Carwash Website Basics
By Ryan Carlson
The common roadblock many wash owners encounter is that they rush out and build a website for their company and are shocked that their business does not increase as a result of having the website.
This common misunderstanding in Internet marketing is shared by every business world-wide, not just car washes. There are a number of factors that play into the success and profitability of Internet marketing beyond just having a website. A website that only provides basic information is nothing more than a glorified Internet Yellow Pages ad. Consider that your website is the foundation in which you will build your Internet marketing campaign. A basic website is only a destination to send your customers when they are not at your wash location to learn about your business.
Your website should clearly identify your wash branding and provide helpful information for your visiting customers. A basic website will need to tell customers how to find the wash, contact the wash staff, and display what wash services are available. Many car wash websites will also provide additional content such as “reasons for professionally washing your car” and “environmental benefits to washing at a car wash”. What Makes or Breaks a Website? When building or evaluating your business website it is just as important to know what works, what does NOT work, and which potholes to avoid on the Internet.
It’s critical that customers can find your car wash website by typing in “car wash” followed by the name of the city your business is in. The basic text in your website on the home page should be displayed in standard HTML text. Avoid putting important business information embedded into graphics or in fancy Flash or Java graphics and animations. The point is, search engines such as Google or Yahoo! cannot “read/search for” this important text on a website if it does not display the information in plain HTML somewhere on the website. The advantage to having a site professionally built for you as opposed to having your cousin or nephew do it for you is that the professional will understand what goes into making a business website WORK, not just look pretty.
Local Business Center:
If you expect the GPS generation to find your business, or more importantly find that your wash is the closest carwash when they do a “find me the closest carwash” search on their GPS navigation device or GPS enabled smart phone, such as an Android device or iPhone. Over 84% of younger consumers (18-34) will search for services on the Internet as opposed to a conventional yellow pages directory. If your business is not properly listed you will lose out on a major opportunity to bring in new (or the nearest) customers to you. Register at www.google.com/local/add to make sure your business is listed properly in the online database. You can also register your business with the two major GPS map services Teleatlas and Navteq. You can do this by going to Google and doing a search on “add business to tele atlas” and “add business to navteq”.
Register with your local Online Yellow Pages:
Every town has some form of yellow pages advertising available to them. It’s not the dead-tree (paper) book that is commonly used as a door stop or a booster chair, I’m talking about the online offerings that are available. A little known fact is that if you can get your website linked online with the business listing directory of your DEX or Yellow Pages online site, you can greatly benefit from the additional Google traffic and relevance that this affords your business. Note- Anything that increases your Google rank is good. This means that when people search for car wash related services in your area it moves your website higher up on the list.
Simple Domain Name:
It is far more important to have a domain name that customers can remember and type out than it is to be clever and use the entire name of your business. Avoid too many dashes or dots such as www.super-cool-carwash.com or www.daves.ultimate-wash.com. As tempting as it may be to separate multiple words in your domain, these web addresses cause more trouble then they are worth in the long run. The rule of thumb is to make it as simple for the end user as possible. Use a maximum of a single dash or period in the domain name, never more. To learn if your domain is available visit www.networksolutions.com and start looking into available domain names for your car wash website if you do not already have one.
Not only should you have your logo properly displayed on your website but everywhere your logo would go in the real world you should have your website address properly advertised. If customers don’t know about your website, they will never visit it when they are at their computer. Examples of where to put your website address include; business cards, company vehicles, shirts, signs, posters, handouts, bay decals, lighted marquees, loyalty cards, and ANYTHING that would be put in front of existing or potential customers eyeballs.
Reasons to Visit the Site:
As mentioned before, if you are not giving customers additional incentives to visit your website on a regular basis it is nothing more than an Internet Yellow Pages advertisement. Many wash owners will use their websites to promote online coupon giveaways that can be printed off and redeemed at the wash or will feature prize giveaways, or information on how to sponsor a fundraiser at your wash location.
Incentives to Become a Regular Visitor:
The most successful car wash websites drive new business back to their website with online sales and marketing programs where individual customers can sign up for a free birthday wash, purchase discounted prepaid loyalty gift cards, register for online promotions, and use their credit card to pay for these services through the Internet! There are web-based programs on the market that help drive commercial business customers to your website on a regular basis for fleet account management and for paying their wash invoice with their company credit card online. These tools are similar to online banking and online bill payment provided by the utility companies that can be integrated into your very own website! The goal is always to find ways to keep customers coming back to your website on a regular basis. The more exposure a customer has to your brand and your business the more they associate “washing their vehicle” with YOUR business, not the competition’s.
Customer Data Capture Tool:
If you are not collecting customer data with your website you are losing out on perhaps the most powerful aspect of online marketing. In exchange for giving something away to the customer you get their name and email address. A car wash owner from Virginia Beach said that he will happily give away a $10.00 wash in exchange for a name and email address that can later be used in promotional mailings, targeted ad campaigns, and web marketing. Most data capture tools will also tell you the last time a customer visited your wash, when their prepaid account is running low and package this information into a single report for the wash management. This gives wash operators the opportunity to target those customers with special promotions and incentives to bring them back to the wash. Check with your manufacturer to see if these promotional options are available to you.
Your website is a reflection of your business. This is the same idea that the cleanliness and appearance of your car wash location is a reflection upon the business. A messy disorderly car wash will drive business away, just as a messy disorderly unprofessional website will drive visitors away. Car washes that are serious about projecting professionalism and want to market their car wash go out of their way to make a good impression. Remember, you only get a first impression because consumer confidence is incredibly fickle.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Work with a professional for branding and building your site. Register your business on the Internet for maximum effect. Offer customers reasons for visiting your website. Capture as much customer data as possible on your website (if possible).
Much, much more in the print addition of Auto Atlantic.
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