
Sending out a thank-you card after the detail tells the customer you appreciated their business and you would like to do future business with them.

It creates a positive effect in the customer’s mind and increases their loyalty to you. It can also result in more referrals coming your way.

A way to generate more sales along with this is to include a five or 10 percent discount coupon in with the thank-you card.

This discount should have a clearly marked expiration date on it that should be around 30 to 45 days from the time of their last purchase.

Several detailers have reported getting many of these cards back with the customers making repeat purchases before the expiration date.

We have used what is called a second car discount card which can be used by anyone, not just the original customer.

One of the reasons why this works is the fact that oftentimes when a person makes a particular purchase they are still in the mood to buy. They may decide to have their other vehicle or a wife or child’s vehicle detailed.

A thank-you note or second car discount taps into this impulse and creates further selling opportunities.

Have an add-on plan
More and more, in the detail business, it’s the up-sells that make the difference. This is where you turn a regular sale into a better or great sale.

These up-sells can be high margin services, a simple wash and wax, or carpet shampooing. Things such as paint sealants, fabric protectants, ozone deodorizing of the air conditioner and interior are other great up-sells.

One thing that assists this is to generate a list of what would be the right add-ons to push. Then make sure all salespeople have the list and know it and use it properly.

Oftentimes, it’s the up-sells that make the detail profitable. You can make considerably more in total sales and profit simply by making it a point to sell to the basic detail needs of the vehicle, then up-sell other services. You should automatically ask for this business as a standard part of every estimate you do.

R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a 30-year member of the car-care industry. He can be contacted at