A car wash in Detroit has become known for its inspirational marquee. (Photo: Google screenshot)

A car wash in Detroit has become known for its inspirational marquee. (Photo: Google screenshot)

A car wash in Detroit was struggling to get customers in the door. Even though he had a good location on a main city road — plus a really big sign by the sidewalk — he wasn’t convincing anybody with the messages he was posting on his billboard marquee. Stuff like, “Preserve your paint. Get your car detailed today!”

Then he stumbled upon an epiphany. Here’s what owner Julian Hill, 44, told Detroit Metro Times:

I was going through this very dysfunctional relationship. And that was the first time I changed the sign. I was so fed up with what was going on that I put on the board, “Love and insanity are closely related.” Something like that. And then my friend, who’s married, he was just like, “Man, I had to stop on Woodward and literally just think about that for a minute. You are so right!”

And that’s when everything changed. He started posting more and more messages, varying from cryptic to religious to motivational. In a rough and tumble place like Detroit, the one-liners were hitting people hard and sticking to them. “I would just put up things that gave me strength and hope and inspiration,” Hill said. “I just realized that it did more to inspire other people, and, at the same time, it really increased business, because people were so drawn to the messages.”

This story is a good reminder that people don’t usually respond to overt sales pitches. They’d rather consume a message that’s relevant to them. The goodwill you build through those messages is what draws them in. It might not be immediate, but it’s what works. Check out the rest of Metro Times’ (very good) interview with Hill here.