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The Drive to Strive: Successfully Marketing Your Vehicle Wash

Jan 21, 2020

Like every parent is proud of a newborn child, all business owners think their “baby” is the best. In the world of retail vehicle washing, this can lead to a complacent “If I build it, they will come” attitude toward marketing. In other words, in today’s competitive vehicle wash environment where drivers have more choices than ever before, success is not guaranteed by simply building a wash in a great location.


The reality is that very few businesses are capable of marketing themselves, whether they lack the time, money or creativity needed to fashion the best marketing plan. For vehicle wash owners, that plan must, if you’ll pardon the pun, “drive” customers to the site. The first step, of course, is building a vehicle wash business that appeals to drivers – and makes them repeat customers, not solely random drive-bys that only stop in when their vehicle needs to be cleaned (though this is also an important revenue stream for the bottom line).

Marketing can actually begin before the wash is even open and operating. This can be done through a countdown sign at the site that signifies how many days remain before the wash will be open and ready for business. This can build a sense of anticipation in drivers who pass the site on a regular basis.

Once the wash is open, a successful marketing plan will be one that addresses the four main drivers of vehicle wash purchasing behavior. These are:

  • Wash Quality
  • Convenience
  • Wash Speed
  • Ease of Use

Note that wash price is not usually a strong determinant of driver behavior. If the wash satisfies the needs of the four main drivers of purchasing decisions, then the vehicle operator will pay almost any price for the wash service.

While a wash that gives drivers the experience they wish to receive at a cost that they deem appropriate is the best marketing tool, there are many different – and effective – ways that operators can reach out and tell the story of their wash.

On-Site Marketing

The best marketing program begins at the site itself. On-site marketing collateral can include:

  • Lot Signage
  • Banners
  • Windsocks
  • Pump Toppers
  • Change Mats at the Checkout Counter
  • Window Clings
  • Bag Stuffers
  • Hot-Air Characters
  • Menu or Entry Promotions

These items will not only attract the attention of passing drivers, but also reinforce the choices made by drivers who are already visiting the site, which will help encourage them to make a return visit. Service menus also help to drive up-sells at the point-of-sale, expanding revenue per car.

Off-Site Marketing

The vehicle wash is a member of the surrounding community, a part of a family. Operators can use that relationship to raise awareness via the following outreach opportunities:

  • Cross promotion with Area Businesses
  • Participation in Local Fundraisers
  • School or Sports Team Sponsorships
  • Neighborhood Business Visits
  • Home Coupon Mailings
  • Editorial Contributions in Local Media Outlets

Wash operators will also need to make a decision whether or not paid advertising will help raise awareness for the their business. The Internet offers innumerable outlets for advertising programs, whether it be pop-up ads or email blasts that target specific customer segments. Local radio and TV advertising can also be relatively inexpensive ways to get the word out.

When the time comes, operators can also turn to a loyalty program as a way to retain customers and drive return visits. These programs can help make consumers “feel part of the team” and offer incentives for them to return time and again to the same location for a service that they have determined meets their needs – and will continue to do so.

OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions, through its PDQ and Belanger brands, offers the best in both touch-free and soft-touch vehicle wash systems, all of which can be marketed as best-in-class equipment choices for wash operators who are looking to optimize the marketing potential of their sites. For more information, please visit opwvws.com.