Woes: Turn Your
Winter Blues Green!
Writing about winter in early June seems strange - especially after
a long, cold, and wet spring. But if you need time to prepare for
winter's opportunities, now is a great time to plan to succeed.
Most people do not think of New Year's resolutions until December
31, which is really too late. This month we will consider some things
that you could do to bring customers into your shop in November
and December. Some of the ideas might help in the dreary months
of January through March. Of course, some of you in permanently
warm climates may scoff at these suggestions, but the ideas - rather
than specific application - may help. I guess you could say that
these are pre-New Year's plans.
One of the key elements in this month's article is to encourage
you to think about different services you can offer. I do not want
you to think of yourself as just a detailer. Rather, think of yourself
as a car care professional. When you jump out of your detailing
box, you may discover that there are many opportunities waiting
Understanding your customers' needs and wants remains a key to
success. If you serve individual vehicle owners, then you really
ought to spend more time considering what you can do to link your
services to customers' lifestyles and the vehicles that serve those
ADD SOME IMAGINATION
In previous articles, I spoke of passion and its importance. I
believe that passion and the desire for perfection is a key differentiating
factor between an ordinary clean-up technician and a detailer. While
this is true, identifying and satisfying customer needs is the fuel
for passion. And you need customers to provide the vehicles for
art's expression. So, looking for peripheral opportunities and expanding
your scope brings more challenges. With more challenges, you also
gain the opportunity for
increased sales and profitability.
Expanding service options is a great way to build your business.
Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with the son of the owner
of a company called Auto Interiors. This company repairs auto interiors
for car dealerships. Their services include plastic, carpet and
upholstery repair, stain removal, glass repair, and replacing pin
striping. In short, they offer some of the services that many detailers
provide their dealer accounts. However, when you think about the
nature of their business, many detailers could provide these services
to their retail customers as well. Are there customers in your market
that could use these services? Think of the customers that you have
now. OK, perhaps there are not many, but are there people that you
have not served that could use these services? Perhaps you should
serve these people, too. Expand your base.
By "expand your base," I mean find new customers that
want detailing-like services. For example, if you offered paintless
dent or upholstery repair, you would attract people who might not
come to your shop for detailing. Once you provide the repair service,
you can then sell the benefits of your primary detailing services.
A satisfied customer then starts a referral chain, and you gain
more new business.
Services are the key to reach a broader market. Do more and obtain
the benefit. This is an over-simplification, of course, because
you must offer the "right" services. The "right"
services are either the services customers want or those that you
can educate your customers to want. And how do you find out what
customers want? Ask them!
Finding out what people want is a two-step proposition. First,
find out what services your customers want in addition to those
you already offer. By understanding your customer's expectations,
you can plan to improve your service offerings. The second way to
find out about customer needs is by encouraging customer contact.
For example, car care seminars at public events are a great way
to meet and talk with customers. Look for ways to make contact and
gain PR exposure.
Another way to gain business is to find ways to keep your customers
coming back. In previous articles I mentioned that you should minimize
inconveniences by offering extended hours, pick up and delivery,
and similar hassle-reduction techniques. These are crucial elements,
but you should also give your customers reasons to come to you.
Wouldn't you like to see a customer's vehicle four times per year
rather than once or twice?
FREQUENCY - MORE IS BETTER
Car care is more than a once-a-year event. The quick lube people
have done well with establishing a 3,000-mile oil change mentality.
Many operators also have added services. Several years ago, the
only services available at a quick lube were wiper blades and, occasionally,
additives. Now quick lubes offer a wide variety of services ranging
from engine/transmission/radiator flushes to tire rotations. They
understand that every customer is an opportunity for additional
services and profit. Valvoline has done well with its service database.
They understand the importance of being a car care center.
One of the key tenets of marketing is the importance of gaining
prominence in the customer's mind. If you want to provide periodic
services to your customer, you must help your customer associate
you with the needed services. And to do that you must communicate
and build a link between the customer and you.
The practical application of the foregoing is to provide a problem
and a solution. Certainly, you can think of at least two occasions
for detailing: before winter and after winter. The after-winter
detailing and cleanup is obvious, but you can show your customers
that preparing for winter will reduce the damage to the vehicle.
Winter preparation is something of a ritual in the snowy parts
of the country, but many people do not think of vehicle preventative
maintenance until after the first snowfall. Now, you can say that
this is all unfortunate, you might even admit to procrastinating,
but you can think of these people who either fail to have the maintenance
done or who do not know where to go for the necessary services as
Okay, most of you will agree that winter preventative detailing
is a given, but you also need to think of ways to ensure that the
customer will come back in the spring for an after-winter restoration.
As you might imagine, there are numerous ways to provide reminders,
but one of the most powerful methods is to provide incentives to
Packages help you provide greater value to your customers. In the
above example, I offered some additional items. Certainly, you would
expect a detailer to offer interior & exterior cleaning and
paint sealant, but what about the radiator flush and car wash package?
That is different.
When you create a package, you must create both value and perceived
value. People like getting deals. The percentage discount - in this
case 30 percent off regular price - signals that the consumer is
getting a deal. The list of services provided represents many of
the things that the consumer needs to protect the vehicle during
the winter - hence the fabric protection and floor mats. In addition,
you can provide a discount on a springtime after-winter detailing,
which also increases the value of the package.
Remember that packages must reflect consumer needs. If you load
up the package with useless items, then the package becomes less
desirable. When you hear people say, "I don't need that!"
you should revise the package. Notice that I did not include a price;
this is something that you must research and create specifically
for your market. What are all these good things worth to your customers,
and will they want to pay the amount asked?
All the services might be offered by a detailer - or at least a
detailer with access to a car wash that features an undercarriage
cleaner. The car washes are important because they help remove salt
deposits from underneath the vehicle. In addition, a clean, attractive
vehicle reinforces the perception that detailing is a good idea.
The car wash also benefits by this program because it can offer
additional cleaning services. Consequently, it is a win-win-win
situation. This brings up an important consideration: collaboration.
COLLABORATION - IT'S A GOOD DEAL FOR ALL
The foregoing is a good example of how, by working with other related
businesses, you can increase your market penetration without a major
investment in equipment, people, and space. For example, the radiator
flush and fill is not a common service offered by detailers, and
unless there is a strong demand for it, I do not believe that the
service is appropriate. Similarly, if you do not provide car washing
services, this is not an opportunity for you. However, there are
multiple service outlets in your area that do offer these services,
and they, too, are looking for ways to increase the number of their
customers and sales. By creating a joint package, you can increase
services, and help package participants grow their businesses as
you grow yours. Everybody benefits.
PLAN FOR SUCCESS
When you consider the many options available to you,
it all becomes somewhat confusing. This is why planning is important.
When you create your business plan, you must consider the different
possibilities and the most effective ways for you to satisfy your
One of the big challenges you will face is how you
communicate your packages and services. Too many
detailers neglect to plan for advertising and communicating their
services to their current and potential customers. This is the main
reason that many really good programs never succeed: Nobody knows
about them! Whatever you do, make sure that you communicated your
services and that customers understand the value of your services.
In this way, you will be able to create profitable services.
John Lamade has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing
products and is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact
John via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By creating a joint package, you can increase services, and help
package participants grow their businessess as you grow yours.