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Business Operations

Modernize your marketing tactics

October 11, 2010
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Has your carwash been relying on the same old tried and true press releases, direct mail offerings and radio spots for the last few years? All too often, carwash operators fall into a rut after finding a solution that works for their businesses. This ignores common sense; the same business sense that tells the owner he should continually update his equipment, re-train his staff and modernize his facility.

Your marketing tactics need to be consistently revisited as technology and experience open new doors for your business. For instance, Ryan Carlson, project manager for WashCard Systems, suggested operators consider a few of the following: Using their management software for better marketing, as well as e-mail and text message campaigns.

Management software
The first technology you must consider is one you likely already have in place: A management system with marketing capabilities. Last month, we talked about how management software can help you to reduce your labor costs, improve equipment efficiencies and manage multi-site operations. But did you know it can also help you to identify marketing and buying trends at the wash?

“A common analogy that I apply to these management software technologies, especially those that have marketing capabilities: There is very little difference between a good software marketing administration tool than there is a really great exercise video,” Carlson said. “You can buy the video, you can watch the video, but unless you get off your butt and do the exercises, you will not benefit.”

What’s most valuable about your management system is its ability to track when customers are coming through your carwash and what they are buying. You can use this information to adjust your marketing plan and also to get away from what Carlson says is the bane of carwash marketing: Discounts.

“A lot of carwash operators think they know who their customers are, and they think they know what will get them into the wash — discounts,” Carlson explained. “But marketing management software allows you to do creative things to attract customers which doesn’t rely on guesswork or on giving money away.”

Carlson suggested that operators start by keeping a record of customer data and then launching marketing campaigns that they can measure for results, such as early bird specials or new packaging on weekends. This is your first step to building a reliable marketing plan.

E-mail marketing
It’s free, it’s easy and nearly every big brand is now using e-mail marketing. From Starbucks to Target, these companies have identified how today’s consumers want to receive their promotional mail and they’re capitalizing on that trend.

So how can you get started? “You need to do a collection drive,” Carlson said. “Dangle some sort of carrot in front of them, but get their e-mail address, maybe their mailing address — but sending advertising there isn’t free.” Carlson also suggested that operators ask for mobile phone numbers and permission to send promotional text messages.

Finally, consider asking customers to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, which are social media avenues similar to e-mail marketing. Giving away a free carwash or telling them you’ll be posting regular coupons on these sites is an excellent way to obtain their e-mail addresses, as well as to follow their interests and get to better know your customers.

The secret to success here is to commit yourself to being regular, Carlson said. “Don’t send them something every day, but the key to this advertising is to put your name and brand in front of them at least once every seven days.”

Marketing by text message
Carlson admitted that text message marketing isn’t for everyone, but it is a very useful marketing tool for those who are technologically savvy and understand how to apply it to their customer base. That’s because text messages are instant and can easily be molded to your needs, i.e., filling up the wash on a slow day or pushing a new service for more dollars per car on high-volume days.

“There’s nothing cooler than being able to blast out a message that says ‘Come in the next hour and get this special deal,’” Carlson said. “It’s not something they have to check, like e-mail or the mail or their Facebook account. It’s instant and it’s built on that convenience.”

Carlson said WashCard is currently working on integrating this technology into their next generation of management software with marketing capabilities and more companies are likely to jump on the bandwagon in the future.

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