At first glance, it would seem that marketing a tunnel car wash would be pretty basic, with little room for differentiation: dirty vehicles go in, clean ones come out. In reality, the wash operators who look beyond that rather simplistic formula are the ones that can create a truly memorable wash experience that will help them succeed.
Wash operators must work tirelessly to make and keep the vehicle wash itself the most prominent marketing tool at their disposal. The first step toward a good marketing program should be performing basic maintenance and upkeep at the site. Remove any trash in the wash bay and around the exterior, keep the pay station clean, wash the windows, make sure all lights are working, apply a new coat of paint if needed, patch any potholes in the forecourt.
While keeping the wash the focal point should be the foundation for a strong marketing program, there are three significant areas that can also be optimized to ensure tunnel-wash marketing success:
- The Customer is King: Wash operators must know who their customers are and what their driving and buying habits may be. A successful marketing program will take into account the new, more immediate forms of communication that are available. The days of putting a coupon in the weekly newspaper are a remnant of the past. Still, there will be a portion of your customer base that still favors more traditional forms of communication and may not want to download a vehicle-wash “app.” In other words, drivers are a diverse group and determining who is buying and how they want to buy is a guide in how best to attract and keep them. One thing that will remain a behavioral constant is that buyers want to know that the businesses they frequent are in partnership with the community, so building a “this is my car wash” relationship can be attractive to customers.
- Signs of the Times: Human beings are drawn to things that attract their attention. This makes the signage that is the welcome mat to a wash site extremely important, with a common refrain among operators being, “Throughput begins at the curb cut.” The street sign should create immediate awareness, while possessing the ability to capture drive-by traffic. On-site signage should mesh seamlessly with the brand and value-proposition story that is introduced by the street signage. Menus at the transaction point should be clear and easy to understand while allowing purchase decisions to be made quickly. An easy-to-use transaction screen moves vehicles into the wash quicker, which allows the next transaction to begin, thereby eliminating lines that can frustrate other drivers.
- Loyalty is the Best Reward: The final step is transforming occasional customers into ones who choose to return consistently. Coming up with a compelling message that motivates entry into a loyalty program is a logical first step of the process. After a base of customers built up, you must stay connected via regular communications. The overriding goal is to make drivers feel “part of the team” while offering incentives for them to return. After establishing regular communications, continue to reward customer loyalty by ensuring that the level of service and performance that is expected does not waver or decline. The slightest perceived deterioration in performance will cause the most loyal customer to look elsewhere.
Since 1969, Belanger, Inc., a product brand of OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions, has been a leader in the design and development of conveyorized tunnel-wash systems. Belanger’s tunnel washes were among the industry’s first to deploy soft-touch wash media that deliver a best-in-class wash experience with no risk of vehicle damage while possessing the ability to wash more than 200 vehicles per hour. Other Belanger equipment innovations include award-winning full-cover chemical dispensers, whisper-quiet wash wheels, programmable tire dressers and touchless dryers. All of these features can be deployed as components in a marketing program that will create loyal customers.