According to the International Car Wash Association, only 15 percent of car owners currently have their vehicles professionally cleaned and detailed. While the car wash and detailing industry recently reported $38 billion in revenue annually, that still leaves a lot of money on the table for the automotive appearance and mobile tech industries.
Sadly, that percentage is up only about 2 percent from when I started writing for the automotive appearance and mobile technology industries more than 20 years ago. That 2 percent growth is partly due to the introduction of ceramic coatings to the market, creating a frenzy for car enthusiasts, detailers, and collectors.
But the average car owner still does not know all the benefits of a ceramic coating, nor do they know the many options that have evolved in the past decade for pricing, durability, and longevity. Think what the industry could do with a larger slice of that multi-billion-dollar pie!
I have written news stories, blogs, newsletters, press releases, brochures, and websites for hundreds of detailers and mobile technicians over the years. I know the need for these services is real, and I see the reviews and comments from customers who are elated with detailing results.
Now that new cars are so expensive and used cars are a hot commodity, car owners are beginning to see a vehicle as an investment. Customers are more willing than ever to care for their cars and trucks.
Detailers can capture a larger piece of their markets by utilizing three proven and cost-effective ways to get messages out into the cybersphere without spending a rod and a piston: newsletters, social media, and blogs.
Newsletters are the best way to keep your current customers informed of seasonal discounts, new products and services, and combination specials. It is also a way to send special savings to your regular customers. But a newsletter is also a way to introduce yourself to new customers.
Use a newsletter to share your expertise as a detailer. Explain your training and certifications and why certifications are important in the car appearance industry.
Keep customers informed about any competitions or special projects you are working on and any awards you have won. You can use the newsletter to dispel misinformation about detailing and to answer common questions.
You can use it to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, promotions, and holidays. Furthermore, you can track clicks on specific offers to ensure you are providing the most popular ones to your clients.
Newsletters should consist of three to four stories to which people can relate. Odor removal, for instance, is a great lead-off to an always hot topic. Detailers get more individual requests for help getting rid of a bad odor in their cars than any other service – by far.
Other popular newsletter topics are the benefits of ceramic coatings with before and after pictures; interior detailing from upholstery cleaning to kid grime and pet dander; winter protection products; cleaning up after kamikaze bugs and bird droppings; and minor, aesthetic repairs like headlight, windshield, wheel or scratch repair.
You can recycle topics in a newsletter since some services are applicable all the time, and your newsletter should always have an ongoing call for gift certificates and/or gift cards. They can get you through a long rough winter. Make them a simple click so they are quick and easy.
Newsletters can also boost business when it is slow. Just recently, David Cunio, owner of Dr. Detail in Nashville, TN. contacted me about doing a newsletter. He had not done one since February. He told me he always plans a newsletter when things are slow because he knows business will pick up as soon as it goes out.
“For me, it pays for itself within a day, even within hours,” Cunio said. “I know it will mean instant business. I’ve scheduled four jobs since this morning, and they are all replying to the newsletter.”
Remember that your marketing, regardless of how complex or simple, is designed to bring customers into your shop.
Try a loss leader like a free wax with any car wash in your newsletter. Once they come into the shop, it is up to you to leverage everyday basics into premium services like paint correction, steam cleaning, paint protection films, and ceramic coatings.
The auto appearance business must show customers — not tell them — how detailing protects their long-term automotive investment and guarantees a higher price from their vehicle when they sell or trade.
On social media, be sure to target your messages to the right customers. If your bread-n-butter is carpooling moms in SUVs, do not constantly post images of the one Ferrari you detailed two years ago.
Show those gummy, sticky seats before and after you tackle the mess. Show the pet hair removal stone before and after.
Incentivize new customers to give detailing a try using a loss leader you can then upsell.
For instance, grab your buffer and do a quick test spot to show the customer how a paint correction will look against the just-washed and waxed surface. Chances are, if they don’t agree to have it done on the spot, they will be back in a few days to do so.
And be sure to boost your Facebook posts to cover your entire coverage area if feasible.
Ahh, but now for the blog.
I have yet to meet a detailer who likes to blog. I know only a few who post more than photos on Facebook. I blame Facebook for helping people skirt blogging, surviving only for those of us who enjoy writing about “stuff.”
But a blog is an open-ended opportunity to talk about your business and what you do on your terms with no time or space limitations.
If I sat down in your shop and asked you to tell me about your business, most business owners could talk nonstop about their business. If I ask questions, it can go on for hours. Most business owners are passionate about their work, and detailers are especially that way.
A blog helps businesses tell their story, answer questions, and put down any untruths. It is also a magnet for your website, especially as you grow it.
Using your blog to talk about cars, discuss the condition of a car, and invite others into a conversation can help you build your reputation in your local market as a subject matter expert — someone the media can come to when they are doing related stories.
Feeling Overwhelmed, Don’t Panic
You can hire a ghostwriter to write blogs in your name and with your approval. You can even build up content to use in other social media outlets without struggling with what to say individually. Rather than posting half-hearted messages and disembodied photos to Facebook and Instagram, try maintaining a blog.
There will be plenty of discussions in future issues about blogging, but for now, talk to your webmaster about starting a blog and start slowly.
A blog is the best social media engagement. It lets you tell your story without limitations any time you want to share and communicate with your customers. A very successful detailing products distributor once shared with me that he developed an entire line of products based on feedback and discussions from his very loyal followers on his blog.
A blog can become a customer forum where you can go into more detail about a procedure or dispel any fears about the process. And you can do so in time with the work you are performing. A blog is also an opportunity to build up a following, become respected as an SME, and provide an open forum for customers to ask questions and get answers.
If you have a marketing topic you would like to explore in an upcoming issue of Auto Laundry News, feel free to reach out at Kimberly@kimberlywritescreative.com.
Kimberly Ballard has been writing and doing PR for the automotive industry for more than 20 years, covering automotive detailing and a variety of mobile tech services. She can be reached via e-mail at Kimberly@kimberlywritescreative.com and on her website, www.KimberlyWritesCreative.com.