Including full-service car washes, conveyor car washes, self-serve car washes and in-bay automatic car washes, there are approximately 113,000 car washes operating in the United States. The car wash industry employs 350,000 people throughout the country and
generates around $5.8 billion in revenue annually. Even though an increasing number of investors, gas and convenience stores are entering the car was industry, independent entrepreneurs still own 90 percent of car washes in operation.
If you own a car wash, you’ll be happy to learn that the International Carwash Association expects the revenue generated by the car wash and auto detailing industry to grow at an annual rate of 3.3 percent through 2018. While several factors are driving this growth, including an increase in the discretionary income Americans have because of the nation’s economic recovery, the growing aversion consumers have for washing their own cars seems to be one of the biggest factors.
Compared to 1996, 19.2 percent more consumers used a professional car wash in 2014. In 1996, 47.6 percent of consumers washed their automobiles at home. In 2014, just 28.4 percent of consumers washed their vehicles at their place of residence. Of the cars washed professionally in 2014, 29 percent were washed at an exterior car wash, 28 percent were cleaned at a full-serve facility, 23 percent were washed at an in-bay car wash, 13 percent were taken to a self-serve wash and seven percent were washed by hand.
While the outlook is positive for the car wash industry as a whole, it doesn’t mean that consumers will automatically flock to your location to have their vehicles cleaned. In order to attract new clients and motivate your current customers to re-visit your car wash, you need to market your business. Even if you have a limited marketing budget, you can still use some creative and cost effective marketing strategies and tactics to get people through your car wash’s doors.
Unique Ways to Market a Car Wash
Do you remember the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” What about the one that warns that you only have one chance to make a positive first impression? When it comes to marketing your car wash, you can start by applying both of those clichés to your business.
While some consumers may miss a positive experience with a given business, the truth is that many people make a decision not to visit a business based at least in part on the way it looks. With that in mind, you can start marketing your car wash while it’s still in the design phase by incorporating some unique architectural characteristics and a vibrant, welcoming color scheme into your plans. Once your business is open, you can continue making a positive impression on people who pass by your location by maintaining the appearance of your business with regular landscaping and debris removal.
If you’ve owned your car wash for many years, you can refresh the look of your business to make it more inviting to repeat clients and new ones alike. You can remodel your lobby, for instance, and offer modern amenities such as televisions and massage chairs. Consider also adding more exterior lighting to make your car wash more visible during the evening hours and help your customers feels safer when they visit your facility at night. By making improvements to your existing property, your customers will know you care about their comfort level as well as their safety.
Although maintaining a nice-looking, clean car wash is the first step to successfully marketing your business, it’s generally advisable to identify who your most profitable clients are before you employ a host of marketing strategies to attract customers to your business. By figuring out who your most lucrative customers are, you can make sure you use the right marketing tactics to generate new and repeat business.
A study published by Mercer Management reported that a majority of businesses earn at least 150 percent of their revenue from just one-third of their clients and break even on the next third of their customer base. When it comes to the bottom third of their clients, companies often incur “significant losses.”
Once you’ve identified the third of your clients you make the most money off, you’ll need to get to know them in order to attract more people like them. To do this, you can conduct informal surveys of at least 10 or 20 high-profit customers when they visit your car wash. Based on their responses, you’ll be able to narrow down the list of marketing tactics that will be effective at attracting the customers who will add the most to your bottom line.
Depending on the kind of clients you want to attract, you may want to consider using some of the creative ways to market a carwash described here:
- Offer Another Service or Product: In order to bring people through your doors, you may want to add another service or product to your list of offerings. Doing this not only attracts additional traffic, it can add to your bottom line. While the car industry generates approximately $5.8 billion in revenue every year, the car washes that also sell gasoline generate $48 billion in annual revenue.
While adding a gas pump or two to your location my not be feasible, you can offer some other products or upgrade options to your customers. As an example, offering add on products such as Total Vehicle Protectants like JBS’ Shine Time to your wash will instantly create an additional profit center.
If your current business is strictly a car wash, you may want to add auto-detailing services to your menu. Even though more than 28 percent of consumers wash their vehicles at
home, you can still profit off them by offering the supplies they need to wash their automobiles themselves. You can offer a type of cleaning solution that isn’t offered anywhere else in the vicinity, scratch-free brushes or rags they can use to hand-dry their vehicles without leaving streaks, for example.
