Marketing, advertising, and promotion strategies are changing. Gone are the days of simply putting a quarter-page coupon in the back of the local paper and seeing results. Today an online presence is a necessity, just ask Brian Epstein.
Epstein opened his Hog Wash Express Exterior a year and a half ago, and thanks to his new era marketing efforts, his Tempe, AZ business took off. In fact the wash has been so successful, expansion plans are already in place that will see two more Hog Washes open over the next four years.
Hog Wash is located just one mile from Arizona State University. With over 55,000 students, ASU owns the crown of the largest university in the country. In order to reach that large young adult population just down the road, Epstein devised a promotion strategy that relies heavily on social media.
“If we weren’t here we would probably be a lot more traditional with our marketing,” Epstein says. “ We would still have a social media presence, but not to the point that we are doing something on Twitter or Facebook every day.
Hog Wash uses its Twitter account to disseminate car care tips and help establish the brand as an information leader. Starting with just a handful of followers when he opened the account, Epstein grew his follower list to over 2,000 in just 90 days.
“Here is the mistake people make,” Epstein says. “They use social media to advertise or to give discounts. The purpose of social media is to give relevant information about your product to your consumer so they can use it in a constructive way. You want the customer to think ‘oh that’s cool and interesting, and that didn’t cost me any money and nobody tried to sell me anything, that is really great.’”
A typical Hog Wash Tweet will give followers information about caring for their car’s paint in the harsh Arizona summer or tips on keeping tires and rims in top form despite the sizzling pavement.
The ability to reach huge numbers of active users in an instant is a key aspect of Hog Wash’s Twitter campaign. By properly tagging his Tweets, Epstein’s reach goes far beyond his 2,000 followers. “I can hit 500,000 people in 30 seconds,” he says. “It is free and very effective.”
Hog Wash’s innovative marketing techniques go beyond its web presence. Epstein uses a variety of methods to connect with his community at large and ASU students in particular.
ASU has two privately-published publications that are distributed on campus and have loyal readership. Hog Wash has an exclusive two-year relationship with both publications and runs an advertisement, complete with coupon, in each.
In addition to its print presence on the sprawling campus, Hog Wash is also sponsoring and participating in this year’s Welcome Zone. The event is mandatory for all 14,000 incoming freshman —the largest class in school history — and offers a great opportunity to meet and greet what will hopefully become a loyal customer base for the next four to five years.
Hog Wash will have its promotional materials in the welcome packet that is distributed to all freshmen as well as a table at the Welcome Zone. During the opening festivities for the Fall 2011 semester, Hog Wash will be launching its newest product: pre-paid unlimited semester wash cards.
The wash cards cost $175 and entitle the student to unlimited $5 washes from August 18 until the end of the semester. A similar program will be offered for the Spring 2012 semester.
“A lot of the student body leaves in the summer,” Epstein says. “We hope to be able to sell a lot of wash cards to customers who ordinarily wouldn’t buy them.”
Of course all the marketing and promotions in the world will not bring success without a quality product, which fortunately for the greater Tempe area, Hog Wash has in abundance.
The wash sits on just a 21,000 square-foot lot — don’t let its size fool you, Hog Wash has all the cleaning power of an express exterior twice its size. The 100-foot tunnel features MacNeil equipment front to back, including 10 15-hp dryers at the exit. After the two and a half minute ride through the tunnel, customers can enjoy the 10 free vacuum stations. The central vacuum system is concealed underground to give Hog Wash a more tidy appearance.
Hog Wash offers four express-only wash levels priced at $3, $5, $8, and $10. The $3 Piglet wash features a soft-foam bath and a spot-free rinse. For $2 more customers can upgrade to the Hog Heaven, which adds a bug spray and a clear-coat protectant. The Hog Wild costs $8 and heightens the experience with the rim and tire package. The top-of-the-line Whole Hog features everything offered at the lower levels plus Turtle Wax, triple foam, and an air freshener. All four levels include a trip under the dryers.
Although a rookie in the car wash industry, Epstein was a real estate developer prior to opening Hog Wash and did plenty of due diligence before jumping into the car wash trade. He began his research back in 2005, five years before Hog Wash would open its doors, and immediately felt that the express exterior concept would be perfect for Tempe.
“When I would go to full-serve washes in the past as a customer I was always disappointed with the wait time,” Epstein says. “Waiting between 15 and 25 minutes for a car wash and paying between $15 and $25 seemed astronomically high.”
Prior to opening Hog Wash, Epstein travelled the country visiting different sites, and felt the express concept was the way to go. “It all goes back to time and efficiency. I didn’t like having to wait and overpay and I figured other people felt the same way.”
If the lines at Hog Wash are any indication, Epstein made the right decision. Beyond just a quick wash at a reasonable price, Hog Wash prides itself on its customer service.
“Every time we hire a new employee we ask them ‘What do we do here?’” Epstein says. “They of course answer ‘We wash cars.’ I tell them ‘No we don’t. The equipment washes the cars. We attend to the customers’ needs, from the time they get on the property until the time they leave.’”
Employees at Hog Wash help customers decide what package is the right package, not based on the person, but the car. They explain the packages and let them pick which one they want, but they never, ever, ask twice. Hog Wash doesn’t do any hard selling. In fact that is what separates them from the full-serve competition in town. “If you go to one of our full-serve competitors and tell them that you want the basic wash they will literally try to upsell you three times,” Epstein says. “That is their policy. People are just sick of that.”
One thing the people of Tempe are not sick of is Hog Wash. Its unique marketing mix and devotion to the customer experience have made it a favorite around town and will surely be the foundation on which future locations are built.