Text message marketing

Text message marketing

Six ways to attract and retain customers with SMS.

As text message marketing (SMS marketing) gains wider adoption in the carwash industry, there are still many operators who have yet to try out and use this medium. 

We know carwash owners and marketers are overwhelmed with the various marketing channels they need to stay on top of, yet text messaging is one of the simplest and most effective tools a business can use to help drive sales, boost engagement and increase loyalty. The one thing we repeatedly hear is that, for the operators who have adopted text message marketing, it has become one of their top tools to drive traffic to their businesses.  

You may be thinking that you already do email marketing, so why bother with SMS? The problem with email marketing is that for some carwashes, it’s just not as effective as it used to be. Email boxes today look like news feeds, and it’s hard to stand out with all the clutter and competition. Emails are ignored, get diverted to unseen promotions folders in such services as Gmail or in some cases end up in the spam folder. 

Your customers probably don’t pay attention to every email they receive on their phone, but they are looking at their text messages — usually as soon as they receive them. Overall, SMS marketing has been shown to have higher open, read and engagement rates than email. 

That is not to say you should stop email marketing campaigns. SMS marketing is meant to complement and integrate with your existing marketing, including email and social. 

And don’t worry — you won’t be spamming or annoying your customers, as long as you opt them in properly to your campaigns and send them messages that provide value and are relevant; then, they’ll be happy to receive them.

Here are some of the different ways you can use text message marketing in your overall marketing plan.

Text message promotions

Text message marketing enables you to connect directly with your customers and send them the various promotions and sales specials you currently offer. These promotions can be sent as a text-based message, picture message (MMS) or with links connecting to your web and social media pages. You can also send special promotions that are exclusive to your mobile list. 

Promotional messages can also serve as a branding tool and keep you top-of-mind. Some customers may not want or need a carwash when you send a message out, but they will now have easy access to your promotions on their phones. 

You can test out different types of promotions to see which ones resonate with customers and produce the best results; testing also shows how they compare to your current marketing campaigns.

Take these examples, for instance:

  • CARWASH: Join our monthly VIP club! Choose from different options. Click here for more info and to sign up now!
  • CARWASH: Crazy Wednesdays! 20% OFF any Regular Priced Wash.

Text message coupons

Your customers love using your newspaper, direct mail and website printable coupons to save money on your services. They just don’t love the hassle of trying to find them and remembering to bring them when they want to get their cars washed.

The good news is you can leverage these different mediums with a text message call-to-action. 

By adding your keyword and texting number to your coupon marketing, you now give your customer the option of texting in for it. With COVID still being a concern for operators and customers, text message coupons can minimize the amount of paper your staff has to handle from customers. 

These SMS coupons can contain expiration dates, tracking codes and links to mobile-optimized pages with additional rules and information. You can also use different keywords for each medium of marketing (print, web, direct mailers, etc.) to further help you track their effectiveness and return on investment (ROI). Add a reply option for your customers to join your mobile database, and then you will be really leveraging SMS to its fullest advantage. As examples:

  • Text WASH to 833-845-8230 to receive this coupon on your mobile phone
  • CARWASH: Show this coupon and save $10 off our super carwash. Cannot be combined with other offers. Exp. 6/30. Code#CWZA1.

Alerts, reminders and notifications

Like most businesses following the effects of COVID, carwashes and detailers have had to adapt. 

One of the most important things a business can do during times like these is to communicate and stay connected with its customers.

SMS enables you to provide more personalized updates due to COVID or weather-related events. Your customers will appreciate being notified about any changes to your business, such as service hours, openings/closings, services, safety protocols and any special instructions they may need to be aware of before heading over to your carwash.  

For carwashes, mobile carwashes and detailers, you can use SMS to send appointment confirmations, reminders and schedule changes. SMS reminders have been shown to reduce no-shows and are less intrusive than calling. 

Here are some examples:

  • CARWASH: We are now open from 7AM-10PM M-Sat. 7-4PM on Sundays. We look forward to seeing you!
  • CARWASH: This is a reminder for your car detail appointment tomorrow July 8 at 9AM. Please reply Y to confirm. Reply R to reschedule.


A common practice in marketing to boost engagement and create some buzz is to run a sweepstakes or contest. You can easily set up a text-to-win promotion, giving your customers the chance to win a prize. It’s also a great way to quickly increase the size of your database by getting your customers to opt-in to your campaigns, especially if you are just starting out. 

Here are some examples:

  • Text WIN to 833-435-0830 to enter and for a chance to win a free detail for your car!
  • CARWASH: You are entered for a chance to win a free auto detail! We will announce the winner July 1. You will be notified if you are a winner. Good luck! 

SMS surveys

Acquiring online or on-premises customer feedback can be challenging. Carwashes and detailers looking for feedback on their customers’ experiences can use SMS to send text and web-based surveys. An SMS survey can give your customers a feeling of anonymity that they may not get by filling out a form at your carwash. It’s also easier for them to participate with SMS, where they can access the survey at their convenience. 

A text-based survey can be as simple as asking a customer how that person’s latest experience was and have him or her rate it from 1 to 10. Interactive replies enable you to gather valuable feedback to better serve your clients and find out if there are service or operational issues you may not be aware of. It also gives you the chance to show your customers that you value them and are trying to improve their experience at your business. 

Try these, for instance:

  • Text SURVEY to 833-845-8230 to let us know how we did today.
  • CARWASH: Thank you for your visit today. Let us know how we did. Please reply with a number from 1-10, with 10 being the highest and any additional comments. 
  • CarWash: Thank you for your visit today. Let us know how we did. Click the link to complete your survey. https://txtm.cc/L8J0I 

SMS mobile app downloads

Mobile apps are one of the latest tools carwashes are using to drive sales and improve the customer experience. You can use SMS to help you drive app downloads, provide new tracking information for your marketing as well as boost your mobile database for future promotions. 

One of the problems with tracking app downloads is that it’s sometimes hard to know where that customer found out about the app and which advertising campaign or marketing medium is the one responsible for the customer downloading it. You may receive stats on the number of downloads, but that’s usually it. Was it from a newspaper/magazine ad, direct mailer, out-of-home advertising or signage? SMS solves this problem and alerts you to which advertising campaign or marketing medium is helping you best push those downloads. 

SMS gives your customers a simple way to download the app. On your website, you can use a “send to phone” widget that will send a link to users’ phones after they enter and submit their mobile numbers. For print and signage, you can include a keyword and your texting number, informing the users that by completing the call-to-action, they will receive a link on their phones to your app. You can direct them to your website page with the app store links, include specific URLs for each app store or include a link that will recognize the operating system of the user’s phone and automatically direct it to your app.  

            Here are some possible messages:

Text message marketing is personal. When used strategically, SMS can help you achieve your sales and marketing goals by building and deepening the relationship with your customers. 

It can be used at every stage of interaction with your customers and is meant to work together with your existing marketing program. 

If you are already using SMS or thinking about getting started, it’s worth taking a closer look at your current marketing and considering how you can fully integrate SMS marketing to get the most out of it.  

Steven Levine is president of Mission Mobile and a leading text message marketing strategist. Mission Mobile provides text message marketing services to the carwash, auto services and media industries. Feel free to reach out to him with any questions. He can be reached at (310) 396-5577 ext. 115, [email protected] or www.missionmobile.net.

Check out our follow up video podcast with the author of this article, Steven Levine, below. We discuss more about the potential of text message marketing and other trends.

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