10 Marketing Ideas to Grow Car-Wash Profits

Effective marketing campaigns don’t need big-league budgets to reach customers and create buzz.

By 
David Dougherty, Senior Product Manager

A c-store retailer has worked with its distributor to build the perfect car-wash facility. Now it’s time to drive traffic to the site. With a mix of marketing tactics, car-wash operators can stay atop the minds of existing customers and connect with potential new ones.

Effective marketing campaigns don’t need big-league budgets to reach customers and create buzz. By leveraging current c-store assets and integrating creative tactics, retailers can attract customers and give them reasons to keep coming back.

Here are 10 ways to break through the noise, increase customer count and drive more car-wash profits.

Leverage a Grand Opening

Make a splash with a grand-opening event. This promotion will allow operators to leverage their new car wash before, during and after the launch. To boost exposure:

1. Publicize the final countdown to the grand-opening event. This will serve as a constant reminder to all who drive by about the all-new car wash. This could be a digital display or a large banner.

2. Host a grand-prize raffle that awards one winner free car washes for a year. Require all entrants to provide their email address to help build an e-newsletter database and continue to share updates with them.

3. Create a community “give back.” Partner with a local charity or organization for the grand-opening event. A portion of the day’s proceeds will go directly to the organization. This will generate positive public relations and give people an incentive to promote the event. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Get Tactical With Marketing

Some of the most effective marketing efforts can be done on-site. Retailers can take advantage of customers who are already at a location by reinforcing their choice and encouraging repeat visits. Effective ways to do this include:

4. Taking advantage of on-site signage to promote the car wash. Large signs on buildings or along the road make for great attention grabbers.

5. Leveraging the in-bay car-wash wall spaces by promoting other revenue streams, or selling advertising space to local businesses. Retailers have a customer’s full attention while they’re in the car wash, so make the most of it.

6. Promoting with change mats and window clings. These are great ways to remind customers about the car wash as they shop and pay in the c-store.

7. Creating a loyalty program to keep customers engaged with special deals and rewards. Subscription models have proven to be a great option for both operators and customers.

Encourage Loyalty

Subscription wash programs, with unlimited washing for a pre-established dollar amount, can be a huge revenue driver for car-wash operators. This type of program provides a certain amount of monthly revenue for the wash operator while allowing easy transactions for the wash customer. A customer’s biggest fear is experiencing rain shortly after a fresh car wash. The subscription model allows for frequent washes because all charges are covered under the monthly subscription.

Operators can take advantage of these cost-effective and efficient opportunities to maximize their exposure in the community.

8. Similar to the community give-back at the grand-opening event, retailers should partner with a local charity to promote car washes on a certain day. The organization receives a portion of the profits. This is an effective way to boost business and demonstrate commitment to the community.

9. Serve digital ads to targeted audiences through social media. For example, feature a happy customer and their clean car on a Facebook ad targeted at people within a 10-mile radius of the location. When done effectively, social media can be a great way to establish the car wash as part of the community. Not every post should be about the business; operators should be aware of local happenings and engage with others in the community.

10. Partner with local media. Radio and newspapers are cost-effective ways to reach potential customers. Work with media outlets to offer on-air prizes in exchange for promotional mentions.

Investors across the country are cleaning up by tapping into the $15 billion car-wash industry. With a trusted distributor, optimized site and effective marketing, c-store operators can turn a car wash into the highest-margin feature on their property.


David Dougherty is senior product manager for in-bay automatics for PDQ Manufacturing Inc., De Pere, Wis. Reach him at [email protected].