Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The in-bay marketing breakthrough

October 11, 2010
Unlike the earlier first and second generation versions, carwashes today are located on valuable real estate, offer state-of-the-art cleaning technology, and are capable of producing a clean, dry and shiny car with impressive regularity and efficiency.

How can this bright picture get any better?

The answer to this question can be found by understanding the type of business many modern carwashes have become. In truth, as many operators have learned, they have paid a high price to develop these beautiful properties and equip them with the latest and greatest equipment on the market.

Understanding retail
Experienced carwash operators have learned this invaluable lesson: while operational excellence and technological advancements may create a lot of attention-getting buzz, they do not automatically create a large and loyal customer base.

Indeed, the once-popular carwash mantra, “Build it and they will come,” almost surely will create much sorrow and hardship now for those owners and operators who do not see their business as a retail one.

A top priority for all successful retail and service businesses is to maximize its revenue or income potential while it serves a local community. Carwashes that expect to compete today are no exception.

For that reason, carwash owners and operators must become much more marketing-oriented, and significantly more concerned and adept at building a bountiful customer base.

Proper marketing
Admittedly, it may be somewhat of a daunting task even for the most experienced carwash owner or operator to add marketing to his already long list of daily activities. And many first-time operators may not even know where to begin.

This distressing void can be filled, however, by either a distributor who has a professionally trained and dedicated marketing director on his team, or by an independent carwash marketing consultant.

In many industries, the most profitable companies keep intact their core business functions, and outsource those time consuming marketing tasks where they are not so skilled, or choose not to develop proficiency in this area, and this approach might be the best one to pursue for carwash operators and distributors alike.

But by all means, do not shirk the crucial importance of consistently and aggressively marketing your carwash, especially since you are competing against many other local retail and service businesses that may be much more advanced in their marketing.

For instance, each week I see or receive some announcement or special offer to get my house cleaned, my teeth cleaned, my shirts and pants cleaned, and even my garage cleaned (which will, I am told, de-stress my life), but rarely do I get an offer or invitation to get my car cleaned.

The four steps to marketing success
To begin this life-sustaining “marketing breakthrough,” I recommend every carwash owner or operator work through the following four steps sequentially, to identify accurately and completely the need for such an undertaking, and to build the necessary momentum to maintain this initiative for several months.

Be advised, however, that operators who feel that a temporary marketing infatuation or short-term fix can create long-term results in building a loyal customer base are only setting themselves up for failure.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to build a durable competitive advantage with any sort of marketing initiative if you wish to cut corners at every junction during this disciplined process.

The plan:
Step One: Confront the “brutal facts” of your carwash today;
Step Two: Commit to a more positive (and more profitable) future;
Step Three: Create a written carwash marketing plan (see the sidebar on p. 80); and
Step Four: Monitor and measure your results and revenues each month, making course adjustments or corrections as needed.

Begin today to create a more profitable carwash
If for some reason you are still not completely convinced that you must do everything in your power to participate in this marketing breakthrough, I leave you with one very compelling thought: especially during periods of slow growth, marketing-oriented companies consistently and repeatedly gained market share at the expense of their passive, competitors, and that fact certainly is true in today’s market.

Thus, those carwash operators and distributors who are active in the field and create opportunities in today’s challenging market, will also be more successful and more profitable in 2008 and beyond than their competitors who avoid taking positive action or hesitate because they fear an uncertain future.

To close, every carwash operator can and should begin this important process immediately, (even before you buy a new piece of equipment) by simply meeting with your distributor or any other carwash company in your market, and asking him if he is willing to take ownership for your carwash revenue.

The carwash that will succeed will choose the path that supports growth and revenue by carefully using marketing tactics that work. Without support, many of these ideas and plans will do little to help a failing carwash. Be sure to choose a distributor who supports your marketing goals.

Mike Perry has 28 years’ experience in business-to-business sales and consumer marketing. He is the owner of Total Marketing Concepts, Inc., a results-based consulting and marketing company for world-class carwash distributors and operators. Perry can be reached at, or at 770-330-2490.