Auto Laundry News - November 2012

WCA Wrap-Up — Educational Opportunities

By Prentice St. Clair

The Western Carwash Association (WCA) held its annual convention and tradeshow in San Diego on September 18-20. It was the second year that the event was staged at the San Diego Convention Center, and the weather cooperated brilliantly. (I hope you all enjoyed my fair city!)

The WCA always puts on a great show, with lots of educational offerings for attendees, as well as plenty of treats throughout the day to keep the appetite satisfied. Tuesday, September 18th was filled with educational events, followed by a couple of hours on the tradeshow floor, and capped in the evening by a well-supplied buffet and cocktail hour outdoors overlooking San Diego Bay.


The WCA, by nature, is focused more on the car wash operator and thus offered little in the way of detailing education, other than a session on express detailing. On the tradeshow floor, there were a handful of vendors offering detailing-related products. Nonetheless, WCA was quite generous in providing the International Detailing Association a venue to continue its educational programs for full-service detailers.


The International Detailing Association provided a daylong detailing educational session that was generously arranged and hosted by Bob Phillips of P&S Sales. The 30-some-odd participants who were in attendance were treated to some great information from the presenters, as well as terrific discussions among participants and the presenters.

The day started with an introduction to the world of interior surface repair by the highly accredited trainers from Matri-x, Kian Amirkhizi and Doug Snow. They shared with us some in-depth information about automobile leather, including how it is made, the types of damage to which it is subject, how to deep-clean leather seats, and some basic repair techniques. The deep-cleaning techniques were demonstrated with impressive before-and-after photo sets that show-ed levels of cleaning that I have not seen achievable using standard detailing techniques.

They helped the audience understand that there are different levels of interior repair education. For example, one can learn entry-level leather repair techniques in a matter of a couple of days at a very reasonable rate. More importantly, the amount paid for training can be recouped after performing only a few paid repairs. More complete interior repair courses last several days and incorporate training on repair of virtually all interior surfaces.

The main point of the entire discussion was to reinforce a fact that many of us already know: There are a large number of vehicles that we see in our detailing operations that can use interior surface help that goes beyond standard detailing techniques.


Doug and Kian’s spectacular multi-media presentation was humbly followed by yours truly, discussing marketing techniques for the detail operator. I started by suggesting that the type of marketing in which an operator should engage depends on the type of operation that he or she has or would like to develop.

For example, a high-volume, low-margin operation that focuses on efficiency is likely to benefit from a marketing plan that appeals to the “masses,” focusing the message on savings and convenience. Such a marketing approach will want to use techniques that broadcast to a large number of potential customers.

On the other hand, an operation that offers higher-end detailing to a lower volume of customers may want to focus its marketing message on the quality of the result and the individual service. Such a program is likely to benefit from a marketing approach that appeals to individual potential customers. This might include membership in business referral and networking groups, neighborhood-specific advertising, and participation in community events like local car shows and street fairs.

Other marketing suggestions were discussed, including involvement in civic groups, the importance of an online presence with a good website, offering additional reconditioning services to attract non-detailing customers, and offering added convenience (such as free pick-up and delivery) to increase the likelihood that the customers will come to you.

Since there are plenty of detailing operations out there, I suggested that it is important to include a message of “differentiation,” regardless of your marketing approach. Such a message might include how long you’ve been in business as well as the fact (hopefully) that you are professional, licensed, and insured.

Another great way to differentiate yourself from the competition is through membership in the IDA, and further, distinguishing yourself from most others by becoming an IDA Certified Detailer. (Information about this program is available at

Some great points on marketing came out of audience participation. Among the audience members who use such techniques, it was agreed that online consumer review sites are generally better for attracting new customers and social media is generally better for staying in touch with an existing customer base.


Robert Adams of DrivePur Protection Systems provided the third presentation. Robert discussed the various available methods for deodorization of vehicle interiors. He started by indicating the importance of understanding that deodorization is a two-part process. The first part is to remove as much of the odor source as possible, which usually involves detailing the vehicle interior.

The second part of the deodorization process is to use some kind of odor neutralizing chemical or machine. Ozone generators and foggers have long been the standard for this step, and Robert indicated that newer technology exists that ensures long-lasting odor killing effects.

Another point that he made is an especially important reminder to those of us who utilize dry vapor steam in our operations. Most of us know that steam kills germs and sanitizes the surfaces that it contacts. We must be sure to mention this fact in all of our marketing and sales efforts because it is such a great benefit to our customers, not to mention the fact that germ control is such a hot topic these days.


At the IDA booth on the tradeshow floor, Bob and I had interesting conversations with many operators who currently offer detailing, and several who were considering adding detailing to their car wash operations. We signed up a few new IDA members as well. Moreover, several members expressed interest in the IDA University one-day certification-training session. Held on September 29 at P&S Sales, the event ended up attracting no less than 16 participants.


Those of you who read this column on a regular basis may grow weary of my persistent talk about involvement in the IDA and reminders to attend IDA functions. Rest assured that I will continue to do so because I consistently find that those who participate not only enjoy the participation, but also come away with great benefit.

Stay tuned to the IDA website, Facebook page, and Twitter feeds to keep abreast of upcoming IDA educational offerings and other events.

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.

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