Forget the tricks: Marketing to millennials
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Marketing and Advertising

Forget the tricks: Marketing to millennials

Millennials understand marketing, so carwashes need new strategies for attracting them as loyal customers.


With the rise of each new generation, various industries must adapt. World events, economic, social and other issues affect each generation differently, causing worldviews and spending habits to vary from earlier groups. Businesses find they need to treat new groups differently when it comes to marketing and communications efforts.

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The generation creating the most buzz among today’s business owners is the millennial generation. This group is no longer ‘up and coming’ — they have spending power and they’re here to stay. Businesses must adapt strategies to make millennials their loyal customers. Michelle Bizon, social media manager at Moving Targets, says, “Millennials want to feel involved and appreciated — not marketed to.”

Throw away your old bag of tricks

Millennials are buying as much as previous generations, but they purchase differently.

“Blitzing doesn’t work,” shares Bizon. “Millennials have a more comprehensive understanding of marketing and an awareness of your dependence on them as consumers. Shortcuts and tricks won’t work on them for long.”


Millennials’ need for engagement necessitates new strategies to attract them to carwashes.

Milliennials have unique senses of self, states Bizon. Carwashes that use trigger events like birthdays, weddings and relocations will benefit. “They’re looking for personalized, customized messaging,” she explains. “In response, your marketing strategy needs to focus on building relationships and providing value.”

Carwashes can engage this group by initiating conversations, listening well and responding. “A business will not keep a millennial’s attention long if the conversation flows in only one direction,” adds Bizon.

Reach out to new places

Millennials have access to a nearly limitless source of information at all times — their phones. This doesn’t mean they won’t pay attention to a carwash business. Owners just need to meet them where they are.


“Learn where your audience lives, online and off, and then engage them in those places,” Bizon says. “A cross-media marketing strategy spanning print (e.g., physical letters and cards) and digital (e.g., email, social media and websites) is crucial for reaching them where they’re at.”

Millennials are also good at researching. They will check a business out online before driving on the lot.

“Millennials are savvier researchers than previous generations, meaning your wash has to prove itself online, on paper and in person, day-in and day-out,” says Bizon.

“If they receive a birthday card from you in the mail, they’re going to visit your Yelp page before coming in to redeem the free wash you gifted them,” Bizon continues. “Similarly, they’re going to judge your worthiness for a spot in their inboxes by checking out what you post on Facebook and Twitter.”


Word-of-mouth can still be a powerful tool, but the medium has changed. The newest generation of car owners tends to take to the Internet to talk about their experiences at businesses. Carwashes, c-stores and detail shops must make sure customers have positive transactions with their companies to avoid negative reviews.

Overcoming challenges

Perhaps one of the largest obstacles facing carwashes trying to reach millennials is a change in values from previous generations, believes Bizon.

“There’s been a shift,” she explains. “With Boomers holding the buying power, justice, family and practicality reigned supreme. Now passion, fulfillment and discovery are the ‘it’ values. Waiting for millennials to ‘grow up’ and adopt more traditional beliefs is a game you can’t afford to play.”


These expectations can seem demanding for carwash who are not millennials, Bizon shares, so “the biggest challenge is learning to tailor your marketing to speak to the ideals of this highly-coveted demographic.”

So how should owners and operators approach this generation?

Millennials care about what a company stands for. Bizon recommends concentrating on how to tap into that mentality by explaining how your wash supports feel-good causes with charitable fundraisers; how it’s good for the environment with biodegradable soaps and reclaim equipment; and how washing is easy and convenient because it offers complimentary morning coffee, etc.

Carwashes will benefit by sharing information millennials find relevant and entertaining, notes Bizon. Share things like time-saving tips for car organization and run competitive contests. “It always comes back to what you can add to their lives,” she notes.


Add millennials to the marketing mix

Millennials aren’t going away, so finding ways to make them loyal patrons is essential. Bizon says building a solid foundation for the personalization necessary for this group may be time-consuming in the short term, but profitable in the long run.

“You won’t build a sizable email database in a day,” she states, “but you can multiply the fruits of your labor by using the data you collect to fuel a birthday mailer campaign or design custom Facebook ad audiences to target your customers’ friends and demographically similar prospective customers.”


Carwash owners should use mobile accessibility to their advantages. This allows millennials to interact with businesses conveniently, shares Bizon.

“Social media, in particular, will continue to become more mobile-dependent,” she reports. “Facebook, Google My Business and Yelp even have free apps for business owners seeking to manage their accounts from their mobile devices.”

Finally, businesses that embrace customers’ feelings will thrive when it comes to the millennial generation. Bizon encourages washes to ask for opinions and feedback. Carwashes can provide incentives to customers who post photos of their experiences at a wash.

“Anthony will care more about his neighbor Ethan’s evaluation of you than any generic sales message you can send his way, and the power of Ethan’s potential influence only expands when he posts his thoughts online,” concludes Bizon.

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