Auto Laundry News - April 2012

Yes! We do That, Part II — Imaginative Ways to Market Your Detail Operation

By Prentice St. Clair

In last month’s column, I began a discussion on the topic of maintaining a steady workflow through the use of imaginative ways to bring in new customers as well as some more traditional marketing methods to keep existing customers coming back. The easiest of the latter “tried and true” marketing techniques is to make contact with those in your existing customer database.

A simple phone call to those customers that you have not seen for several months may yield some return
visits. Additionally, regular mailings as well as electronic messages will likely do the same. But make sure to keep these regular marketing pieces noticeable with some creative themes.

Last month I went over three such ideas for spicing up marketing. The first was to focus on one aspect of your
detail services (such as leather care or paint correction) in each marketing piece, while maintaining a consistent overall look to the piece.

A second suggestion was to have a “did you know” campaign, which lets customers know about some of the service capabilities that you have. Examples include: “Did you know that regular application of a paint sealant can keep your car looking new for many years?” or “Did you know that red stains can be mostly removed?”

The third suggestion from last month was to promote your premium protection services, like paint sealant and fabric protection. Be sure to market the fact that these premium services, although more expensive at time of payment, are a better value than standard detail services because premium services tend to last longer and provide better protection.


This month, I will continue the discussion of imaginative ways to market your detail operation by covering three more ideas. These are categorized by the level of capability that your detail operation possesses. In my view, there are four such levels:

1. Standard detailing
2. Specialized detailing services
3. Advanced detailing services
4. Additional reconditioning services

Standard Detailing
This includes basic cleaning and conditioning of the vehicle interior and washing and waxing the exterior. These services can be performed with standard detailing equipment, chemicals, and techniques that are common to most professional detail shops.

Specialized Detailing
Specialized detailing services are those that are not necessarily included in a standard detail offering, but can be performed using detailing equipment, chemicals, and techniques that are common in most professional detail shops. Examples include exterior glass polishing, chrome polishing, uncoated wheel polishing, and paint overspray removal.

Each of these examples uses chemicals, tools, and techniques that are already in most standard detail shops. These services can be performed with minimal instruction and investment. Essentially, these examples use stuff that you already have on hand to perform services that are probably more extensive than those provided during a “standard” detail job.

Advanced and Specialized Detailing Services
These services go beyond standard services and may use some non-standard equipment, chemicals, and techniques. Nonetheless, they are very much akin to standard detailing in that you are trying to clean and condition something in or on the car. Typically, the experienced detailing technician will be able to perform these services with a minimum of training.

Examples include deodorization, which necessitates the use of odor neutralizing chemicals or equipment; and headlight clarification, which requires the use of special sandpaper, buffing equipment, and specialized clarifying chemicals. Automotive paint correction and perfection can also be considered an advanced detailing service.

Additional Reconditioning Services
These are not typically part of a standard detailing operation (even though they can be). These are services that have to do with the appearance of the automobile but are beyond the traditional definition of “automotive detailing.” Moreover, such services typically require special equipment and skills that are not generally present in a traditional detail shop.

Examples include but are not limited to windshield chip repair, paint touch-up and spot-blending, interior surface repair, wheel repair, and paintless dent removal. In fact, each of these services can be performed as a separate business, and commonly are. These services require a significant purchase of a specialized kit of equipment and chemicals, as well as a moderate amount of training and practice to master the skills.

My point in creating this list of categories is to get you to think about the different activities that your detail operation performs, and then to market those activities to your current and potential customers. Include in your regular marketing pieces a focused message about one of these activities, either in an educational fashion, or perhaps, as suggested last month, in a “Did You Know?” format.


As mentioned above and in last month’s article, try changing your typical advertising message for your standard detailing services by focusing on a specific aspect of your standard detail procedure. For example, you can show before/after pictures of particularly dirty mats or brake dust-caked wheels. The idea is to “hook” the customer with a specific need and then “reel” him or her into a complete detail. “If we can make this part of your car look great, just imagine what we can do with the whole thing!”

