As every aspect of the car wash industry transitions into the digital age, there are still corners of a wash that must rely on physical signage to communicate with customers. Whether you are breaking new ground or updating an existing site, creative, attractive signs can help your wash rise above the competition and set a standard of experience your customers will come to expect.

Jumping into any signage project can be daunting at first, and the longer you swim in it, the more overwhelming it can feel. Every available area, from the entrance to the pay-gates to the narrow spaces between your vacuum arches, can host a sign. Logically, putting as many signs in as many places seems like the best option. However, overwhelming customers with the same or similar messaging tend to desensitize them to the actual content. We watch plenty of commercials and ads on a regular basis yet can only clearly recall one or two of them.


So how do we approach a signage project? What is the most efficient method to break the project down that will, ultimately, help us sell more washes?

Turns out, it’s pretty simple. Zone marketing is a powerful strategy that will generate additional revenue and increase awareness for your services.

Like with most things, having a reason to start may seem obvious, but having a specific strategy and metrics to assess the progress toward your goal is crucial. A good goal to promote is to sell more monthly unlimited washes, but a smart goal to double the conversion rate of the top package unlimited washes within six months by offering a lower introductory price for the first month and half-off the second month if the customer signs up a friend is a much more specific goal that can be measured, attained, and is relevant and timely. Having a primary goal of doubling the conversion rate gives you a goal to aim for and is beneficial for your customers, setting a timeline helps keep the goal in perspective, and utilizing a built-in secondary promotion allows you to further the range of your promotion without much effort. Once a specific smart goal has been established, we can begin to think about execution.


A wash site is a large area with a lot of customer movement. Customers enter the site, wait in line, make wash decisions, move through your tunnel or bay, exit, and vacuum. It can be overwhelming to approach a wash without clear direction and strategy. After many years of working with countless operators, we have come up with a blueprint that breaks down car wash sites into seven distinct zones that have seven very different and specific functions.

Each zone is effective at communicating a specific type of message that focuses your marketing for the highest return on investment. Even before a customer drives on to a wash site, they’ve already entered Zone 1 – Welcome Zone.

Zone 1 — Welcome Zone

Here is the opportunity to make the right impression and let customers know you are open for business.

As customers drive by your wash, they can quickly recognize you are a car wash open for business. They will also get a sense of the quality of business by the condition of the building, signs, and overall look of the site. This zone is typically the side(s) of the site that face the main road, and signs such as monument signs, promotional flags, and LED building lights are used to draw attention.

Zone 2 — Education Zone

This is typically the space between the entrance of your site and the pay station. All customers will drive through this area that offers the opportunity to feature what makes your wash exclusive and increase their knowledge about car washes to help guide their final purchase decision. Windmasters, die-cut antenna signs, and disclaimers are a great way to communicate your wash’s unique features and rules to prep them for the next zone.

Zone 3 — Decision Zone

This zone offers the opportunity to show your complete set of offerings after the customer has been educated about your unique wash features. Here you will want to promote, promote, promote. Leading up to the menu and pay station, just after the education zone, will be a small window in which to convince your customer to purchase a higher tier package. Assuming a customer already has the basic wash in mind, Zone 3 is where we convince them to upgrade their wash. With only a few moments to decide, promotional signage like the die-cut antenna sign, gate arms, and windmasters are specifically designed in this zone to grab attention and encourage impulse upsells. When the customer is finally looking at the menu, at the very least, they are mindful of all offerings and can make a final wash-package decision.

Zone 4 — Confirmation Zone

Here you validate the selected wash package and build your customers confidence in their purchase and in your business.

By confirming the selected wash package, we are informing the customer we have received their decision and will begin prepping their wash. This is also the entrance to the tunnel or bay and sets the stage for the service they are expecting. Grand entrance arches are one of the most impressive and distinct signs a wash can present and perform several functions. Its main role is to confirm the selected wash package, the second is to provide simple, yet clear instructions on how to proceed through the tunnel or bay. Letting customers know how to use the wash properly adds to customer confidence by eliminating anxiety and prevents damage to wash equipment. The final function of this arch is to create a sense of grandiosity and excitement just before entering. Using a variety of uniquely branded graphics builds excitement, anticipation, and loyalty that will stick with the customer long after they have exited.

Zone 5 — Experience Zone

The Experience Zone delivers a spectacle of foam, water, lights, color, sounds, and scents. This experience is not what new customers were expecting and doesn’t get old for the loyal customer. Displaying an array of bright colors and foam will make your wash an unforgettable experience that customers will come back to. Utilizing bright LED light bars will help create a unique atmosphere inside your wash unlike anything they’ve experienced before. Confirming your extra services with vividly designed arches and tunnel fixtures will continue to build and transform customer confidence into customer loyalty.

Zone 6 — Exit Zone

Here is your chance to thank your customers and communicate additional promotions they might be interested in after experiencing the show. Letting them know you appreciate their business and hope to see them soon adds a personal touch and wraps up the whole experience on a positive note. Something as elaborate as an illuminated exit arch or as simple as a windmaster at the end of your tunnel will help communicate your modesty and let other customers know: this is where clean cars come from.

Zone 7 — Vacuum Zone

This zone provides one last opportunity to promote additional wash offerings and to do unlimited-plan marketing. By taking advantage of your vacuum area for marketing, you can reinforce a positive experience for the customer. Hanging vacuum signs are a brilliant way to communicate these additional promotions directly on your vacuums.

By identifying the seven key zones on your site, you can begin preparing a strategy to achieve specific goals in an ultra-focused and cost-effective approach. Once you have your zones mapped, selecting a total sign package that capitalizes on efficiency and brings you closer to your smart goal, allows your wash to be versatile and relevant in an ever-more digitized world. Once your smart goals timeline has been reached, you can make your goal even smarter by evaluating your results and revising them for your next project. By working with car wash marketing experts and applying the right marketing elements to a well-thought-out strategy, you can drive greater attention to your wash and enjoy exceptional success.


Justin Ahn is the art director at TSS Inc. You can visit the company on the web at