Rant: Why your carwash is failing

You must come to terms with an ever-changing business climate as your customer base becomes inoculated against your marketing messages, pricing structures, menu signs, and relevance of your products or services. Change can be seen as an opportunity to finally reinvent your business or as a frightening abyss of inaction. You can certainly just stick your head in the ground like an ostrich and ignore the writing on the wall and ride things out while pointing your finger at gas prices, competitors, rising energy costs, local politicians, city councils, or the weather. Business owners that are willing to accept that they are perhaps losing touch with their customers and that their business needs a tune-up are those that will make the necessary changes and adapt. Those that would rather suck dirt and stick their heads in the ground are those that will be selling off their businesses or join the ranks of the foreclosed in the coming years.

I guess I’m a bit tired of hearing wash owners say, “I know I need to do something but...” which is followed by some excuse that is used to justify not making a change.

The changes in consumer buying trends has not only effected carwash businesses, it’s just that other industries have more successfully adapted to the current market environment. As stated earlier, consumers are becoming immune to the old way of doing business. We are now fighting for discretionary income against some of the biggest marketing machines in history. McDonalds, Walmart, Starbucks, iTunes, Amazon.com, and eBay see that people don’t have as much money in their pockets as they used to.

Here are some of the common places carwash businesses are losing touch with their customers and could look to reinvent or retool aspects of their business to be more relevant with today’s consumer. We will use the above businesses as examples of what to do right.

Be known for something, stay relevant! - You can no longer just be a ‘CAR WASH’ in your community, you need to be known for something. Whether you are the charity carwash, the eco-friendly carwash, the fastest carwash, or the carwash with the convenient club program... You fall from the publics eye when you fail to stand out.

Failure to offer payment options - I feel like a complete broken record here, but look at how consumers purchase goods and services these days. Customers do not want to be held hostage by changers, tokens, or trips to the ATM. They buy value meal hamburgers, rent .99 cent DVD’s from Redbox, order a $2.00 coffee, and purchase songs for .99 cents each with (drumroll) their bank card or credit card every day, all day, all the time. If you do not have a credit card acceptance device next to every coin slot or bill validator you can’t see the giant neon sign in the sky proclaiming that they purchase their everyday services with a credit card - this is an easy issue to tackle, it only takes money.

Ask for repeat business - Customer Data Collection - Have you ever purchased something from Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, or signed up for a ‘Customer Rewards Program’? I’m certain you or somebody close to you has - all of the businesses that are thriving and are not pointing fingers at anybody right now are those that realize it’s FAR less expensive to market to the customers they already have. If you do not have a way to capture your customers contact information (name, email address, mailing address, etc) you are missing out on perhaps the most effective and least expensive way to increase your bottom line. Just don’t go out and build a website with a “give me your information” page without having a plan... You need to create incentives, promotions, or build programs around gathering this information as an end goal. If your collecting the data from your customers good for you! If you are not doing anything with that data shame on you.

I’ve only scratched the surface... So if you feel overwhelmed and know you need to do something perhaps it’s time to find somebody you know that can help, attend an association education event, or seek the assistance of a professional.

Posted on June 12, 2009 and filed under Cashless, Editorial, Industry Talk, Marketing.