- Host a Food Truck at Your Location: Even though it’s not you offering another service or product, you can give people more to look forward to when they visit your car wash by hosting a food truck on your property. You don’t always have to host the same food truck if there’s more than one operating in your area. You can invite a different food truck to be at your car wash every day of the week, or rotate the trucks that will be at your location on a weekly basis. Many people, especially younger generations of consumers, are used to multi-tasking, so giving them the chance to eat and have their cars washed at the same time enables them to cross two things off their to-do lists.
- Provide Free WiFi: Many of today’s shoppers, including Millennials, are used to being “connected” wherever they go, especially if they have to wait for a service to be performed. You can prevent your clients from having to use their own data
to access the Internet by providing free WiFi service they can use while waiting for their vehicles to be washed. This will do more than just potentially save your customers some money. It will also increase the perceived value that people have of your establishment.
- Play Music: No matter what kind of car wash you own and operate, one of the cheap ways to market a car wash is to play music. If you have televisions in your lobby, you may want to play music outside only, so that the music doesn’t interfere with the shows your clients are watching. Since the people outside your business will be focusing on the vehicles they’re washing and not a television program, they’ll enjoy the distraction from the task at hand.
You can take the idea of providing music one step further by inviting a local band to perform at your car wash. Some up-and-coming musicians may be willing to perform for free to gain exposure. Providing live music is a great way to kick off a grand opening or re-opening or attract people to another kind of special event such as a fundraiser or the introduction of a new product or service.
- Hold a Fundraiser: One of the most cost effective ways to market a car wash is to hold an event for a charity. Holding a fundraiser typically achieves multiple things. First and foremost, a fundraiser benefits the charity you’ve chosen to work with so that it can continue to achieve its goals. By hosting a charitable event, you also send a message to your neighbors and customers that your business is an active supporter of the community you share with them. Holding a fundraiser creates goodwill for your business as well, which increases the perceived value people have of your car wash and distinguishes your business from your competitors.
- Support a Local School or Sports Team: Another way you can market your car wash and demonstrate that your business is active in your community is to support a local school or sports team. In exchange for your support, you may be able to hang banners promoting your business during special events or sports competitions. You might even have the name of your car wash sewn onto the jerseys or the hats worn by the team.
- Host a Classic Car Club or a Car Show: In general, individuals who own classic cars enjoy showing them off to people who share their enthusiasm for older, treasured automobiles. If there is a classic car club in your area, invite its members to show off their vehicles at your location. Having a bevy of eye-catching classic vehicles at your car wash is a great way to get some attention and draw people into your business.
If there isn’t a classic car club in your area, you can give your own customers and others the opportunity to show off their vehicles at your location. Coordinate with a local restaurant to provide free food and beverages to drivers who participate in your car show and those who stop to admire their automobiles to make your car show extra festive.
- Establish an Online Presence: Establishing an online presence is one of the cheap ways to market a car wash. Many sites enable you to set up a website for free in less than an hour. In addition to having a website, you should set up social media accounts for your business and use them to interact with your current and prospective clients.
You should also set up a blog and integrate it with your website. Instead of promoting your business directly, consider using your blog to inform your audience about things that are relevant to them and related to your business. Possible topics might include the best cleaning solutions to use on cars that are different colors or the best way to remove a stain from upholstery. Remember to share links to your blog with your social media followers whenever you publish a new post.
Setting up a website, social media accounts and a blog aren’t enough to truly establish a meaningful online presence. You also need to include your business in online business directories and encourage your clients to submit reviews to websites such as Yelp and Google Maps. More than 70 percent of consumers choose to visit a local business based on the customer reviews they read on the Internet. This makes encouraging your clients to share positive reviews of your car wash online one of the most cost effective ways you can market your business.
- Set up an Unlimited Wash Club: One of the unique ways to market a car wash is to set up an unlimited wash club. By doing this, you’re giving people the chance to wash their vehicles as often as they’d like to over the course of a month in exchange for a flat monthly fee. Unlimited wash clubs not only benefit your customers, they also benefit your business. Ordinarily, people will sign up for an unlimited wash club at a car wash and give the business permission to automatically renew their memberships each cycle. Since you’ll charge membership fees automatically, you can establish a regular income stream for your business by starting an unlimited wash club.
