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Nothing has changed businesses in the last 15 years as much as the Internet. Yet, despite its far-reaching presence in the lives of millions, most small businesses, including carwashes, have yet to tap the full potential of the web. Before we start thinking about the actual design of the website, we need to understand the purpose of the website. Far too many operators think of the website as a modern version of a yellow page ad. However, it is far more than that.
The pitch on a bench
To illustrate: Imagine you were sitting on a bench in a busy mall waiting for your wife. The guy sitting next to you strikes up a conversation and asks you what you do. You proudly tell him you are the owner of Acme Carwash. He tells you that he lives in the community and his car is filthy and desperately needs a wash. Then comes the million-dollar question: "Tell me, why I should come to yours?"
This is a simple question with profound implications. It's profound because business is all about offering value and differentiating yourself from the competition. Therefore, your answer to this simple question represents the type of business you have built and your vision for its success. In business books they call it the”elevator pitch.” The convincing short pitch about your business that you can tell someone in the time it takes to ride an elevator. (Your answer is based on your value proposition, which is a hugely important part of your marketing and success, but that's an entirely different article.)
Ok, getting back to the mall bench. You tell this guy that what makes you different is your commitment to quality and customer service. He shakes his head approvingly, but you realize he's still not sold. For all he knows, you’re just saying that and in reality your just a guy with a bucket and a sponge.
So you reach into your wallet and you take out some pictures of the wash. You show him a snapshot of the carwash from the street showing the building and landscaping. Then you show him one of a car going through the tunnel covered in triple foam wax. You show him a few more of the equipment room, pointing out the high quality chemical drums. The last one you show him is of your reclaim system and you explain a little bit about how reclaim enables a carwash to be environmentally friendly.
Be ready to be judged
By the way, as you’re talking, he’s subconsciously analyzing how you look. If you look clean, neat, and professional he’s much more likely to trust what you’re saying. If you’re wearing an outfit that was in style 20 years ago — or worse, look sloppy or even dirty — he’s not going to believe a word you say.
After showing him the pictures he seems sold on your wash, but you still see a glimmer of doubt in his eyes. Although he now knows you're carwash is more than just a bucket and a sponge, he's not sure he can trust you about your claim of high quality. After all, doesn't everyone say that?
Realizing what he's thinking, you reach back into your wallet and pull out a few testimonial letters you happen to keep on you. You show him the one from Mrs. Smith about how she wouldn't take her car anywhere else, and the one from Mr. Jones about how the Ultimate Wash really makes his black luxury car shine. After a couple more testimonials he really seems convinced that your wash is worth a try.
Seal the deal
In preparation of his visit he asks you what kind of wash packages you have. You list them all but spend some extra time explaining why your Ultimate Wash is the best value. As he gets ready to leave, you feel confident you’ll see him down at the wash, but to give him even more incentive you offer him a promotion to seal the deal. Smiling, he gets up from the bench and he tells you he’ll see you soon. Before he walks away though, he asks you for directions to the wash and your hours.
As your wife returns, with shopping bags full of items she's "saved money" on, you’re proud that you've convinced one more customer to visit your wash.
That is in essence what happens each time a visitor comes to your website. Your website is your opportunity to sit on a bench in a crowded mall and tell anyone who is interested why they should come spend their hard-earned money at your carwash. It's your sales pitch and at the very heart of good website design. That's why good web design covers these six priorities:
1) Clearly and concisely tell them what makes you different
The key is to really understand what makes you different and then figure out how to say it concisely. No one has the time to read paragraphs worth of information, so keep it brief — no more than three sentences. Also, make sure that your message comes across loud and clear, not just on the home page and "About Us" page, but throughout the site.
2) Build trust in your abilities and claims
Marketing is all about building trust. In web design we do this in three ways:
Professional appearance. Appearance is our first indicator of trust. The assumption will always be that your website mimics your business. If it is clean and well laid out, then so is your business. If it is sloppy, then so is your business. If it is dated and out if style, then so is your business. You get the point. Appearance matters. Your website is more than a Yellow Page ad, so don’t think you can just list your information while ignoring style. This is increasingly important as a younger generation of consumers is looking for companies that have a strong presence on the web.
Pictures. Pictures speak volumes about your business and go a long way in building trust and helping consumers picture themselves at your wash. It also, removes much of the fear consumers have of visiting new businesses. Have at least five photos and have them taken by a professional.
Testimonials. When we hear positive reviews about a product or service it removes barriers to our purchase. It is clear proof that other consumers have been happy so why wouldn’t I choose this service, too. They don’t have to be full-blown letters — just a few sentences are more than enough.
3) Lay the groundwork for higher revenue per car
Remember, your website is not a yellow page ad. It’s an opportunity to “speak to the consumer and give your best sales pitch. When you were talking to that guy on the bench, you recommended your top wash because it offers the most value. Your website should clearly explain the value of your top packages. It should be clear by looking at your wash listings which wash package you are trying to sell.
In addition to your top package, make sure you are also touting the benefit of detail services, unlimited plans, other extra services, etc. The goal is to clearly explain value so that the customer spends more when they arrive.
4) Encourage loyalty
Your website is a powerful tool for branding and reinforcing loyalty. This happens most of all through a strong brand. However, you can also advertise your loyalty club, rain guarantee, frequency discounts and any other programs you have to encourage loyalty. You can also offer easy ways for customers to be notified of promotions and be connected to your brand through email and/or Twitter and Facebook accounts.
5) Offer incentives
Your website is a great tool to attract attention. Once you have their attention though you need to make sure you convert that attention to actual sales. Therefore make sure your website is constantly updated with current promotions and incentives.
6) Give them easy to find operational info
Of course, once you’ve convinced them to visit your carwash, you need to enable them to do that. Location, hours of operation and contact info should be very easy to find and always up to date.
A well-designed website is a powerful sales tool that can help attract customers, get them to visit more often and increase how much they spend each visit. The key is that it is “well-designed.” That starts with an understanding of the purpose of the website and an ability to concisely explain why your business is different. Do it right and you will see real results.
Kyle Doyle is the president of Blue Sky Image Group, a full-service marketing firm dedicated to the carwash industry. Kyle has been in the carwash industry for 15 years. Prior to starting Blue Sky, Kyle was the C.E.O. of Compuwash and also managed a carwash in Long Island NY. He can be reached at (631) 431-2600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.