(Photo: iShine Car Wash and Detail)

Gotta love the colorful Smart Car. (Photo: iShine Car Wash and Detail)

OK, so you’re a car wash business owner, and you feel like you’ve tried everything to set yourself apart from all the others. That’s one of the most difficult challenges of this industry: a clean car is a clean car no matter who washed it.

Sure, you can tout your speed or your advanced, gentle system or your prices. But at the end of the day, many drivers are going to take their dirty car to the nearest shop that will un-dirty it. That’s why we’re here — to help you rise above the ordinary and give your customers something remarkable (i.e. they’ll remark about their experience to their friends, etc.).

So here it is, our top seven best marketing ideas for car wash businesses:

1. Coupon books. Coupon books are a great way to get the word out about your car wash. They’re very cost effective, and they’re a tangible reminder to come back to your car wash. Better yet, people can tear out the coupons and hand them to friends. What’s better than having people do your marketing for you?

2. Loyalty programs. If you’ve ever entered your credit card somewhere and set up automatic billing (Netflix? Newspaper subscriptions?), then you know how easy it is to forget about what a vital service is costing you. Car wash businesses can do the same thing. With destructible windshield stickers, you can set up loyalty programs that incentivize people to come back.

3. Chauffeur anyone? One of our favorite marketing ideas is the valet service for detailing businesses. iShine Car Wash and Detail in Boca Raton is one of the more recent ones to do this. When customers drop off their cars for a detail, you drive them back to work or home or wherever they’re going. Then you bring them back when their car is done. Customers love this. And we love iShine’s colorful Smart Car, too.

4. Direct mail never fails. Seriously. It doesn’t. We’ve been in the direct mail business for a long time, and if the target audience is right and the promotion is tempting enough, the people will react.

5. Do some good in the world. We’re seeing a lot more of this lately. From the International Carwash Association’s WaterSavers program to Autobell’s local charity washes to the upcoming “Save the Bay” event near the Chesapeake Bay, more car wash businesses are realizing that customers like to give their money to a business that’s making a difference in people’s lives or the community.

6. Be fun. Don’t just sell car washes. Rather, sell the experience. Belmont Car Wash is installing a super soaker for kids and setting their prices to what they were 50 years ago for their 50th anniversary. People are already feeling happy about getting their cars cleaned in the first place. Give people a little something extra with their car wash. It doesn’t have to cost you much, but it should make people feel like there’s added value and less boredom.

7. Cultivate personality. Not cult of personality, but close. As we’ve said before, “people like people.” Let your customers glimpse behind the brick and mortar at your shining personality. If you’re a sky diver or a golfer or a baseball fanatic or proud of your kids, let people see it. Give customers a reason to care about you and want to come back to your car wash.