Local Store Marketing - Community-Focused Programs Drive Results
By Joe Shoemaker
Local store marketing (LSM) is community-focused marketing designed to raise awareness and interest for your wash within the local market. How you identify your target audience, what message to convey, how you deliver that message, and how you track success are important considerations to an effective LSM plan. Typically, your plan will address the core essentials of why, what, where, who, and when to market. Using a 4x4x4 approach will help while crafting your plan. This refers to the four walls of your location (in-store promotion), four blocks around your location (community promotion), and four miles from your location (market pull). These 4x4x4 elements are foundational when developing your site marketing plan.
As you think about your plan, there are really three primary ways to grow your business. First, you can bring more customers to your location; next, you can increase the number of times they visit; and lastly, you can make more money per visit. Depending on what the goals are for your site, your marketing plan should identify the primary objective with supporting secondary or tertiary activities. For example, you may have a high-efficiency operation but desire more car volume to offset fixed costs. Your marketing plan may be different than that of a location, which needs to make more money per car even though they have higher volume.
THE RIGHT TOOLS
What tools make the most sense to use?
Marketing today means considering an approach that uses tried and true offline elements such as impactful signage, appealing menu boards, optimized payment terminal screen flows, banners, and flyers combined with online outlets such as social media, text messaging, and online web advertising. Statistics will show that a holistic approach using both online and traditional marketing elements provides the best result. For example, traditional direct mail offers can bring a response rate of 0.5 percent to 3 percent but, when combined with a web marketing effort, the results can easily double or triple. The goal is to provide a seamless experience, regardless of the channel or device your customer may find you on. By doing this, your customers can now engage with you at your physical store, on an online website or online ad, or through social media helping to create top-of-mind awareness for your brand.
You should also consider all aspects of your customer’s experience by putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. Some questions to answer include: Is the on-site traffic flow logical? Is the process fast and convenient — especially for monthly plan customers? Can you purchase a wash in multiple ways (online and offline)? How can I share my experience with friends or others (reviews, social media)? Am I notified about promotions or specials? Can I easily sign up for a monthly wash plan?
IS THAT ALL THAT’S NEEDED?
Great LSM doesn’t stop there. Your staff should be thoroughly trained to provide excellent customer service and promote gift card and monthly plan sales, as well as any other product you want to sell — all day, every day. You might want to offer an incentive to the employee with the most sales. Monthly plans need to be easy to join and easy to cancel. Today’s time-strapped customers don’t want to listen to a lengthy sales pitch, and, if they must opt out of a plan, they don’t want to jump through hoops to do so. Attendants can hand out brochures and flyers and have a very short one-on-one conversation with your customers. Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are golden opportunities to boost your gift card and monthly pass sales. You can do an awful lot of last-minute sales that you might not otherwise have. There are other ways to promote your wash, too. Join forces with a local merchant and have coupons printed on the back of your receipts promoting each other’s business.
In today’s world, you must have a website. Customers should be able to visit your website and learn about all the different programs you offer. It’s a plus if they can buy those things online too. If you are collecting customer contact information you should e-mail different promotions to them, or send postcards promoting your services. Allow customers to download wash codes on their smartphones.
Teaming up with a local charity is another effective way to promote your wash — this lends itself particularly well to a social media outlet like Facebook. For one day, you could have a small event and donate a percentage of your receipts to the charity. It’s a plus if you can get local radio or TV media to show up and do a short spot.
If your area has a small community paper or newsletter, consider running an ad that offers a discount on a wash, or a two-for-one gift card promotion that runs for a brief time. This will create interest and drive your neighbors to your wash. Have a contest. Ask a trivia question; if your customer gets the right answer they get a free wash or a free extra service. Fill up a giant jar with M&Ms — whoever guesses the right number of candies in the jar gets a free unlimited plan for a year (and the M&Ms).
Lastly, ensure your marketing initiatives tie back to your point-of-sale software. Tracking the effectiveness of your efforts is just as important as planning them. You will see some offers or promotions work better than others, and you can refine your approach over time to ensure the best results. Your point-of-sale software should support flexibility to generate promotions using trackable bar codes or smart codes.
In summary, there are a number of ways to drive traffic and increase your site sales. If you don’t have the time or expertise to develop a plan, look to partner with someone who has specific expertise in LSM for car wash operators. By working with the right partner, you will maximize your chances of success while optimizing your overall spend. When evaluating potential partners, some questions you may want to get answers to might be: What expertise do you have increasing car wash sales? What does the “ideal” car wash customer looks like in my market? What tools do you use to market my wash? Can you deliver an omnichannel approach covering online and traditional channels for me? Can you target specific customers online in a geographic area or around a known competitor? With answers to these questions and more, you can develop a level of trust in your potential partner and increase your chances of success. Happy selling!
Joe Shoemaker is vice president of marketing for Akron, OH-based DRB Systems Inc. You can visit the company on the web at www.drbsystems.com.