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Marketing maneuvers: Lube promotions

October 11, 2010
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Using a customer history database wisely will make any quick lube marketing effort much more effective.

Many lube and wash owners rely solely on their computer system to generate blanket mailers, however, by drawing on the system's database filtering powers business owners can target mailers toward those customers who are most likely to respond.

Simple scenario

They say timing is everything, and this was certainly the case for one carwash/quick lube owner in the Southeast.

Like most multi-profit center operators, this owner used mailer coupons to encourage repeat business at his lube bays.

Every month he'd send mailers to the customers in his database. The mailers looked good, the discounts were attractive, and his response rate was 8 percent.

Not bad, but the owner felt he could do even better by using his cash register system's database marketing feature to time coupon mailers so they arrived in mailboxes when customers were actually ready for an oil change.

With this in mind, the carwash/quick lube owner discontinued his monthly mailers, and instead began sending out coupons once a week to a smaller, more narrowly defined group of recipients — customers who hadn't been to his quick lube in 60 to 66 days.

He reasoned that people who fell into this group were more likely to be thinking about their next oil change, so they'd be prone to respond to his mailers.

By using his database marketing system to time his mailers so they coincided with customers' oil change schedules, this particular owner more than doubled his redemption rate to over 18 percent.

The power of database marketing

Many other multi-profit center operators have used database marketing to enhance the cross promotions between their quick lube and carwash.

Instead of simply giving a carwash discount to quick lube customers, they've timed their offers to expire within a fixed period, such as 30 days.

Or, they've offered quick lube customers a larger discount if they visit the carwash within a shorter time period ($3 off a wash if they visit within one week, but only $1 off if they come within a month).

In both cases, the objective of the operator is to increase the frequency of customer visits to the carwash by giving people an incentive to return earlier.

It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to offer either of these incentives and still maintain a tight level of control without a database marketing program.

The database marketing feature in a computerized cash register system maintains detailed histories of customers that includes information such as:

  • The date of their last visit;
  • The services purchased; and
  • Whether or not they belong to the business's loyalty club.

Using this information, an operator can fine-tune his or her quick lube's advertising and marketing so they're more likely to reach the right customer, with the right message, at the right time.

Informed selling suggestions

People are more receptive to a salesperson who speaks in specifics and is familiar with their particular needs than they are to one who is uniformed and relies on a canned sales pitch.

One great advantage of a database marketing system is that it allows employees to share customer histories between the carwash and quick lube, so the greeters at the tunnel entrance can be more informed when they cross sell lube services to wash customers.

Having access to customer histories will also make lube techs more effective at cross selling carwash services. If the lube tech knows that a particular customer has purchased a detailing package in the past, he can mention a special on this package while he's completing the quick lube work order.

By the same token, informed selling can also protect the quick lube staff from making ill-advised suggestions.

For example, an owner doesn't want the greeter trying to sell an oil change to a customer who just visited the quick lube three weeks ago. This will not only put off the customer, it will also reduce the credibility of the entire business.

By providing employees with detailed customer histories at the time of the sale, a database marketing system helps them make the kind of informed selling suggestions that reflect positively on the business and boost dollars-per-vehicle.

Receipts that sell

When marketing a quick lube to carwash customers don't overlook receipts as potential sales tools. Receipts are usually the only thing that customers take from the carwash, and are the last chance to make a lasting impression on customers and give them a final selling message.

Receipts are also one of the most cost-efficient forms of advertising. Aside from having no mailing cost associated with them, receipts also offer the benefit of sending a message to customers who already have a proven track record with the lube or wash.

It's only logical to assume that the response rate on a receipt message is almost always going to be greater than the response to any mailer.

A computerized cash register system's database marketing feature can help a lube owner use this opportunity to promote the quick lube to carwash customers.

For example, customers who've been to the quick lube before but haven't visited in the past 90 days can get an oil change discount offer on their carwash receipts.

Lube shop work orders can also be used to promote the carwash.

In this case the operator can offer a discount on the deluxe wash package to customers who buy the high-end synthetic oil option at the quick lube — both appeal to people who are willing to spend extra to get the best for their vehicles.

Locking in loyalty

Loyalty club promotions and prepaid gift cards are two of today's hottest retailing trends. Neither should be overlooked when marketing at a multi-profit center quick lube, because both will lock in customer loyalty and build repeat business.

Prepaid cards offer the added benefit of increasing dollars-per-vehicle, since marketing studies have shown that consumers tend to spend more per purchase when they use these cards instead of cash.

Most consumers would not buy a prepaid card for a quick lube, since they don't use its services often enough to make this an attractive option.

However, multi-profit center operators can offer customers the convenience of using the same prepaid card at the carwash or quick lube (provided both are run on the same computer system), making them more attractive.

Give club members an extra wash credit toward their 10th free wash whenever they buy a quick lube service. Or sell customers a prepaid card loaded with 10 washes for the price of eight whenever they get their oil changed.

When a computerized cash register system is used to market a multi-profit center, there is never a shortage of good ideas for attracting customers to the quick lube and carwash.

Dwight Reed Jr. is a sales representative for DRB Systems, Inc. and has been with the company over 12 years. He has extensive experience with the development and support of the company's quick lube products. Dwight can be contacted at