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Marketing your territory

September 12, 2011
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The greatest marketing moves in history can be defined as ones which garnered attention either through cleverness, catchiness or just plain oddity. The formula to marketing success does not necessarily include a recipe of any sort, but instead trial and error, some bravery, and sometimes the ability to throw caution to the wind. Simply placing an advertisement in a newspaper is fine, but if you want to really bring in new customers and get noticed, you're going to have to think outside of the box.

For instance, who knew that back in 1984 80-year-old Clara Peller would be a marketing success when she uttered the three words: "Where's the beef?" The phrase — and Peller's delivery — brought the Wendy's fast food chain an increase in sales by 31 percent, and it made Peller a national icon. So, it wasn't just that people were reacting strongly to Peller and remembering her now infamous slogan; people also were prompted to visit Wendy's locations more often. Therefore, it's not just a matter of getting noticed, it's also a matter of people smiling, feeling comforted, and appreciating a good marketing tactic. In the following paragraphs, I, along with Managing Editor Phillip Lawless, present you with various ways to market your business and revive your marketing campaign without breaking the bank.

Charting a profitable path

Make sure you get on the right road with the right destination in mind.

Author: Mike Perry, Contributing Writer

"Which road do I take?" Alice asked the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll's famous novel, "Alice in Wonderland."

"Where do you want to go?" the cat responded.

"I don't know," Alice answered.

"Then," the cat said, "it doesn't matter."

For carwash operators who continue to press on in this damnable, sluggish economy, having a well-defined path going forward is a vital necessity now. Alice may have been in a fantasyland, but not you.

For the best results, your road must be especially well-lit and clearly-marked. With four months remaining in 2011, the best carwash operators will evaluate their businesses year-to-date, and many will be wise to take corrective action now.

Four specific actions will enable operators to build a bigger customer base and improve their wash counts, revenues and profitability.

Moving smartly, savvy operators can begin today to make 2012 their best year yet.

1. Sponsor a local high school sports team: The most successful washes have an active community outreach program. With few exceptions, the majority of your new and repeat customers will come from a 3-mile radius of your wash. Within your market area, make it a stated company goal to become the carwash of popular choice and empower your employees to embrace this challenge too.

In states like Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, California, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia, it is a "no brainer" for an operator to run a fall promotion around a local football team.

To start this promotion, begin with this question: How can our wash celebrate the success of the football team? For instance, following a win on the weekend, could you offer a [Team name] Wash Special on Mondays and Tuesdays for all students, teachers and staff members of the school?

Have fun with this promotion. You will see that after three or four weekends, it will likely gain a life of its own. Don't be surprised if your employees, or better yet, your customers, come up with other ideas that you could use and integrate into your marketing plan for 2012. Keep in mind, "word of mouth" marketing is still the most effective way to promote your wash.

2. Begin a birthday promotion: Recently, my son turned 21. Three different restaurants sent him birthday specials, as did a local Goodyear dealer, and he received a birthday card from an insurance agent and, surprisingly, a local community college. But he heard nothing from the eight carwashes in East Cobb, GA. I fully understand that operators have both limited time and resources, but in today's economy, shopping habits and patterns have changed dramatically.

Carwash owners, quite simply, can no longer rely on impulse purchases to keep their businesses afloat. More than ever, operators must be creative, comprehensive, persistent and authentic in their concerted efforts to bring new and repeat customers into their washes. A special birthday offer to every consumer in your area will become an important new tool in every growth-oriented marketing plan.

Treating every motorist on his birthday (with a valid ID, of course, and the driver of the vehicle only) is a sure way to begin a new shopping pattern or solidify an existing one. And your employees, again, will help breathe life into this popular promo. Who doesn't like to wish someone a "Happy Birthday" as their car pulls into the bay or tunnel?

3. Capture the newly moved: These people include those who have moved to the area or simply moved into a different residence. This is a very rich target market. Inviting these people into your wash accomplishes three important tasks. First, it helps you capture new customers and build wash counts. Second, it affords you a unique opportunity to greet and carefully treat a new customer. They will be thoroughly impressed with their wash and your exceptional customer service. Finally, we know customers who receive the royal treatment at your wash will intentionally tell four to seven other people how delighted they were with your business.

Readers of Professional Carwashing and Detailing may already be familiar with Moving Targets, a regular advertiser. Moving Targets specializes in helping business owners create new and profitable relationships with hundreds of new motorists who will enter your market each year. Moving Targets has an informative website too: They understand that carwashes are like other retail businesses, which are steadfastly competing each day for scarce discretionary dollars. Carwashes are really store front businesses, and they too must create specific reasons and offer different promotions for shoppers to visit them.

4. Finally, don't forget your best customers: Many business owners believe in the 80/20 principle, also known as Pareto's Law. They believe that 80 percent of their revenue comes from only 20 percent of their customers. For some operators, having so much at risk with such a small group could be a very sobering thought. Regardless of the age and location of your carwash, your established customer base always merits special attention. Through natural attrition, you will lose some 3-8 percent of your loyal customers each year, and you should also anticipate that others will have occasional glitches in their normal shopping habits.

If you are not fully conscious of these subtle shifts, you could suddenly find that after any eight or 10 month period, a substantial portion of your once-solid customer base has evaporated.

