The world’s most valuable companies like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Apple, ones that have become tightly woven into the fabric of global culture, had to start out as unknown entities that were looking to carve out a place for themselves in unforgiving – or, at the time of their founding, nonexistent – markets. That is to say that building brand equity can be a long, arduous and, yes, frustrating, process, but for the companies that are able to successfully accomplish the feat, the rewards can be significant and long lasting.
The operators of vehicle wash businesses are no different. All of them enter the vehicle-wash game thinking they have the best solution to meet the needs of their (potential) customers. They just know that what they are offering will set a new standard in vehicle-wash operation and are confident, if also a little bit apprehensive, that they will succeed.
Despite this confidence, the numbers can be sobering. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, nearly 80% of new businesses are able to survive one year. However, only around half of them are still operating after five years. In other words, the success or failure of a business is the same, percentage-wise, as a coin coming up heads or tails when it is flipped.
A key to creating a business that is built to last is carefully developing, nurturing and protecting its brand equity. The trick is getting the paying public to buy into what the company is selling. Noteworthy ways to do this include making the brand memorable or easily recognizable, and building a reputation of superiority, reliability and quality.
The road to building strong brand equity and achieving ultimate success for the vehicle-wash operator begins by doing the grunt work. Here are some things that must be considered long before that ribbon-cutting ceremony takes place:
- Select A Location. There can be innumerable specific things to consider when searching for the perfect vehicle-wash location. From a broader perspective, some of the more important are the demographics relating to population, vehicle traffic counts, proximity to competitors and other types of businesses in the area. The physical location of the lot is also important. It must be large enough to accommodate lines of cars, with corner lots being the preference, and no outside obstructions that can hinder the driver’s ability to see the site. Finally, the site must be properly zoned for a vehicle wash, with ready access to utilities and little to no restrictions on operating hours.
- Selecting The Wash System. While all vehicle washes may look the same to the driver, there are vast differences in the types of washes that are available, though for the operator it usually comes down to a choice between an in-bay automatic and a conveyorized-tunnel system. Within these categories, in-bay automatics offer the choice between soft touch and touch-free wash styles, while the majority of tunnel systems are soft touch washes.
- Selecting A Logo. Finding the perfect vehicle-wash logo requires a delicate balancing act – it must be simple yet memorable. The Golden Arches of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola’s contour bottle silhouette and Apple’s, well, apple are all logos that instantly call to mind the company and its products. Also important in this realm is creating a slogan that is uncomplicated, but also memorable at the same time.
Once those wash-bay doors are open and the vehicles (hopefully) begin to stream through, there are additional things the operator can do to continue to build brand equity. Among them are:
- Get Ahead Of The Curve. There have been a number of significant advancements in the design and operation of vehicle-wash components and systems in recent years with all of them seeking to improve the driver’s wash experience. High-speed touch-free wash systems possess the capability to ratchet up vehicle throughputs while delivering a high-quality wash. Soft touch systems can feature advanced wash-wheel technology that results in a cleaner vehicle with reduced noise, component wear and energy consumption. Investing in this technology at the beginning, or via an upgrade, can enable the operator to market the wash as cutting edge or “new and improved,” claims that will catch the attention of discerning drivers.
- Build Loyalty. By their nature, satisfied customers who feel they are getting good value for their money are more likely to return. When a loyal customer base returns on a regular basis, that opens the doorway to a formal loyalty program that rewards repeat customers with above-and-beyond offers that will further entice them to make a return visit.
OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions, through its PDQ and Belanger brands, offers the best in both soft touch and touch-free vehicle-wash systems, all of which can be an indispensable aid for vehicle-wash operators looking to solve the puzzle behind building brand equity. For more information, please visit opwvws.com.