Foster Community Loyalty – Through Active Community Engagement

By Lanese Barnett, senior vice president of business development at Amplify Car Wash Advisors.

It just feels good to drive a clean car. What if you could give deeper meaning to that feel-good sentiment? As a business in your community, whether you’re a single-site operator or part of a larger platform, we’ll discuss how you can engage with your local community through fundraisers and other relationship-building initiatives to foster greater customer loyalty.
The car wash business is based on some of the same tenets as the hospitality industry, and the intangibles — how it feels to go there — often mean just as much as the quality of product delivered. No matter how unique owners may strive to be or think they are, most customers still view a car wash as a commodity that is largely interchangeable amongst brands. So how can you set your business apart and keep customers coming back? How do you differentiate as many markets are experiencing a period of intense growth in car washes, no doubt in part from the interest the industry has attracted from institutional investors?

HYPER-LOCAL INITIATIVES

Start with your customers, you may already know them. Pay attention to what matters to them. It’s a good guess you are both members of the same community since most customers prefer a wash that is convenient and close to home. Consider getting involved with local schools, libraries, food banks, churches, and other organizations. Sometimes, this begins organically when an owner has kids in local schools. But it can also grow by intentionally engaging with staff to see what organizations they belong to and care about. Opening this dialogue on whom to select for local sponsorships and fundraisers can be very empowering to your staff, and, as a bonus, make them feel more connected to your company culture.
If you choose to sponsor a print ad in a school sports team program, ask your staff member(s) who are on the team to be included in a photo for the ad and take it at the car wash. Highlight that you are proud to support the organization, but more specifically you are proud to support your staff. Showing you care about your community and your staff is a two-for-one win. Timely holiday-giving campaigns benefiting local non-profits are another great option to connect with the community. With some planning and a few marketing materials, these can be easy to implement and highly effective. For example, Driven Car Wash®, located in the Chicagoland market, partners with a local food bank to help create sustainable short-term food sourcing for families fighting hunger. They offer a free top-tier wash for customers who donate to the food drive every Tuesday for a month leading up to Thanksgiving.
A quick reminder that your chamber of commerce members, mayor, city officials, along with local media organizations like your city newspaper or neighborhood lifestyle magazine are part of your community. Invite them to your events and let them know about your upcoming fundraisers. After the event, send a follow-up with photos and a short recap; having all the information they need in one place with visuals increases your chance of being included in a local news brief or write-up.

PARTNERING WITH A NATIONAL CHARITY

Another way to connect with your community is through involvement with a larger charitable organization. According to the 2018 Cone Communications Purpose Study, 78 percent of Americans believe companies should positively impact society. Showcasing your support of an organization with national brand recognition can resonate with a wide audience. As an added benefit, often larger organizations will offer fundraising marketing support and additional resources available for you to use so you and your team aren’t trying to create a program from the ground up.
An example of a great national organization to consider is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, endtext which is leading the way the world understands, treats, and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. While St. Jude is based in Memphis, TN, the organization treats children from across the United States and works towards the goal of ending childhood cancer for all kids everywhere and has been named the “No.1 Most Trusted Nonprofit” in the Most Trusted Brands of 2022 report by decision intelligence company Morning Consult. Uniquely, St. Jude is also engaged with leaders in the car wash industry to continue creating more plug-and-play fundraising options for car wash owners, including activations that tie into car wash point-of-sale systems and other car-wash-specific initiatives. For more information about supporting St. Jude visit stjude.org/inspire.

CREATING A POSITIVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

No matter what fundraising or community involvement efforts you engage in, remember those are only a supplement to the customer service you provide day in and day out onsite at your car wash. Hiring friendly, service-minded staff who love to smile goes a long way! Creating a positive customer experience at your wash opens the door for continued engagement with your customers. But to communicate with them beyond your physical property, you must capture their contact information. Prioritize customer data capture as part of your larger marketing and customer engagement strategy. Even if you don’t have an e-mail or text campaign ready to deploy today, start getting your customer’s information now so you will have it when you need it.
Customers also want to be able to easily communicate with you, especially if they have a concern or issue. This often involves the management of monthly plan memberships. As the car wash industry continues to evolve and embrace new technology services, companies focused on CX (customer experience) solutions are also emerging. For example, Retention Express offers car wash owners a dedicated, white-labeled, customer contact support solution combining human interaction with appropriate automation across all customer communication touchpoints. With so many ways your customer may want to communicate with you (phone, e-mail, website submissions, social media), having trained customer support agents represent your brand to help process monthly plans and collection of data for valuable insights across all channels can be a huge benefit in improving your overall customer experience and generating support ROI.

