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Many detail shop owners rush out and build a website for their company and are shocked that business does not increase as a result of the website. This common misunderstanding in Internet marketing is shared by every business worldwide, not just carwashes.
Consider that your website is the foundation in which you will build your Internet marketing campaign. A basic website is only a destination in which to send your customers when they are not at your wash location to learn about your business.
When building or evaluating your business website, consider the following six rules:
1. Use a simple domain name. It is far more important to have a domain name that customers can remember and type out than it is to be clever and use the entire name of your business.
Avoid too many dashes or dots such as www.super-cool-carwash.com or www. daves.ultimate-wash.com. As tempting as it may be to separate multiple words in your domain, these web addresses cause more trouble then they are worth in the long run.
The rule of thumb is to make it as simple for the end user as possible. Use a maximum of a single dash or period in the domain name, never more.
2. Proper branding. Not only should you have your logo properly displayed on your website, but everywhere your logo appears in the real world. If customers don’t know about your website, they will never visit it when they are at their computer.
Include your website address on these items:
Loyalty cards; and
Anything that would be put in front of existing or potential customer’s eyeballs.
3. Give them reasons to visit the site. If you are not giving customers additional incentives to visit your website on a regular basis it is nothing more than an Internet Yellow Pages advertisement. Many wash owners will use their websites to promote online coupon giveaways that can be printed off and redeemed at the wash, feature prize giveaways, or information on how to sponsor a fundraiser at the carwash.
4. Incentives create regular visitors. The most successful carwash websites drive new business back to their website with online sales and marketing programs where individual customers can sign up for:
A free birthday wash;
Purchase discounted prepaid loyalty gift cards;
Register for online promotions; and
Use their credit card to pay for these services.
There are web-based programs that help drive commercial business customers to your website on a regular basis for fleet account management and for paying their wash invoice with their company credit card online. These tools are similar to online banking and online bill payment provided by the utility companies that can be integrated into your very own website.
5. You must capture customer data. If you are not collecting customer data with your website, you are losing out on perhaps the most powerful aspect of online marketing. In exchange for giving something away to the customer, you get their name and email address.
Most data capture tools will tell you the last time a customer visited your wash, when their prepaid account is running low and package this information into a single report for the wash management. This gives wash operators the opportunity to target those customers with special promotions and incentives to bring them back to the wash.
6. It has to look professional. Your website is a reflection of your business. This is the same idea that the cleanliness and appearance of your carwash location is a reflection upon the business.
A messy and/or disorderly detail shop will drive business away, just as a messy disorderly unprofessional website will drive visitors away. Detail shops that are serious about projecting professionalism and want to market their carwash go out of their way to make a good impression. Remember, you only get a first impression because consumer confidence is incredibly fickle.
Internet marketing promotions
Now consider the types of promotions you will want to use in conjunction with your website.
1. Promotional email blasts. Send a monthly promotion to your registered wash customers to keep them coming back for more. There are low-cost software programs that can automate mass mailings as well as online services that will handle everything for a monthly fee.
Use the customer data that you have collected through your website or through other means to generate these customer mailing lists. Make sure that your customers have the ability to ‘opt out’ of the email blasts to keep your business off of spam filters.
2. Charity fundraisers. Advertise on your website how youth organizations and charity groups can qualify for your fundraising programs.
Detail shop owners that do a lot of charity fundraisers suggest that you offer up to three different fundraiser options. By offering several alternatives organizations can choose their level of participation whether it be prepaid wash sales or a basic charity wash on your site.
Charity promotions can be taken to the next level with the implementation of online sales and marketing solutions. These are Internet based programs that can track charity and organization prepaid sales, wash usage, and reward the charity with ongoing donations as users of the carwash add value back onto the loyalty cards they received as part of the initial charity carwash.
3. Online sales & marketing. Give customers a reason to come back to your website by adding an online shopping cart feature to your website. Make your website an actual profit center by taking credit card payment for prepaid services and online fleet account payment.
Take advantage of online referral programs that can give your customers the ability to earn bonus wash dollars when they get friends and family to sign up for the wash loyalty program by registering on your website. The opportunities for building loyal customers and increasing profits may just be what your business needs to take it to the next level.
Ryan Carlson is project manager of WashCard Systems. You can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.washideas.com.