I have noticed over the years that detail shops in different parts of the country cater to unique needs. In some areas, it might be acid rain spots on the paint. In other areas, it might be bugs on the front exposure. Some areas have a large percentage of work trucks with dusty or muddy interiors. Whatever the common issue in your area, you likely perform a solution service as part of your standard detail. You can use this fact in your advertising, with a simple line like, “Our standard detail service specializes in bug removal.”


Again, these are the services that are probably not part of a standard detail package, but do not require special training or equipment. But the problems that these services address are common enough to warrant a focused ad.

For example, exterior glass can be polished to a sparkling shine using a random-orbit polisher and chrome/glass polish. Paint overspray can be removed safely from the vehicle surface using detailing clay on the body panels and isopropyl alcohol on the trim. Additionally, uncoated wheels can be made brilliant using chrome/glass polish on chrome-plated wheels and aluminum polish on bare aluminum wheels.

These services can be featured in your regular advertising efforts, one at a time. For example, a before/after photo of a polished chrome wheel with the simple tag line “Wheel polishing? Yes! We do that!” will capture the eyes of those customers who really want their wheels to shine.


Another opportunity for a focused advertising piece can be gleaned from your advanced detailing capabilities. There are a number of scenarios that can apply here, such as yellowed headlamps, stained carpeting, interior spills that smell, or special paint problems and the like. Just in the last sentence I was able to list enough material for at least four separate ads or newsletter columns. Paint problems alone, with the right before/after photos, can yield several individual ads, each one showing a specific paint problem that we run into now and then.


Any detail business operator who is even tangentially plugged into the industry has heard about or offers additional
reconditioning services. It doesn’t matter if your shop performs one or all of these services in-house or on a sub-contract basis; these services should be part of your monthly advertising campaign.

As I mentioned before, however, try focusing on one service per print ad, e-mail blast, newsletter, or whatever it is that you are doing to contact your existing customers or attract new ones. Before/after picture combinations are an eye-catching way to show off additional services and help to greatly reduce the amount of words needed in the ad copy.

Try a before/after picture set and just three simple bullet points. For example, if you offer spot-blending, your three bullet points might be:

  • 50%-75% less than a body shop!
  • Fixed in hours, not days!
  • Lifetime warranty!

Ever wonder why a professional photographer seems to take countless photos at an event such as a wedding? This is
because a very small percentage of the shots — sometimes as low as 5 percent — can actually even be considered for keeping. Act like a professional photographer with your additional-services documentation. Start taking high-quality digital photographs of virtually every repair that your body shop performs, and take a couple of angles, with and without flash. Only a few of these before/after sets will be truly usable in an advertisement, so you want plenty from which to choose.


So, in this and last month’s columns, I have tried to provide some ideas for marketing your detailing services. First, stay in contact with the people who have already spent money at your place of business — your customer base. These are the most likely to spend money with you in the future. Second, try a more focused approach to your regular advertising and marketing.

Yes, keep a consistent “feel” about your marketing pieces by using your logo and familiar fonts, colors, and styles. However, instead of just a generic “we do detailing” message, try promoting a different specific aspect of your service offerings in each regular piece. Your standard detailing deals with several parts of the car — show customers a different example each time.

Additionally, dedicate an advertising piece to each of the advanced and specialized detailing services of which you are capable. Finally, do the same with each of the additional reconditioning services that you can provide.

I believe that you will find that customers who have the specific issues that you focus on in each ad are much more likely to call you than if they just see a generic detailing advertisement. Good luck!

Prentice St. Clair is president of Detail in Progress, a San Diego-based automotive reconditioning consulting firm. To contact him, e-mail or call (619) 701-1100.

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Media Kit | Editorial Calendar | Events | Links | Archives

Auto Laundry News is published by EW Williams Publications Company
2125 Center Avenue, Suite 305, Fort Lee, NJ 07024-5898, USA Phone: 1-201- 592-7007 Fax: 1-201-592-7171