CONCLUSION

Consumers today are savvy when it comes to traditional advertising and self-promotion. They want to feel good about the businesses they support with their hard-earned dollars. Consistent involvement with local or national non-profit organizations is a great way to show you care about giving back and being part of your community, not just about the bottom line.
While demonstrating public-spiritedness is a beneficial part of the mix, successful community engagement starts with the individual customer. Building a relationship with your customer through active communication, both on the giving and receiving end, along with excellent service, fosters a greater sense of connection and brand loyalty that keeps customers coming back time and time again.
Lanese Barnett is senior vice president of business development at (https://amplifywash.com)[Amplify Car Wash Advisors,] the number one advisor of car wash chains nationwide. With a mission of creating wealth for clients, Amplify helps car wash owners sell, partner, or grow using practical industry experience as operators coupled with expertise in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and capital advisory. Hear more from Lanese each month as she hosts Car Wash M&A, The Podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and other major podcast platforms. Learn more at AmplifyWash.com, or reach Lanese at [email protected]
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Jet Brite Car Wash

With decades of hands-on experience as operators, when it came time to sell our car wash business who we sold to was important to Sam and me. Chris [Jenks] and the team at Amplify listened to us throughout the entire process. They found the right buyer in ZIPS who would be a good steward of the brand and helped find the best path forward for us where we can continue pursuing our passion for manufacturing high-quality car wash equipment.  

Jet Brite Car Wash  
Dave Delesandro  | Founder

Quick N’ Clean

My relationship with Commercial Plus over the past 20 years has been a very professional and trustworthy relationship. The feel of trust is very important in this business, and Jeff Pavone and his staff have exhibited a level of trust that makes me continue to feel that they have my best interest front of mind. I deal with many brokers across the nation, and my best experiences and results have been achieved with Commercial Plus representation.

Quick N’ Clean
Richard Karle | Owner

Zips

It’s been a great experience working with Amplify Car Wash Advisors to bring these sites into the ZIPS portfolio. We look forward to serving Dallas area customers with an enhanced car wash experience unique to ZIPS, with the added benefit of our extensive network of stores. This year we have continued our aggressive growth track with the goal to truly shine in our efforts to be the best express car wash provider in the industry and it’s acquisitions like this that help us reach our goals.

Zips
Gene Dinkens | CEO

ModWash

It was truly a pleasure to work with the Amplify team on our most recent acquisition of three additional operating locations in our home state of Tennessee. Their team provided great support and ensured a timely and seamless closing process, and we are excited for the additional growth opportunities this relationship will produce in our near future. We know this is the first of many transactions we will successfully complete with the Amplify team as we grow from our current operating store count of 23 to well over 200 locations across 14 states in the next two years.

ModWash
Brian Thornton | COO

Busy Bee Car Wash

For years I’ve talked to a lot of brokers with the same goal; sell your car wash chain as quickly as possible. But I chose to work with Amplify because they were interested and invested in the emotional side of selling my business and truly value long-term relationships. They weren’t forcing me to take a deal just to take a deal. They listened to my concerns and goals then educated me on all my options. And that’s how I decided on the right partner for my chain specifically. I went to bed at night after I signed the papers knowing I got the best deal possible versus just having any deal put in front of me that is only about money.

Busy Bee Car Wash
Jim Mulholland | Owner

Q Car Wash

We really appreciate Jeff and his entire team at Amplify. Their expertise and deep industry knowledge helped us navigate our options and best showcase our strengths to maximize our value. Caliber is a good fit for Q Car Wash as they look to expand in North Texas.

Q Car Wash
Viran Nana | COO

Cobblestone Auto Spa

I have known both Jeff and Bill for over thirty years combined, and respect them both as experts in our professional car washing industry. Their unique and individual strengths bring very strong talent and advice to operators, sellers, and buyers with sharp knowledge, client’s best interest in mind, and an actual personal touch. They hold the expertise and performance track record to hold a very high level of respect within this rapidly-changing car wash industry.

Cobblestone Auto Spa
Tuck Bettin | CEO

Oasis Car Wash

Turning over a business you started from one shovel of dirt 25 years ago and grew to several locations is a difficult and even uncomfortable process. So, when it came time for Larry and me to sell, we chose Amplify Car Wash Advisors to guide us through the process because of their strong reputation and thought leadership in the industry. Their team was professional and did a great job walking us through each step.

Oasis Car Wash
Dallas Hawkins | Partner

Busy Bee Car Wash

Selling our business after 52 years is big deal and certainly not a decision I took lightly, turning over our family legacy was an emotional process and I appreciated that the team at Amplify respected that. They helped me understand my options and found the best deal for me.

Busy Bee Car Wash
Jim Mulholland | Owner

Ducky’s Express

I have been a multi-site developer and operator in the car wash industry for over 30 years. Four years ago, a partner’s health concern forced me to sell a portion of my portfolio, and during that process, I was introduced to Jeff Pavone of Commercial Plus. I was immediately impressed with Jeff’s knowledge of my industry and his volume of successful deal closings. In a very short period of time, Jeff found the right buyer at a very fair price, and the transaction closed shortly thereafter. I was looking for a team with honesty, integrity, and a proven track record of success, and I found all of that in Jeff.

Ducky’s Express
Richard Miller

Trademark Car Wash

These are some of the most exciting times for car wash owners. As we grew 350% in revenue in just one year, we recognized the time to partner up with a top-tier team that has mastered growth in retail and specifically the automotive industry. Amplify Car Wash Advisors had helped us acquire, raise capital, and was the perfect partner to help us reach this next chapter of the Trademark story.

Trademark Car Wash
Andrew Goldberger