It’s no secret that the car wash industry is booming. According to data from Grand View Research, the global car wash market is worth approximately $30.8 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6% over the next eight years.

            One reason for the exponential growth, particularly within the United States, is the rise of subscription membership programs. But to create a successful program, it’s important to demonstrate value to both customers and car wash team members. Below are six ways to add value to your membership program, develop brand loyalty, and invigorate your company.

1. Implement a Digital Marketing Program

            Kelsey Roberts is a digital marketing account executive at Welcomemat, where she focuses on new customer acquisition strategies to boost memberships for car washes. She suggests that washes create strong digital marketing plans to drive new customers to their locations. Once a customer is onsite, an attendant can offer a strong value proposition for membership and help the customer select the right plan.

            The size and scope of your digital marketing plan will depend on your budget and other considerations, but there are many options. Welcomemat uses geofencing technology and sophisticated paid ad targeting to drive targeted traffic to wash locations based on a typical user profile. Regarding her work, Roberts says, “My favorite thing about it is showing attribution with our various programs and how that tracks from a Facebook ad to a membership conversion.”

2. Put the Right Person Out Front

            Charlotte O’Connor, of Town Wash Holdings Inc. knows how to promote membership. Before coming to Town Wash Holdings, she worked for EverWash and Lay-Z-Boy Furniture. Her outgoing personality made her a natural fit for sales, and she never hesitates to initiate conversation or offer a big smile. At one Sud’s Factory Car Wash location, she’s increased club membership from 850 to 3,100 in the last two years. Her goal is to hit 4,000 members as soon as possible.

            O’Connor says that even with automated pay stations, having an attendant guiding customers is helpful. “People don’t read a lot. They’re busy,” she says. “There’s a car behind them. They’re stressed…And they’re missing a lot of the information on that screen.”

            With an app system, the attendant must often explain that the app can freeze and how to upgrade, downgrade, cancel, and allow for changes in credit card information. This explanation and description of how license plate recognition works may make all the difference in the sale.

            O’Connor doesn’t want consumers to feel ‘locked in’ — she knows that not everyone wants an unlimited plan. “One phrase puts customers at ease,” she says. “I tell them that ‘I am not here to shove something down your throat. But just so you know, that wash is $20. But today, you could spend just $10, which includes that wash, and come back for the next 30 days for free.’

            “You’re there to inform them. I will go further and explain. ‘If you ever need to upgrade or downgrade, just let us know. Here’s a pamphlet. Take this with you. If you have any questions, here’s the number to call, or you can e-mail us.’ I always ensure that when the customer signs up, they have a way to communicate with the support team because that will help build loyalty.”

3. Impress Customers with Free Services

            Everyone loves enticements, so boost your program’s value by being generous. “We tend to see the best success with offering a customer a free wash to get them on site and then re-target for membership at a discount,” Roberts says. “The customer can try the wash first and then be ‘wow-ed’ during their trial period. We also target customers who have a likely wash member profile rather than targeting a general consumer who might never be a club member.”

            O’Connor makes a related point. She develops trust with customers by ensuring that she promotes memberships to people who can truly enjoy their benefits. She enquires about each customer’s needs. “I don’t want to sell to people who can’t get to the wash,” she says. “I ask questions like, ‘Do you live in the area?’ If they say no, I follow up with, ‘Do you work in the area?’ If they say yes, I say, ‘Oh! Then this will work out.’ I’ve built a great rapport with people. I’ve got members who invite me to their barbecues.”

4. Hire Great Customer Service

            Once you have members, you must retain them by consistently exceeding their expectations. Superb washes are only one factor.

            Without dedicated support to handle customers’ day-to-day concerns, your membership churn rates may spiral for various reasons. Perhaps a member cancels because she chose a wash plan that wasn’t right for her budget. Another experiences an unresolved technical issue and grows angry. Two more repeatedly sign up for free trials and promotions with no intention of ever becoming paying members, or they provide credit card numbers that are regularly declined. A good support center is your best negotiator, and it can help you respond to these kinds of concerns.

            Michael Pelikan is the director of operations at Retention Express. He explains the benefits of live support both for customers and car washes. “Live customer support provides the opportunity to capture the voice of the customer and their journey from initial sign up to potentially any exit, and any emotions and experiences in between,” he says, “And leveraging data and capturing that information allows operators to pivot their businesses, alter their operations, and understand what is driving customer behavior to provide the best quality and experience for their customers.”

5. Gamify Membership Conversion

            Roberts and O’Connor agree that it’s critical to create a little competition among your team members so they will challenge themselves at your wash. There must be a reason to keep going. They recommend creating a culture of conversion. You can spark significant growth by enticing associates with awards and badges, tracking their success, and keeping conversion numbers front and center.

6. Capture All Customer Data, Regardless of Status

            Since nearly everyone has e-mail and a mobile phone, it’s important to collect addresses and numbers to build a mailing list to continually communicate your services’ value. Companies like Welcomemat offer ways to prompt customers about regular washes. “We encourage clients to utilize programs that help customers build a habit for washing,” says Roberts. “With a well-designed text and e-mail program where they’re reminded of the benefits, most people will convert at some point. It is also important to target the right kind of consumer on the front end to help with retention in the long run.”

            The membership proposition is about conveying value to the consumer – the ability to wash more frequently at a low cost. Yet, we humans can be stubborn and slow to respond. So, use the tips above, and keep running out to greet each driver with a big, welcoming smile. He or she might be your next unlimited plan member.

Gretchen Matthews helps businesspeople become better writers. She is a regular presenter at the biannual Women in Carwash conference and the copy editor for its newsletter, L.E.A.R.N. Contact her at