When the economy slows down many auto detailing business owners that have not prepared for slow periods find themselves in trouble and nowhere to turn. Most of the time if you have a well thought out marketing plan the slow times will not hurt you as badly.
Before we discuss what to do when business slows down lets discuss what you should be doing during all times of the year. I have found many auto detailing business owners are not even doing the basics to generate revenues during good or bad times. Some of the “basics” include managing a data base of your customers. Having a database of customers enables you to see who your customers are, when the last time they used you, what services you performed and how much they spent. This information is essential especially when you are targeting certain groups of customers based on the services they have purchased in the past. Most computer software has some type of database software. If your doesn’t you can easily purchase a database software package and customize the fields to meet your needs.
Every auto detailing business today should have a web site. Your web site reflects your business and should be professionally made. Just throwing up a web site is only part of it though. You must promote your web site on the web and off the web. Have your web site address printed on all of your company collateral; invoices, business cards, flyers, service menus, company signage, mobile rig, etc. Promoting your web site on the web is critical too. You want your web site to be listed on the major search engines so when someone searches for a detailing service in your area your web site should be listed in the search results. Having your web site professionally designed, programmed, and maintained will help assure that it comes up high in the organic listings on Google and Yahoo. You can also bid on key word phrases so you can get your web site listed on the top right away with the major search engines through their sponsored ads.
Many individuals just don’t have the time to search for a detailer during regular business hours so your web site will be your “silent salesman” and be promoting your business even at 4AM when you are fast asleep! Keep your web site updated with car care articles, pictures of customers and their cars that you have just detailed, monthly or weekly specials, and even have a blog on your web site so your customers can post responses about the great work that you did on their car.
You should also be networking your business with other business owners and professionals. One way to do that is to join a networking group in your area. Typically these groups meet weekly early in the morning. It is a great way to exchange leads with other business owners. You will be the only auto detailing business in the club so be sure you show up for the meetings and when you are given leads be sure you reciprocate and provide leads too. This is a quick way to establish good contacts and get regular business.
Joining your local Chamber Of Commerce is another way to make good contacts and promote your business. When you join your local Chambers you will also receive a membership roster that will list other businesses that are Chambers members. It should have a lot of relevant information about the other members like company name, address, phone number, web site, principles, etc. You can use this membership roster as a lead generation source. Be sure you attend the various mixers and bring lots of business cards to hand out. The chambers can also offer consulting services and other tools to help grow your business within the community.
I really think you need to be doing all of the above so you have a good basis from where your customers are coming from and have database software so you can manage those customers.
Now when times get slow you should contact all of your past customers either by phone or by email. It would depend on how many customers you have and your support system to do this. Being that we are in the Autumn season now you may want to Advertise a “Fall Special” or “Summer Clean Up Special” or “Protect Your Car For Winter.” Having gathered all your customer’s email addresses when booking their 1st appointment will enable you to keep your name in front of them all year. You can email them reminders when their car is due back in for a detail and promote express detailing services to keep their vehicle cosmetically maintained year-round.
You should keep your web site updated, constantly be adding and renewing specials, writing new car care articles, updating content, and showing off your work! Keeping your customers “engaged” with your business will keep your customers loyal. A regularly updated web site will keep your web site listed on top of the search engines results. Anytime you email your customers have your web site link in your email so your customer can visit your web site to learn more about the services you are promoting in your email to them.
It is not a bad idea to also provide a free service now and then for your regular customers or use as a closing tool when trying to obtain new customers. I never was a big fan of giving discounts, I would rather do a little more for my customers. I think that goes a long, long way and will keep your customers coming back. When I talk about a Free service that could be a free fabric protection if performing a complete interior service, a free interior carpet cleaning if performing an exterior detailing service, etc. It takes a short period of time to do these services and costs you very little. You could use this as a “closer” to book an appointment for a customer or prospect that is “on the fence” and needs a little nudge to say “YES!”
I keep coming back to having a web site. If your web site is “making the grade” you can use it as a great marketing tool to promote your specials to new and existing customers. Everyone you talk to be sure to refer to your web site to learn more about your business. If you are a mobile detailer be sure to take the time out to talk to prospects if they come up to you while you are detailing their neighbor’s or co worker’s car. Take a few minutes out to talk with each customer and give them an estimate. Your goal would be to obviously book the appointment right then. If that does not happen refer them to your web site by giving them a business card or your service menu. If you are working at a business you should also ask them if they have a business card. Jot down any notes on the back of their card so you can reference it later when you call them to follow up and book an appointment. Give a card out and take one back! I would make a point to talk to at least 10 new faces a day if you are a mobile detailer. For every 10 prospects you talk to and hand out a card eventually you should obtain at least 2 new customers. Let’s say you do this every day at least 5 days per week; that equates to 10 new customers per week, 520 new customers per year. It really works, you just need to put the ball in play and make it happen.
Keep organized, keep your name in front of your customer base, go after new customers through networking, asking for referrals, and thinking out of the box! The auto detailing business owner that just sits back and doesn’t take the pro-active approach will not prosper. The ones that keep many irons in the fire, follow up with all leads, tap their past customers, and always are working on keeping the pipeline full of new possibilities will reap the benefits. Operating your own profitable auto detailing business is just like playing baseball. Putting the ball in play will force something to happen. Just standing in the batter’s box and hoping for a walk will do nothing except make your business financially vulnerable during the slow periods. Every car is a potential customer! They are there for the takings. Your success is based on a well thought-out, organized plan to go and get that business, do a superior job for the customer, gain repeat business, and get tons of referrals is the name of the game. Please contact me if you have any questions about this article.
Detail King LP