Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Best practices for business success

April 25, 2012

When it comes to running a business, "good" just doesn't cut it. Doing things the "best" way possible has to be the standard. It's a lot of pressure, but nowadays, to stay afloat, a focus on excellence is the best kind of insurance for longevity.

Based on input procured from business owners from across the globe, we narrowed down a list of the best practice advice concerning various addendums within a carwash business. The top three topics include:

  • Fundraiser carwashes
  • Pet washes
  • LivingSocial and Groupon

Experts from all three areas are offering up their sound advice to help you better understand and master these practices and ultimately set you on the right course for success.

Fundraising

Even with the proclamations that parking lot carwash fundraisers are bad for the environment, they are still popping up across the country. And, while some areas, such as the state of Washington, are making huge strides to ban and denounce parking lot carwashes, there are still lots of people out there who think buckets and sponges and soaps and a few volunteers aren't such a bad thing. Well, not only are they wrong, but they're also hurting your carwash business. What's being handed to you here is a perfect opportunity to help out a non-profit or school, help the environment and help your image as a do-gooder: A harmonious "trifecta" that can ultimately rope in and keep more customers.

Aaron Green is the president of Kwik Car Wash, a chain of locally-owned and operated and environmentally-friendly tunnel washes in both Parker and Littleton, CO. Kwik Car Wash is big on giving back. Since 2007, Kwik Car Wash has donated over $20,000 through its Charity Wash Program and has worked with many different organizations including the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, Project Sanctuary, the Southeast Community Outreach (SECOR), local high school groups, competitive baseball teams and many more.

According to Green, charity washes can be a great opportunity for professional carwashes to help local non-profits raise money while gaining exposure in the community and establishing goodwill.

On the day of the event, the organization or group makes signs and stands out on the street corner to gain attention from passing cars. "We also allow the groups to towel dry and/or vacuum for additional donations," Green said. "Some groups even hold a bake sale, BBQ or raffle on-site to raise additional funds. Every summer we hold a total of eight Charity Washes at our facilities — typically on a Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Due to the high demand for this program, our Charity Wash bookings are now done through a lottery system."

As for looking out for red flags when it comes to dealing with certain charities and non-profits, Green said a lack of communication and disorganization from the group prior to the event are bad signs. "We've had groups in the past show up without volunteers or signage and have failed to do any promotion prior to their event. We've also had groups cancel at the last minute. When this happens, we forfeit their spot and give it to another group on the waiting list."

But a few bad apples are not enough to overpower all of the benefits that come through helping out with a fundraiser, said Green. "They can be a win-win for both the business as well as the non-profit group. As a business, you have the opportunity to gain new customers, exposure and goodwill. At the same time, the non-profits can raise a large amount of money in a short period of time and don't have to worry about inventory, future delivery of items, or upfront costs. Plus, using a professional carwash facility is much better for the environment than the traditional parking lot carwash, given we recycle 90 percent of our water and use environmentally-friendly soaps."

Pet washes

As the pet care industry continues to flourish (an estimated $3.65 billion was spent on "pet services" in 2011*), it's no wonder that pet washes are continuing to pop up at carwashes across the map.

If you're thinking of adding one onto your property, or if you already have one, it's important to know that these aren't self-sustaining profit centers. They take upkeep, marketing and safety measures. After all, many people will admit they love their pets more than their spouses, so it's up to you to make sure their beloved furry friends are in good hands.

Trent Walter is the general manager of National Pride Car Wash Systems, a manufacturer and distributor of self-serve carwash equipment, 4 Paws Pet Wash equipment, accessories, parts and supplies. Walter said that one of the most important things to realize is that owning a pet wash takes some work.

"They can bring in money, but they're either successful, or not, and there's no in between," Walter said. "On average you can bring in $1,000 a month, but you have to do two things which are very critical: Housekeeping and marketing."

As for housekeeping, Walter said you, or someone you hire, has to visit the site at least two to three times a day. "You have to set up a housekeeping plan of action, and then you have to follow it or you will fail."

In terms of marketing, Walter said you have to get the word out to pet owners and you still need to educate them on what exactly a pet wash is for. "I know of a pet wash owner in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, who does radio marketing and goes to animal shelters. You have to go to where the pet owners are. Give away free tokens if you have to to get the customers to the pet wash."

Also, Walter said as much as people love their pets, they don't necessarily like having to wash them, so make things as enjoyable for the owners and the pets as possible. "Make things clean, neat and safe. I know of one wash where they offer free treats — that's a nice thing for the owners, especially if they're dealing with an unruly pet and don't want to go and have to find a dollar so that they can buy one from the vending machine."

LivingSocial and Groupon

It's become a part of everyday conversations. "I got this deal on Groupon…", "I hadn't heard of the company until I tried it through Groupon…", "Don't shop until you look for a deal on LivingSocial…" And, what's happening is people are now waiting to make purchases or set up appointments after they get an email from LivingSocial or Groupon, which includes a big discount and product description.

Now, it's important to understand that when a business uses either platform, it doesn't do it to bring in more money; it does it to bring in more customers.

According to the company's website, "Groupon negotiates huge discounts — usually 50-90 percent off — with popular businesses. We send the deals to thousands of subscribers in our free daily email, and we send the businesses a ton of new customers. That's the Groupon magic."

The LivingSocial website states, "Restaurants, spas, shops, travel and more — LivingSocial always brings you something new to try. From fun outings for your whole family to pre-planned vacations across the globe, we have you covered."

What's the difference between the two? Not much.

People sign up to receive LivingSocial or Groupon emails. In each email is the Daily Deal. The recipient is then given a certain amount of time in which to purchase the deal and recommend the deal to friends. Once the purchase is made, they are sent an email with a confirmation code that the vendor then uses.

Janet Fouts, a social media coach, and founder of Tatu Digital Media, said that both mediums are as much about visibility as they are about deals, and both are a great way to get visibility to new customers and demographics you're not reaching now. People will drive across town for a LivingSocial or Groupon deal.

"People look for businesses they didn't know about and even if they don't buy the deal, they remember the name of the business if the deal is useful and well presented."

As for making sure it's well presented, Fouts said to have great visuals that are eye catching and memorable and suggested buying them if you have to from a website like Fotolia.com.

Then she suggested naming the deal with a catchy phrase. "You've got to stand out from the crowd," she said. "Make the deal something they've been thinking they need to do, for example: 'Summer's around the corner, time to get your windows tinted,' etc….The call to action should be clear and compelling,"

"Remember though," Fouts warned, "don't post a deal you can't handle." Because if you get deluged with business and can't handle it, the bad juju will be bad news for you.

Also, get ready to deal with customers who may have gotten confused by the LivingSocial or Groupon offer. They could have misread the deal. Or maybe they didn't purchase it, but thought that they did. If they're calling you, instead of LivingSocial or Groupon, with questions, treat these phone calls as ways to lure in and attract new customers.


*Information supplied by the American Pet Products Association™, www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp