With the industry explosion of building express carwash facilities almost on top of each other, consumers will clearly have a choice of where to go and spend their money. Giving customers a quality wash and dry vehicle is a given. However, in addition to quality, the driving public will be looking for something different — something pleasant and exciting.

For instance, you can prepare and use a marketing program similar to the one that I am making for the facility that I took over and am presently renovating and converting to express carwashing and detailing services. This marketing program will put you in a position to both outperform the existing and any future competition as well as exceed customers’ and consumers’ expectations. 

Gaps in marketing

In visiting express washes all over the country as a consultant, I have not seen anything special or exceptional with their marketing programs. It appears that many of them are satisfied with just selling a small amount of unlimited wash memberships, and the majority are not even attempting to market or sell gift cards. 

Even though the majority of express facilities are successful, I believe that most full service waiting rooms and express washes leave money on the table. What I see is the total lack of aggressive and successful marketing.

From the start, I noted that many menu boards at the pay terminals are not people-friendly. They are too difficult to read and prevent customers from making quick decisions on which wash or package to purchase.

Many of the menu boards and other on-site signs are either not fully illuminated or not illuminated at all. What use are these signs and menu boards when the sun sets and the operation is still open two to three hours after dark? It is critical that all on-site signs, including your menu boards and monument sign, be fully illuminated while you are operating. 

Moreover, in riding through express washes, I have observed that logos and wording on the tunnel arches market and promote chemical companies instead of the carwash’s own services, customer benefits, hours of operation, wash memberships, gift cards and detailing services (if applicable). Why promote chemical companies instead of your own? You have a captured audience and should be marketing your own company. 

Furthermore, at many sites, I noted there were no tunnel signs that flashed with what extra chemicals or packages were being applied and what the customer purchased. How would the customer know he or she is receiving what was paid for? 

I, for one, will have flashing signs with my logo at each arch in the tunnel. They will flash when a chemical is applied to a vehicle. This now gives customers satisfaction in knowing that they are receiving what they purchased. 

Also, my wait/go exit sign will also acknowledge what package the customer purchased by flashing when the vehicle is ready to exit. If the customer is not satisfied that he or she received what was purchased, it will negatively affect what that customer purchases on future trips to your facility.

Most express tunnels also have clear, white, plastic walls; however, they are blank. The visible areas of these walls should be installed with graphics, company messages and holiday marketing throughout the year. For the holiday displays, the goal is to promote and sell gift cards that may be used for any of your services, including joining the unlimited wash club. These waterproof graphics can be used year after year. 

Promoting outside the tunnel

After upgrading and converting my facility, with plans to reopen in June, I thought about what would be the best way to reintroduce what we had accomplished and, most importantly, what customer benefits will be and what we will offer. I decided to get this message across during the first few months of operation. 

I prepared a document welcoming customers to my carwash and listing several bullet points denoting what we offer, what we are all about and how we will be more than just a generic carwash. Opening coupons along with flyers and a brochure regarding our unlimited wash club will be attached to this letter-sized sheet, which our service advisors (sales individuals on commission) in the queuing lanes prior to the pay terminals will be giving out to each driver upon welcoming them to our site. 

Related: 49 marketing tricks to boost business at your carwash

What is also extremely noticeable at many facilities is the lack of professional uniforms and caps, which is one of the first impressions the consumer receives. In addition to having uniforms on everyone, beginning with the owner on-site, all employees should wear name tags with their job titles and the company name and logo. I’m going one step further, taking full advantage of the company personnel’s visibility to vehicle drivers and passengers, and putting a large patch on the back of every shirt and jacket that will highlight the five major items and services that Harv’s — our carwash — will offer. 

If customers don’t know what you’re offering, they’re not going to buy it. Be proactive in your marketing efforts, and think outside the box. If you have any questions or wish to know the location address of our renovated facility, please call.


Harvey M. Miller is the owner of Car Wash Consultants and Harv’s Express Car Wash and Detailing Center in Sacramento, California. Miller has been in the industry for 63 years, has performed consulting services for 37 years and has owned and operated 32 carwashes. He is past president of the International Carwash Association (ICA) and the Western Carwash Association (WCA). Miller can be reached at (949) 230-3623 or [email protected]