A detail business is judged on the quality of its work, not the cleverness of its name, but sometimes a new moniker can help propel a detailer to the next level.
This year Maryland Auto Spa is celebrating 10 years in business and one year with its new name and continues to make important strides along the path to success.
When Carson Mangum founded Maryland Auto Spa in Silver Spring, MD in 2007 he named his mobile car wash and detail business We-C-Clean, but as his business grew over the past decade he felt the name no longer represented the essence of the business.
“I was thinking about changing the name for a few years,” Mangum says. “We-C-Clean never really described what we do. I wanted something that fit us better and matched the growth that we were experiencing. Maryland Auto Spa fit that very well. People have a far better idea of what we do when I answer the phone saying Maryland Auto Spa instead of We-C-Clean.”
The response to the new branding has been overwhelmingly positive. Mangum expected some sort of adjustment period when he made the switch, but his established clients quickly accepted the new name. In addition, the new identity has improved the detail business’s visibility online and results in search engines, increasing awareness
While the business has been rebranded, the key to its success over the past decade remains as vital as ever. Mangum points to Maryland Auto Spa’s superior work and customer service as the keys to its rise from startup to established and thriving business.
For the first five years in operation Auto Spa was primarily a mobile car wash enterprise, with Mangum performing maintenance washes for his clients weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. “I was breaking my back and wasn’t really making any money,” Mangum says of his time as a mobile car washer. “But the one thing that it did for me was get me exposure. I was in people’s neighborhoods and driveways once a week and getting my name in their neighbor’s heads. If they ever needed a detail they would see the van and come over and get a card or give me a call.”
Once Mangum had a critical mass of detail clients he made the bold move in 2012 to eliminate the mobile car wash option from his services and simultaneously open a fixed location to complement his mobile capabilities. He sat down with each of his roughly 100 clients at the time, informing them of his decision and explaining his new service offerings. To replace the maintenance washes Mangum unveiled a new monthly maintenance detailing program, and a whopping 75 percent of his car wash clients signed up for the service.
The service is basically an express detail on steroids. For $130 — less if they are sign up for the monthly option — clients receive a wash, tire dressing, wheel and wheel well cleaning, an express sealant, vacuum, interior wipe down and conditioning, and crystal clear windows.
The maintenance service is marketed toward customers that have previously received a full-service detail from Auto Spa. Maintenance detail clients are encouraged to sign up for the recurring monthly package and to spring for the full-service treatment once or twice a year.
Mangum has a good mix of maintenance and full-service clients thanks to his invaluable work ethic and superior skill set. While the work ethic is part of his DNA the skill set he acquired over his decade in the field and his commitment to continued education and training.
When Mangum made the switch from washer to detailer he knew he needed to take his technical skills to the next level and sought out the help of two industry stalwarts. He took classes with Jeremy Stevens from Shine Supply and Renny Doyle from Attention to Details to fortify his skill set and take Maryland Auto Spa to the next level.
“I trained for two weeks with Renny back in 2014,” Mangum says. “I learned a whole lot about paint correction, ceramic coatings, and interior detailing. It was extremely eye opening. I had a good base before I went out there but he opened my eyes to being more efficient and getting into the paint corrections side of things.”
Mangum was embraced by detail veteran Doyle and is a member of his “Detail Mafia” and part of the famed Air Force One detailing team. Every year Doyle and his team of crack detailers travel to Seattle’s Museum of Flight to restore and preserve the original Air Force One jet.
Mangum has been a member of the exclusive detailing team for the past four years and credits the experience in helping take his detailing prowess to the next level.
“Before working on Air Force One I thought black paint was the hardest thing to polish,” he says. “I was on the Air Force One finishing team just working on the bright work. I was introduced to new tools and processes from the guys on the team that had been there for years. Polishing that aluminum is extremely difficult. Black paint is nothing compared to that. I was able to take the skills I learned on the Air Force One project and apply them to my business.”
The quality of Mangum’s work has helped the detailer build a loyal following, evidenced by his active social media community. Maryland Auto Spa leverages Instagram and Facebook to get the word out about the business and display its most recent work. By featuring before and after shots of particularly difficult jobs Mangum is able to display his detailing prowess and drum up additional clients.
“I started to hit social media hard about four years ago,” Mangum says. “It has helped us tremendously with advertising and getting our name out there. It is easily the biggest and best way for us to market.”
While social media helps get the word out, there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting to turn a prospect into a loyal client. To help connect with the community and meet new potential customers Mangum often cruises the streets in his 1947 Ford Sedan Delivery fresh with Maryland AutoSpa branding.
“It helps get me business by just driving around town,” Mangum says. “I have been stopped at stop lights and pulled over by people to just ask questions about it. I get some business from that and start friendships and relationships with new clients.”
In addition to bringing awareness on the street, the old Ford is also Mangum’s entry into the tight knit classic car community. He brings his classic to local car shows and other car guys approach him to ask about the car and get some detailing advice.
“A lot of those guys have been doing it forever and are stuck in their ways,” he says about the classic car crowd’s detailing techniques. “They come over to me and we talk about detailing products. I show them little tips and tricks that they can do to make their weekend washes more efficient and their vehicles look better.”
By building relationships with passionate car guys Mangum earns new clients and adamant supporters of his business that help spread the word about his high-end capabilities.
Over the past 10 years Mangum has gone from a small-time mobile car washer to a thriving business owner. He did it by refusing to stand pat, constantly evolving, and not being afraid to seek out the trusted counsel of others. The new name didn’t hurt either.