September is Automotive Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your auto service and driving more new and repeat business. 

Not an auto professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

more customers for auto service

Loyalty programs have existed for decades, without much change or evolution. However, in recent years consumers’ expectations have shifted as an influx of different businesses compete for their attention and repeat business. It takes more than the lure of a discount to win over your customers and keep them engaged in your loyalty program. It’s now all about creating an exclusive experience that goes beyond traditional punchcards. Luckily, there are lots of opportunities available to car wash and auto detailing businesses who are looking to stand out from the crowd.

The steps below will show you how your auto detailing business can create a comprehensive loyalty strategy. Make sure to devote time and resources to its implementation and maintenance, as there is always room to refine and improve. Remember that your customers are your best source of direct feedback, so keep a dialogue going and keep an open mind to suggestions to ensure they keep coming back!

Structure and Rewards

First, it’s essential to carve out the framework for your new program (or newly improved!). There are a few different options of loyalty programs you can choose from, including points, tiers or “clubs” systems. Each have their merits, and you can always combine a few aspects to create a hybrid program that will provide the most value to customers. There’s also plenty of room to customize within each of these approaches, and tailor it to your audience.

Plotting out these creative approaches and rewards can be fun, but make sure that you do the math from the very beginning, and keep cost in mind throughout the process as you continue to develop your comprehensive plan. It’s a tricky balance to be able to find, but aim to offer perks and rewards that convey real, tangible value to customers, without losing money. We recommend keeping an eye on specific metrics that reflect average customer value, such as LTV and CAC. This can help inform reward values.

Whether you’re doing points, tiers, or a hybrid, you can allow customers to choose their own rewards. This could be an option between similarly-valued services, a charity donation on their behalf, a coupon for a free car wash for a friend, or a free gift for their car (such as a smartphone charger, or mount branded with your company logo and contact info).

Don’t underestimate the effect of small, but personal gestures either. A handwritten thank-you note can be the cherry on top for customers who have become desensitized to digital communication. Similarly, sending them a handwritten birthday card can elicit a similar appreciation, especially if you throw in a token gift or discount they can use during their birthday week or month.

Turn your waiting room into a VIP lounge

Whether they’re waiting 10 minutes for a quick car wash, or an hour for a more extensive detail job, take a few extra steps to ensure their time is as comfortable as possible. Not only will your VIP members be more comfortable and in turn,  more likely to return with frequency, but those who have yet to sign up for the club will get a welcome dose of FOMO and be join!

Here are some of our favorite tips for going the extra yard:

  • Provide free coffee for loyalty members:  This can be reserved for those of a certain level or status
  • Give all members the wifi password, so they can do work while they wait: This will also entice customers to come by on their lunch break if they can get some work done while they wait
  • Free snacks for loyalty members: Donuts, fruit, popcorn, pretzels, etc. Just something to nibble on, while they wait
  • Free car inspection: Use your discretion with this. You can attach specific parameters for members to be eligible, since as a “once a quarter” limit, or only after a certain level or tier

Combine Your Loyalty Program with Revenue Strategy

Subscription programs are one of the best boosts you can give to your business’s bottom line. It provides valuable recurring monthly revenue that will allow you to improve your financial forecasting and modeling. More and more car wash and auto detailing businesses are experimenting with this type of model. It’s important to do some research for your market and see what approach would be most appealing to your frequent customers.

You could reserve VIP status for these monthly subscribers. You can even give them some options for add-ons or upsells. For example, crunch the numbers for the base rate for unlimited washes, let’s say it’s $50/month in this scenario. Well, maybe people have more than one car, or a spouse who would like to also take advantage. You might want to consider giving them a break for each additional car added to the plan. Most people probably wouldn’t want to pay for two, full-priced, individual plans. It might make sense to advertise these as “unlimited family plans” where adding another car is only a $25 increase (and thus a 50% off discount!).  This will only compound the value of the offer, and make it more enticing to your best customers.

There will always be “super participators”, or those who will come in for 12 washes in their first month with a smaller number will come in for just as many month two, but incrementally less thereafter. The novelty will wear off sooner or later and their monthly frequency will drop, so don’t be alarmed. What won’t dissipate or fade, however, is the positive association with your business. They’ll become your best advocates and tell all their friends what a great deal it is. Even if their referrals don’t become monthly subscribers, there’s a good chance they’ll at least come through your door and try out your business. Advertise this every now and then by holding a contest (or even the ole standby, a business card fishbowl raffle) and give away a free month of unlimited washes, in an attempt to get them hooked!

You can have these elite, unlimited members roll up into their own (highest) tier of your loyalty program. Reserve special perks for them, specifically, but they should also be entitled to all the perks of the rest of the program. Try adding extra incentives, like free inspections (once a month), or a free oil change after their 3rd month as an unlimited member. Customize a plan for them to make them feel extra special and valued.

Bonus tip: No matter what structure you decide to use, try giving your loyalty members a headstart. Research suggests that members are much more likely to remain engaged and working towards their goal, if they feel they’re already on their way to accomplishing it. Try giving them some “starter points” when they sign up, or cut the qualifications to reach the next tier by 20%. This will keep them motivated and active.

As with any marketing campaign, it’s important to be measuring and consistently evaluating your program. Look for ways to refine and make it stronger, or more attractive to your customers. Ask for feedback, regularly, and don’t be afraid to test new ideas with a small subset of your members. It’s been found that 80% of your future profits come from 20% of your existing customers. When properly executed and maintained, your loyalty program will help you invest in these valuable repeat customers.