Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Do you have a marketing strategy in place?

If you want to grow and succeed in your detailing business, you need to create your own success.

August 27, 2012

"The best way to predict the future is to create it," so says management guru, Peter Druker.

If you want to grow and succeed in your detailing business this is the only way to get it done, create your own success.

This is what separates the winners from the wannabees. You need to lead the pack, not follow along.

But to do so requires you take the following action:

  1. Anticipation
  2. Innovation
  3. Execution

Anticipation: You must be aware of changes and accepting the changes. Rather than resisting the changes, you must find out what changes are coming and how they will affect your detail business. You could call this marketing research, but really it is just common sense.

Innovation: This is simple too. Just adapt to the changes by changing your mind, your way of doing things. Detailers are notorious for “doing what they have always done, getting what they have always got.”

Execution: This is the hardest part for detailers. It requires that you "do it, try it, do it better.” What you always hear from the detail business owners you consider tops in the field is: "How can we do this better?" This is the single most important question to ask yourself as you anticipate, innovate, and execute.

Hopefully this article will help you learn to position your detailing business so that it stands out from the competition.

Positioning your shop

Positioning is the key to great marketing.  Every successful business, including detailing businesses, whether the owner realizes it or not has done some successful marketing. And this applies to you just as it does to any other business.

You position your detail business every day you open for business, whether you want to or not.

This is true, even if you don't spend a penny on advertising and couldn’t care less about marketing.

Let me give you an example:

What is the name of your favorite restaurant? Your second choice? And your third? Each of these

restaurants occupy a position in your mind. When you are deciding where to eat, you automatically consider these restaurants according to their ranking. The same holds true for just about everything you buy and every business you deal with: You have ranked it compared to other products, services, or businesses in the same category.

Well, this should be the same process that happens to your detail business, and your customers.

In the minds of the motorist, your detail business is ranked compared to the competition.

It happens before, during and after you have completed the detail service for the customer.

It happens to the prospects that don’t come to your shop, and have their vehicle detailed by the competition.

Even your detail chemical suppler compares and ranks you against their other detail business customers.

You need to understand that what we are calling POSITIONING is not just about image. It is more, positioning is part of the marketing process, a process that only you can manage to your advantage.

That is, if you use if correctly.

Identifying your customers

As mentioned above, you are the one who positions your detail business for bigger profits.

It is all a matter of looking at what is going on and taking specific actions based on what you see – ANTICIPATION.

The starting point is deciding with whom you want to be ranked as number one. You cannot be number one to everyone; you can be either something special to somebody or nothing special to everybody.

This all begins with customers and suppliers. Within each group, there are segments, clusters of people who can and do make a big difference in how much and what kind of detail business you are able to attain.

So, focus on the most important group first - your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • Where do they come from?
  • Where do they tend to live?
  • How close are they to your shop?
  • If you’re a mobile operation, where do you tend to work?
  • How old are they?
  • Are they mostly one ethnic group or another?
  • Are they mostly male or female?
  • How did they hear about your detail business?
  • Are there any other common denominators?

After answering these question then look for clusters of people with something in common. Be open-minded and be creative. You will be surprised at who the most important segments are. If you want to be right, do not guess, count it, track it.

Once you have defined the segments, look at how much business you get from each one. You will find that the vast majority of your business is coming from a small number of segments, maybe just one. If they are not obvious at first, keep looking until you find them. They are out there.

Once you have identified your key customers, find out what is important to them. You cannot shoot for an advantageous position until you know what scorecard your customers are using. Find out what they consider most important about having their vehicles detailed. Ask them, survey them, and have them complete a questionnaire. Boil things down to the top one, two, or three aspects. Concentrate on defining what is most important.

When you have completed these steps, you already have a jump on the majority of detail businesses in your area. You have identified the biggest sources of your profits ― your key customers.

Staying focused

The next step sounds simple, but it is not: Focus, focus, focus, and focus some more.

Focus on finding more people in your key segments; focus on the best ways to let them know about your detail services; focus on giving them what they want; focus on being something special to them, on winning and keeping the number one slot in their minds when they think of a detail business.

This is easier said than done. Since you are not operating in a vacuum, you have to position yourself better than your competitors (some who don't play fair) and you have to use that position to your advantage. You know what your key customer segments are, where they are located.

Now, you have to determine whom the competitors are that are competing for them, too. Where are they located? How good are they? It’s not about what you think, but what the customers think. Objectively try to determine their strengths and weaknesses.  And, by the way, you need to know yours as well.

Remember the battle for business is fought in the minds of prospective customers. You’ve got to make your detail business stand head and shoulders above the competition.

You must find ways to give customers what they want and do it better than the other detail businesses competing for their business.

How can you present your detail business to customers in a way that capitalizes on your strengths and takes advantage of your competitors' weaknesses?

When you have discovered what you think your best approach is, test it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it deliver what my key customers want most?
  • Does it make my detail business out from the competitors?
  • Is it built upon my business’ unique strengths?

If it passes this test, you have defined yourcustomer positioning statement. Write it down. Keep it simple. Carve it on your desk, tape it on your bathroom wall; or whatever it takes to get and keep it up front and visible.

Suppliers and auto dealers

You are not through yet.

Now, follow these same steps with your suppliers.

You do not have to create a separate statement for them. But do go through the same analysis to determine who they are, which ones are the most important to your business, and what they want from you. You should look at those suppliers who are giving you more than chemicals and supplies. Those who can help you with running your business, giving you ideas on customers to contact and how to advertise, even providing advertising materials. Why give your business to those companies who only give you what you pay for. It’s always amazing me how detail business owners stay loyal to suppliers who do nothing for them, but sell them products.

As easy as it is to criticize auto dealers, their business can help us through the tough times and pay the bills and keep good employees working. If you treat them with respect, but know your own financial boundaries, you will do well with dealers. They are looking for dependable, reliable detail businesses to work with. Things are changing these days in the dealerships and if you approach them as a legitimate businessperson, you can make some great money doing dealer work.

You must mentally treat a good supplier like a customer and approach this the same way you did your customers. Yes, and that includes the auto dealers, even though they may have “beat you up” financially in the past.

Look objectively at what is most important to them; it is not always the lowest price from you.

After you have completed this "diagnostic" work on your suppliers and auto dealers, check your findings against your customer-positioning statement. Does it fit well with the most important needs of these groups?

If so, great! If not, it is back to the drawing board to fine-tune it until it does. Do not overlook this phase. It is tempting to do so, but you will have a much stronger position if it meshes well with the driving needs of the groups. If you have done a good job in creating your customer positioning statement, the others will automatically be covered.

The center of everything

Now you are ready to fight the "marketing war" and win.

Your positioning statement defines which market niche you want to occupy. The big task is getting there. Do that by putting your positioning statement at the center of everything you do that attracts, creates, services, and satisfies customers.

Make sure that every contact with prospective customers and achieved customers reinforces your position ― from casual encounters with prospective customers and drive-by traffic to folks getting estimates and customers picking up their vehicles.

If you take this approach, you will be way, way ahead of the average detail business that lets positioning happen by accident. Success is no accident, especially in challenging times like those that our industry is now facing.



Catering to the kings and queens

The key aspect to any marketing effort is managing the customer experience. Your customers are more important today than ever before: There are fewer of them; nationwide, the market is shrinking; and fewer cars are being sold. And this trend isn't going to go away.

You can be one of the successful and busy detail businesses by remembering that customers are not just kings and queens, but that they have the power to make or break your business. Treat them poorly today and they will take away your sales and profits tomorrow. Modern customer service is more than a smile, handshake, a thank you, and a car delivered almost on time.

Now is the time to take a hard look at how you manage customer experiences. As you look at how you are doing, consider this:

"What the customer thinks is the only thing that really matters."

For years, detailing cars came first and customers came along with cars.

Now, it is about working on how the customer feels. It's the most important part of the detail business.

Do some investigative work and look at how you operate your detail business from the customer's perspective.

Play the role of customer. As you look at your business, do so from every point of contact your customers have with you, your employees, and your business. Everyone.

Make a list of every contact and then check your performance against this list. How well are you treating the kings and queens?