Communicating effectively with these high-value customers has other challenges too. For instance, as the quick lube franchises have learned, trying to increase frequency among core customers can be a well-intentioned but flawed marketing task which yields disappointing results. How often can you change your oil if you already do so every 3,000 or 5,000 miles? Regular visitors of your wash will be most responsive to two activities which will strongly validate for these VIPs the reason why they will continue to do business with you.

First, thank them always for their continued patronage. Be certain your employees express their genuine appreciation too. You can never fail to impress a customer when every transaction ends with a sincere and heart-felt "thank you for your business."

Also, solicit their unvarnished feedback. Your best customers want you to be successful too, and they will not be at all reluctant to help you improve your business. "What could we do to improve your wash experience here?" Another question which could lead to a productive discussion and yield a valuable response: "Do you think we should open early a couple of days a week?"

Embrace new and innovative ideas. Become intensely interested to learn how else you can completely satisfy your core customers.

Finally, be creative and package a carwash purchase with other products and services. The smartest retailers in every type of business anticipate their customers' needs and offer them add-on or cross-sales opportunities which also allow you to build a higher average ticket price. Your best customers will appreciate this value-added effort.

Mike Perry has more than 30 years of experience in business-to-business sales and in retail marketing. He can be reached at, or at 770-330-2490.

The pink gorilla in the room

Why it is inhuman to think that robots aren't a good selling tool.

Author: Debra Gorgos, Editor

Sticking out like a sore thumb can be a good thing. It's good to be noticed, especially when trying to grab the attention of the on-the-go window shoppers, errand runners and drivers going to and from work. The days of hackneyed and imitative marketing moves will blend into the background, wasting time and money. In looking at ways to stand out from the crowd and attract attention, we turned to Ken Booth, owner of Gorilla Robot Factory, a business that makes — you guessed it — robotic gorillas.

First the kids, then the parents

According to Booth, a robot gorilla is a fun, eye-catching way to bring attention to small businesses. Most people think they are seeing a man wearing a gorilla suit! They wave and honk … and the kids love it!

A keyword mentioned here by Booth is that the kids love it. We all know that parents are often trying to juggle many things at once, and sometimes it helps when an errand can turn into something fun for kids.

"Running a faceless advertisement campaign doesn't help prospective customers recognize your company," said Booth. "By giving a business a personality or identity, you can start to build a rapport with your customers. For example, if parents are choosing a carwash and their kids are excited about seeing the waving Gorilla, they are more inclined to return for repeat business. It makes going to the carwash just a little more exciting."

Visibly viable

It's been proven over and over again, when you make a strong visual impression, your product or service stays in the minds of consumers longer, Booth said. The gorillas they sell are life-size, animated and dressed in a bright pink or black. They wave their left hand, while the torso moves from side to side. "High visibility means high impact and more sales. Our lifelike gorilla brings consumer traffic and awareness to carwashes, retail stores or any special event."

According to Booth, building relationships with the community is what works. "Being proactive and using long-term advertising tools are essential to the small business owner. Using a changeable copy sign is also a great way to show involvement in your local community. Using signage to congratulate the hometown football team or posting fun community announcements are great ways to build community spirit."

Hip-hop carwash marketing

See how one carwash commercial — featuring everyone from Washington to Uncle Sam — has gone viral.

Author: Phillip Lawless, Managing Editor

When you consider that many rappers proudly roll in the world's most expensive whips — Bentleys, Maybachs, Lamborghinis, Aston-Martins — it's no real surprise that someone finally wrote a rhyme praising carwashing and detailing. The only real surprise is that Roger Tanna, a carwash owner and amateur MC from North Hollywood, CA, was the one that dropped the verses.

Tanna recently recorded a def carwash jam as part of the TV show "Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings" that airs on IFC. And, at first, this hip-hop commercial for the Presidential Car Wash and Detail Center (see the Profile in Success story here) sounded like the perfect recipe for carwash marketing failure.

Tanna admitted that he got upset during filming because he wasn't sure what Rhett and Link were trying to achieve. "I was uncomfortable with certain actions like rapping, doing some weird dance moves and sucking up my shirt with a vacuum nozzle." Yet, Tanna stuck with it, rolled the dice and took the gamble. Lucky for Tanna, this long shot proved to be a winner.

The clip, featuring Tanna and his wife Dipika, combined the pair's off-kilter rhyming with footage of them in goofy presidential costumes. Initially, the clip was distributed mainly through the video sharing website YouTube, but now it has aired on IFC multiple times and on Conan O'Brien's late-night talk show as well. And, within one month, the commercial has gotten over 356,000 clicks on YouTube.

Tanna said the carwash has received an amazing response from the quirky commercial. "Our business has increased by 25 to 30 percent," he said. In fact, whole families have traveled to the wash just to have a photo opportunity with Tanna and his wife.

In addition, the wash has received phone calls and cards from all across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Tanna said the wash also regularly receives phone calls where people sing the commercial's rap jingle or quote the famous, "Make it rain, Roger" line.

Though he was uncomfortable at the beginning, Tanna is now able to appreciate the effect the commercial has had on the carwash. In a matter of months, the commercial has increased business and built a recognizable brand for the wash. Taking that into consideration, it's easy to see why Tanna said the commercial has been a definite blessing.

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