Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Part I: How to generate more revenue

October 11, 2010

The biggest mistake that detail business owners make is forgetting what made them successful.

When you first started your business you asked for referrals, handed out your business cards, made sales calls on businesses, and you spent as much on advertising as you could afford, or not afford.

You treated every detail job with the greatest care be-cause you had so few and wanted to develop a good reputation. In short, you spent as much time promoting your detail business as you did detailing.

What about now?
The key question to ask now is: how much time am I spending promoting my business today?

Business is probably easier to get because you have built a good reputation and are getting repeat customers who provide a base for your detail business.

However, if you are not satisfied with your volume of business, there are some things you can do.

You have probably stopped doing the things that made you successful in the first place.

What you have to do is evaluate what you are doing now, what you did when you began your business and from there develop a marketing plan.

It is all about putting that old energy back in your detail business’ daily operations.

Ideas that work
Say your target market is upper middle class and higher. These people have money to spend, but they demand service and quality work from their service providers.

Ask yourself what would attract these types of customers to your business?

  1. Direct mailing to your customer list — If you have these kind of customers on your mailing list then you should be mailing to them on a regular basis.

    At least every three months remind them that it’s time for a wax or light carpet shampoo. Let them know of any new services you offer like PDR, paint touchup or carpet re-coloring or dyeing.

  2. Strategic alliances — You need to develop strategic alliances with other auto service businesses that can refer your business including:
    • Body shops;
    • Luxury car repair shops;
    • Trim and restyle shops;
    • Automotive electronic shops; and
    • Even the service managers of dealerships.

    They are always being asked about detail services and usually refuse the work, or if they know a detailer they refer business to them.

  3. Direct mail — This is the best way to target the customers you want. You can buy lists by neighborhood, profession, income, the car driven, etc.

    A personal and short letter, in a #10 envelope with a small menu card of what the shop offers is an appropriate choice. The letter introduces you, your business and your services and ends with a promise of quality service.

    Don't be discouraged if you don’t get an immediate response, you are taking the first step, getting the target customer aware of your business. When they are ready you have a huge chance of getting business.

  4. Direct Sales — You need to spend a dedicated amount of time each week calling on businesses in your area. The owners of these businesses are the type of customers you want to attract along with their employees.

What’s next?
You’ve identified the target customer and some of the methods you’ll use to reach them, so what’s next? Set up a marketing calendar and a way to track the results to see if your methods are working.

The calendar — Develop a calendar that lists what you will do at what time of the year.

Make it detailed and include any specials or services you want to promote, such as paint touchup after the winter, the mailing dates, even include the material. Also, list the days that you will be making your direct sales calls.

Customer source log — The key to effective marketing and advertising is to track the source of every customer that comes in, sold to or not.

In one column list the four marketing methods discussed, plus any other methods you are using, such as the yellow pages. Make another column for the weeks of the month, another titled total, and also make a column titled closing.

For every customer who comes in or calls mark a one in the appropriate column. If the lead becomes a customer, put an asterisk in the column.

In the closing column you can create a closing ratio such as 27 responses to your direct mail and 18 turned into jobs (27/18). This will reveal conclusively what works and what doesn't.

R.L. "Bud" Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a 30-year member of the car-care industry. He can be contacted at