Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Blog: Baby steps

May 7, 2013

“How can I build a larger customer base?” an out-of-state owner recently asked.

The caller had bought an existing wash earlier in the year, and he seemed quite pleased with the operational efficiency and performance of his equipment.

Yet like most operators, he knew he had to improve his wash counts.

Together we identified some important pluses in his business right away.

For instance, his wash is located in a small, rural market, and he has no major direct competitor.

Also, the original owner kept the equipment well-maintained, and in peak condition.

But increasing wash counts is never an easy task; it requires constant, daily activity.

First, I advised him to banish the mistaken notion that customers would “find” his wash. “Build it and they will come” is not a pro-growth strategy; this once-popular phrase among developers a decade ago does not apply at all to carwash operators today.

Next, I urged him to create some local “positive buzz.” We discussed several outreach programs for the summer; I suggested he sponsor a Men’s Softball team.

The new owner also agreed to begin a Free Carwash On Your Birthday Program for all motorists in the city. He planned to get 1,000 business cards printed with this offer, and he and his employees will distribute them throughout his market. (For more creative ideas and a specific plan of action to start a successful Birthday Program for your business, see

Finally, I recommended he cross-promote his wash with two other popular retailers. One was a busy dry-cleaner nearby, and the other business was an oil-change operator on the other side of town. We also discussed talking with a pizza delivery business, and a Mexican restaurant.

The most important marketing task of the new owner, however, is to get his hands around his current customer base; his goal, we agreed, was to “touch” every customer at least once during the next 60 days.

This is a modest start, only baby steps to most successful operators. But the total investment is very small and is easily affordable.

In mid-July, he and I will reconnect, and we will make more ambitious plans for the critical “Back to School” period, as well as discuss some exciting promotions for the fall.

Our two telephone conversations lasted less than 35 minutes, and I am certain his wash is on much sounder ground now than it was when he bought it.

To close, if you are an experienced operator, but do not have a professional marketing coach to help you plan and implement your marketing programs at least once a quarter, my “guestimate” is that your wash is operating at 70% capacity or less.

Your most important task, then, is to find and partner with a trained and reliable person or company who will help you with your marketing plans.

If you dig really deep and get lucky, you may be able to recruit someone who will actually “take ownership” for your carwash revenues too.