As the owner or designated operator of a small business, pushing your operation to be the best is one of your most important duties. While financial profit is of huge importance, pride in your business can further drive results and customer service, and this pride should be contagious. Owners, managers and employees should stand ready to share successes and positive examples with both regular visitors and potential customers.
As an owner, you have sunk years of experience — not to mention a tidy investment — into a car care business, and you want customers to be as excited about the operation as you are. To this end, successful marketing programs that attract new customers and keep existing customers loyal are massively important. Further, consider the boost of morale and positivity that successful marketing can provide employees as another crucial factor.
To help car care business owners and operators, we have compiled a list of 49 marketing tricks to boost business and garner community attention. From building upgrades and special events to new offerings and online contests, let this list spur your imagination and bring new ideas — and hopefully new customers — to your small business.
Boost your building
1. Remodel the lobby.
2. Add waiting area TVs.
3. Offer free Wi-Fi.
4. Install massage chairs.
These first four marketing tips all involve making your customers more comfortable and encouraging them to visit more frequently. A remodeled lobby lets customers know an owner takes their safety and comfort seriously. Adding TVs and offering free Wi-Fi brings some of the comforts of home into a lobby or waiting room and can contribute to improved first impressions and overall customer satisfaction. Lastly, who doesn’t love a massage chair? Going beyond the norm and installing a few massage chairs could lead to more repeat customers and valuable word-of-mouth marketing that successful businesses frequently depend on.
5. Go state of the art.
Nothing can boost wash numbers like much-needed technology upgrades. Whether adding new equipment in a tunnel or in wash bays, updates can improve wash results while ensuring lower water and electricity costs through improved efficiencies.
6. Become truck friendly.
There are different ways to make a carwash tunnel or bay truck friendly. In-bay automatics can install extended arches to properly reach tailgates and extended body sections. Certain tunnel designs also offer wider belt designs that allow multi-wheel trucks to move through a tunnel. If a wash can accept these larger trucks, publicize this fact in advertising while reaching out to truck owners through local truck and off-road clubs.
7. Partner up with an established brand.
The most well-known example of this tactic is the NASCAR carwash chain. Use of the racing league’s logo and name attracted media attention, and NASCAR fans provided a built-in customer base. Here, brand familiarity can help build customer counts.
8. Choose fun signage with a local influence.
The importance of strong signage cannot be overstated. In areas with high traffic counts, colorful signs and clear messaging can be the difference between more business than a site can handle and deserted bays or tunnels. Many washes choose local themes or landmarks to mimic in logos and on signs. For instance, curling waves and colorful seashells are common carwash imagery in beach areas.
9. Add unique architecture or a hallmark.
As stated, catching the attention of passersby is often a huge step towards success. The list of architectural flair pieces or hallmarks in the carwash industry is almost endless. On-site hallmarks, both large and small, include bells, cacti, pink elephants, dinosaurs, octopuses and pink elephants.
10. Create a theme.
Themed carwashes are becoming more popular today. From rock ‘n’ roll music to car racing, themed sites can attract new customers and give visitors a reason to return.
11. Invite a classic car club.
12. Hold an on-site racecar event.
Being in the car care business, a site can benefit doubly from hosting a classic car night or a visit from a local racing team. First, the shiny, colorful vehicles will attract your marketing targets — people who love cars — in droves. Secondly, meeting members of local car clubs and developing positive relationships with them, their friends and their families can go a long way toward building a good reputation in the community. Racing teams and car care clubs are made up of people who are definitely interested in car care and appearance.
13. Host a charity event.
As reported almost daily in PC&D eNews, carwashes around the U.S. frequently host many types of charity events. A quick search for “charity events” on www.carwash.com can provide over 100 charity event ideas. Again, this tip benefits a carwash in multiple ways. Not only does the event attract new customers, but it can also build positive media coverage and a good reputation in the community.
14. Offer free washes for a cause.
15. Participate in Grace for Vets.
While Grace for Vets is a yearly program that offers veterans a free carwash on Veterans Day, there are multiple opportunities here for building customer counts and business/brand recognition. These events can be centered on holidays or local celebrations.
16. Schedule a live radio broadcast.
Though this is the Internet age, hosting a live radio broadcast is a surprisingly effective marketing option. Known DJs talk to their dedicated audiences and repeatedly invite thousands of listeners to visit your carwash. Often these broadcasts can be scheduled for grand openings, anniversary celebrations or even upcoming sports events.
Maybe some music?
17. Play music in your wash.
18. Have live music on-site.
19. Add a musical conversation piece.
Tying in with the radio broadcast, adding music to your site in multiple ways can be a smart marketing move. Multiple washes play music in bays or tunnels, and some have even developed small radio stations for visiting customers that coordinate with programmed light shows. Having a live band perform on-site is another idea to draw in young, new customers. Finally, one carwash in Sacramento, Calif., has a lavender piano they roll out each morning as hallmark to attract curious customers.