- Communicate via Mobile: People between the ages of 18 and 44 years-old are considered Millennials. Approximately 79 percent of the individuals who comprise the Millennial generation have their smartphones with them 22 hours
per day. In addition to Millennials, over half of every other age group aside from people 65 years-old or older have smartphones. With mobile phones being so prevalent across most age groups, you have an opportunity to market your business using mobile technology.
You can use mobile push messages to communicate directly with your customers and encourage them to return to your car wash. Push notices are opened by smartphone users at a rate of 50-80 percent, which means your clients are likely to at least read, if not act on, the push notifications they receive. You can send push notifications to offer exclusive deals to your best customers or to inform your clients about an upcoming special event or a new product or service you’re offering. Just be careful not to pester your clientele by sending too many messages, or by sending them at times that are probably inconvenient, such as three o’clock in the morning.
- Offer Chauffeur Services: According to the International Carwash Association, about 20 percent of people don’t wash their vehicles more often because the process simply takes too long. You can prevent people from losing some of their valuable time by offering a complimentary chauffeur service, the same way many car dealerships offer a free shuttle service. By providing this kind of service, your clients won’t have to wait for their automobiles to be washed because you’ll take them to work or back home and bring their vehicles to the location when they’re are clean. Offering complimentary chauffeur services as a convenience for your clients will help to increase their perceived value of your establishment and dispel the notion that getting their vehicles washed is too time consuming.
- Cross-Promote with Another Business: One of the creative ways to market a car wash is to join forces with another business. While you may think you’ll have to partner with another business in the automotive field, that’s not necessarily the case. Partnering with almost any kind of business gives you the chance to introduce your car wash to an entirely new audience.
You can cross-promote with a pizza shop on the other side of town, for example. You can create flyers that the pizzeria will affix to the top of their pizza boxes on the restaurant’s busiest night of the week, describing offers from your car wash as well as the eatery. Alternatively, you can offer a discount to people who bring in a receipt from the pizzeria on the same day they ate there and promote the offer on your website and the pizzeria’s site. You can also use your social media accounts to the spread the word about your cross-promotion.
- Establish a Loyalty Club: You can increase the chances that a customer will return to your car wash by establishing a free loyalty club. Give everyone who patronizes your business a loyalty card when they pay for their initial car wash. Every time someone with a loyalty card pays for a wash at your location, you can punch their card. When a client’s card is punched a certain number of times, the person will be able to redeem it for a free car wash the next time they visit. A loyalty club is an effective way to keep your current clients coming back to your car wash because it rewards them for doing so. Remember to give a client a new loyalty club card whenever they redeem their old one.
- Take Advantage of the JBS Difference: Since 1979, JBS Industries has been a top car wash supply manufacturer and our long-standing tradition of making innovative products continues today. While our product line has grown throughout the years to include products for professionals from dog groomers to aviation maintenance crews, our car wash products still offer the greatest value available while providing your clients with a car wash experience they’ll want to have over and over again.
Using our cleaning solutions is one of the most cost effective ways you can differentiate your car wash from its competitors and attract customers to your location. As a family-owned and operated business, we use the following four guiding principles in everything we do: quality, innovation, value and service. Our core values motivate us to produce highly concentrated car wash cleaning solutions that have high dilution rates, which you can use to increase the number of people who bring their automobiles to your business. As the manufacturer of top quality car wash soap, we use our custom manufacturing capabilities and processes to make products that are consistent and do more than simply get the job done.
Just as the number of people who bring their vehicles to car washes has grown over the years, our product line continues to evolve. With innovation being one of our guiding principles, we’re constantly working to develop new products, including environmentally engineered car wash solutions. In fact, you can already find green solutions, including 100 percent reclaim products, in our car wash supplies store. With more and more people becoming concerned about the environment, using our environmentally engineered cleaning solutions is yet another way you can use the JBS difference to make your business stand out for all of the right reasons.
No matter what kind of car wash you own, we have a cleaning solution for you. Contact us to learn more today or check out our marketing site!