Focus on Your Customer - February 2002

Community It's Your
Marketplace - Get Involved!

By Joseph Rosales

If you are in the car wash or fast lube business, you have no doubt been challenged with marketing your services in an increasingly competitive marketplace. To start with, we should be clear that a comprehensive marketing plan includes more than just advertisements and coupons. The purpose of this column is to revisit one of the more often forgotten marketing components: your community.

Your Community Is Your Marketplace
That sounds pretty basic, doesn't it? However, as we consult with operators all over the country, we find that many of them are missing this most powerful business builder in their marketing plan. Being involved with your community really means being involved. Regardless of the size of the city or town your business is in, at some level there is a community. What are you doing to become a visible part of that community?

People Do Business with People
Customers make buying decisions about where they purchase products and services based on several criteria including convenience, quality, trust, reliability, professionalism, price, and relationship. How your customer perceives the values you offer is often overridden by how they feel about you and your business. How do your customers feel about you?

Enhancing a Customer's Perception of Your Business
A simple question to ask yourself is whether you would rather do business with someone who supports your community or with someone who doesn't. If you are not actively supporting your community, you are missing a powerful opportunity and may not even know it.

People don't come to your business just so you can make money. They come to have their needs met. If
you can meet their needs and serve an even greater cause, that is a bonus to doing business with you and adds yet another value to being your customer. People often choose service providers because they support a common cause.

Scott Freund of Prowash in Union, NJ, and a car wash consultant for PRI, had a unique approach to helping the local high school raise money for its Drug Alliance program. The teens felt strongly about doing something, so they organized a one-day fundraiser and set up a table at Prowash. They
distributed literature and free hot dogs and soda to the customers: kids, parents, teachers, and community members.

Prowash simply provided the venue and donated half of the day's car wash proceeds - over $2,000 - to the Drug Alliance. In turn, the teens promoted Prowash via word-of-mouth and local newspaper coverage of the fundraiser. It was a win/win situation for everyone. The press and goodwill received from a promotion like this extends long into future business and leads to many new customers. Whether you are in the car wash or fast lube business, the concept can work for you.

People like doing business with people who help others. This type of promotion can work with virtually any community or national cause and can be altered to fit various price structures and marketing goals. A charitable promotion I recently heard of was created to benefit the local Emergency Medical Service. The service needed to purchase a new emergency vehicle and the proceeds of the event were donated to assist. The community response was fabulous and everyone benefited. What could you do to support a cause in your community?

Discounts and Contributions
The amount of a discount or contribution could simply be a few dollars per car serviced. For example, if you were donating toward purchasing new uniforms for the local high school cheerleaders, you could offer a $3.00 contribution per car serviced. Design a special coupon and have the cheerleaders hand them out for you to all their friends and family. Announce the event at the Friday night game. Every coupon that gets redeemed at your location means a contribution to the cause and possibly a new customer for you. Make sure you monitor the way the coupons are handed out and offer some guidance on how it is to be done properly.

Be Creative
The cause could be new uniforms for a high school sports team, a donation to a local food bank, or helping to build a new community park. There are always worthy causes. Get together with your staff and involve them in the selection and planning process. A note of caution: Don't select highly controversial causes that could bring potentially negative press to your center.

When you run a successful promotion, the result should be increased traffic and that can mean overloading your staff. Make sure your center is in top operating condition and your inventory is adequate. Remember, any time you bring in a new customer you have an opportunity to develop a long-term relationship. Have the staff in place to introduce these newcomers to the value of your services.

Joseph Rosales is the founder and president of Performance Resources Inc., a fast-lube industry consulting and training company offering a wide range of services, including on-site visitations to help you improve the overall performance of your business. To find out more about the services PRI offers visit the company's web site at www.performancepros.com.

AUTO LAUNDRY NEWS is published by EW Williams Publications Company
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