Offer additional services
20. Add a pet wash.
21. Cross market with a c-store.
22. Open a barber shop.
23. Include a gift shop.
24. Offer oil changes.
25. Brew some coffee.
For busy millennials and bustling young families, the ability to complete multiple transactions at one location can be a huge benefit. The option to grab a fresh-brewed coffee and pick up a greeting card while their vehicle gets an oil change and a wash is attractive to a generation of customers practically obsessed with multitasking. While it may take some experimentation to discover the services your customers desire the most, there are a number of options out there to boost your audience and increase marketing effectiveness.
26. Install mat cleaners.
27. Develop hand wash offerings.
28. Include concierge service.
For older generations not as obsessed with speedy results and multitasking, washes can add hands-on services centered on quality, not quantity. These services can be promoted through marketing and are offerings that can help set a wash apart from any nearby competition.
Don’t forget food
29. Host a barbecue.
Backyard patio parties always bring out the best in friends, neighbors and families, so why not host a cookout for your customers? Offer free hot dogs or hamburgers to welcome new customers and let returning customers know you appreciate their business. A quick trip to the grocery store for foodstuffs can net an operation new business and boost valuable word-of-mouth marketing.
30. Add a restaurant.
31. Open a drive-thru.
Long-term foodservice options are available for carwash owners in a variety of formats. Additions can include a sit-down diner, a small franchise location or a convenient drive-thru. Again, the ability to complete multiple tasks at one site will draw in new customers and offer the opportunity to cross market offerings.
32. Invite a food truck.
Making connections with other small businesses in your community can pay large dividends. Inviting a food truck to your site can boost your reputation with young drivers and local “foodies.” The wide selection of foods available from food trucks in most metropolitan areas ensures a new experience for visitors every time a new truck arrives.
For the families
33. Install in-tunnel water guns.
34. Add a tunnel light show.
While busy adults may forget the services a carwash offers, their children will never forget a fun trip to a unique carwash. More manufacturers are supplying fun tunnel options to attract families to carwashes, and many owners are finding these options increase business. Windows with installed, in-tunnel water guns have become common in carwash waiting rooms, and now LED lighting is opening up new options for tunnel light shows. Both options can provide a fun and memorable wash experience for children of all ages.
35. Invite a few dinosaurs.
This idea ties in with themed washes and architectural hallmarks. A Los Angeles carwash recently opened with dinosaurs on-site. The themed wash, located in the “entertainment capital of the world,” includes a selection of displays featuring animatronic dinosaurs.
36. Sponsor a little league team.
37. Enlist local sports/school advertising.
Sponsoring youth sports teams and advertising with local minor league teams can be great options to market your business to families and increase community awareness. Advertising options here can include on-field signage, advertisements in game programs and giveaway or special event sponsorships.
38. Find a mascot.
39. Host a children’s show character.
Add some character to your site by either developing a mascot for your wash or hosting a well-known children’s show character. Existing carwash mascots around the U.S. currently include ducks, bears, elephants and octopuses. Special family events can also be created around visits from popular movie and cartoon characters.
Set up special offers
40. Develop a loyalty program.
Offering customers a loyalty program is now a best practice for all car care businesses. These can be facilitated with either updated technology or a simple punch card system. At this point, using these programs to market your business and encourage repeat business is practically required to ensure a successful operation.
41. Try coupon offers.
42. Utilize online discount sites.
Coupons are one of the oldest tricks in the book, but utilized correctly, they can create strong responses. Modern-day versions of discounting can be done through offer websites like Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. Here, the idea is to drive new traffic, and customer service standards should be high to provide the surge of new customers a great first impression.
43. Give away a car.
Here is a great idea to drum up new business. Recently, a carwash chain gave away a Corvette Stingray. The giveaway was co-sponsored by a Chevrolet dealership, and contestants were selected from across 16 locations. Each person was given a key to try during an on-site party, and the event was documented on video. Press releases were also utilized to generate media coverage and increase the giveaway’s marketing impact.
44. Host a community ‘cash mob.’
One combination carwash and deli recently set a date and gave away $20 gift cards to its first 30 customers. The event, funded by a local credit union, handed out gift cards good for use at the carwash and store. The giveaway was hosted by a “cash mob” program created to support and promote local businesses.
Internet and social media
45. Build or update your website.
46. Upgrade your website’s SEO.
47. Utilize social media.
Today, almost all consumers turn to the Internet for information on a business before visiting. Having an active and up-to-date presence online is of monumental importance. The first step is an organized and attractive website. Next, get educated on search engine optimization and other Internet best practices. These tips can be learned during trade show educational sessions or found through industry resources including trade groups and publications. Finally, developing a presence on social media sites — specifically Facebook and Twitter — is especially important. Include links to your website and social media profiles in all marketing materials and advertising to get the most reach from this investment.
48. Share car care tips online.
Once your presence has been developed, use your website or social media reach to share handy tips and information with your followers. While promotion is part of the Internet picture, news stories and other informational posts help fully develop a dialogue with your customers and followers.
49. Have social media contests.
Use your social media reach and increase your likes and followers through exclusive contests. Options include before-and-after image contests to showcase carwash results, or perhaps sharing one of your Facebook posts for a free carwash. Again, the idea is to reach new customers and younger drivers through an active and monitored online presence.