Does your signage increase your monthly volume? How about spiking your average ticket price? Is it the same signage you had last year or, worse yet, since you’ve opened for business? If you answered yes to those questions you may be in a stagnant marketing cycle with your wash and leaving money on the table. Let’s face it, everyone hates change, right? But change in your business is a necessity when it pertains to growth, and your marketing is one area that can easily make or break your wash.

Success in the car wash business depends on many variables. Although wash equipment varies, as do wash location and chemicals that are used, the one constant that runs through all of them is a great signage and marketing program. The signage at your wash needs to be treated like the equipment inside the tunnel. It needs to be maintained and refined for optimal output. Every operator in this industry will tell you how damaging an outage due to lack of maintenance can be. Outdated signage can be just as damaging.

An exceptional entry arch makes the first impression.

Not all your wash packages perform the same sales wise. An underperforming wash package should be revaluated and adjusted to make it more appealing. Consider adding some more services to your middle wash package, and promoting it through signage. Bug prep for the summer and salt prep for the winter are excellent ways to achieve this. A giant bug prep sign on your lot will remind your customer how important it is to remove bugs from their car and increase the likelihood they will upgrade to that package.

Here are six steps you can take to keep your marketing relevant:

1. Review Your Signage Plan Quarterly

Meet with your managers and gather feedback from your customers on promotions that are working and those that are not. Keep an open mind when evaluating your signage; think out of the box and consider how you can best showcase your brand. It is crucial to analyze your wash offerings and promotional programs. The minute your customer drives on to your property, you have a captive audience. Why not try to utilize it to its fullest potential?

2. Update Promotional Items Such as Wind Signs, Die-Cut Antenna Signs, and Banners Throughout the Year to Reflect Seasonal and Holiday Sales

At the beginning of each year, make sure you have the appropriate marketing signage for all the seasons and holiday events. Everybody is so busy that if you put this off, you will more than likely miss an opportunity by not having the signage around the holiday when you need it. In the grand scheme of wash expenses, this will be relatively inexpensive and will yield the best results. One car wash operator told me he used to ignore holiday sales and seasonal marketing like Christmas gift-card sales, mothers/father’s day sales, and Veterans Day. Last year he started incorporating promotional material to reflect these sales and was amazed at the response he had as a result. You have to keep your material relevant; think about the frequency with which big-box chains change their onsite marketing signage. They do this as a necessity to keep their image fresh and alive in their customers’ mind.

3. Look to Your Local Community for Other Opportunities

If you have a local mascot, or well-known seasonal events in your community, it may be a good idea to incorporate that into some promotional marketing. A sign depicting a wash sale for customers who show a ticket to a local area sporting event is a great way to achieve this.

Carry your theme through everything in the tunnel.

4. Encourage a Dialogue with Your Customers Through Social Media

Having customers engage with your wash through social channels is very important in today’s market. A simple sign at the end of your wash mentioning Yelp reviews or a Facebook page will increase the likelihood they will connect with your brand online.

5. Pay Attention to Trends in the Car Wash Industry

One of the more recent trends in car washing is a great foam sheet as the car is pulling into the wash. A lot of customers have grown to expect that show at the beginning now; you don’t want your wash to appear dated by not having one. Making that first impression through an exceptional entry arch paired with a great foam show will position yourself above your competition.

6. Grow Your Brand

Even if you only have one wash, treat your brand as if you have 20. Personalize your signage at every turn. Don’t settle for generic run-of-the-mill signs, and invest in your brand identity so it becomes an extension of your business. Instead of buying a standard disclaimer, add a personalized touch by incorporating your logo into the design. Wash themes are a great way to achieve this, using animals, cars, or animated characters — it will give your wash more excitement. Take your theme and put it on everything in the tunnel, and have it featured front and center at the entrance to your wash.

Your signage works for you 24 hours a day and will constantly be visible at all times to your customers. When you keep your marketing fresh, you will not only attract more customers, you will also increase your curb appeal by dressing up what would otherwise be a sparse and drab parking lot. This will also set the stage for your main show inside your tunnel and hopefully earn you a lifetime customer. Signage is the least expensive yet most effective form of marketing available, period. How much are you investing in it?

Bobby Jones is marketing director for T.S.S. Inc., a Warren, MI-based signage supplier. You can visit the company on the web at