I wrote this for AF about a year ago hope this helps you guys too!
Now that you have a nice baseline in your detailing know how and want to start expanding your services to the public. You have a couple basic sources that we will cover. Real life sources take you to car dealers, mechanics, and body shops as these are the local stores that you absolutely MUST introduce yourself to and befriend. Online sources are your Google, Yahoo, AngiesList, Craigslist, and, of course you own slice of the Web, YOUR website.
Marketing can be extremely frustrating () if you don't see results. Don't be resistant to change and always put your name out there. Approach any and all people you come in counter with, from the gas pump to he grocery store.
The very first step is to get yourself at least 500 business cards. Hand these to EVERYONE! There are many sites out there like vistaprint.com, with predesigned as well as allow you to design your own. This is a fairly inexpensive option though can take about 2 weeks. You local Office Depot, Office Max also makes business cards though they might be more expensive, you can typically get them fairly quickly. To start I would not get too many as your logo is likely to change as you grow.
Now I do not do any dealerships myself. If you are going to be doing this as full time gig, you will want to get in with a local dealership to sustain constant work year round. This is "wholesale" work since you are not dealing with the customer directly. Dealerships typically pay about 60-75% what you would get directly from a customer.
Typically your bigger dealerships (Ford, Chevy, and Mercedes) are going to already have detailers on payroll. However independents that sell only used cars contract this work out. Approach them on a weekday afternoon Monday-Thursday. Friday-Sunday is their busiest days and typically you're going to want to talk to the sales manager as they handle the vendors. Do not worry if they don't book right then and there, leave them a card and let them know who you are. You will want to continue to check on them. Many dealers get in more cars than a single detailer can handle and they might start you out with a couple cars if you can catch them at the right time.
Now this is where some people have great relationships with dealerships and others simple choose not to mess with it. Some dealers want to pay little to nothing on details, some are willing to pay but you must remember they have a bottom line to cover and often will only pay a fraction of what you can get. Some dealers may give you a "trial" car, this is a chance to make an impression and stand out from their current detailer. You can give them a $25-50 discount, but after this I would not detail a full car for less than 100-125. This might be where you find that they might only want a spray off, where they pay dollars per couple hundred cars for you to simply remove the dust. Most dealers are outspoken on what they want and what they want to pay. It is up to you to take it or leave it.
Either way things go, don’t let them push you around with unreasonable requests for discounts and extras. Just give them what they are willing to pay for. There is always another dealer down the road. Dealers with a higher end inventory typically are clean anyway and are more willing to pay a little to get a car into selling condition. Don’t be afraid to stop in and reintroduce yourself and remind them of your services.
Many mechanic shops either get asked by their customers for a referral to a good detailing service or get asked to detail a car themselves. This is a great way to build a working relationship as most mechanics simply are not detailers and cannot offer the same level of quality you can. Mention you run a detail business and get a lot of requests for mechanic or vehicle inspection work. Take some of the mechanics cards and say you will hand them out. Hand the mechanic YOUR cards for him to display on his table. You might even offer the owner a discount on a detail to get in "good." If you do well by him his customers will most likely hear all about it.
Stereo and Specialty Shops
From Tint to PDR to Stereo shops you will see these shops all around and some you might even run into while on dealer lots. Swap cards and assure them that their customers will be well taken care of if they refer work to you. Ting/Stereo shops, again, you will want to visit on off peak times to talk to the owner. PDR shops might already have a detailer but in my experience a good relationship with other detailers can lead to referrals just as much as the rest, as long as you do good work. Anytime you refer a customer somewhere make sure they mention you by name.
Most all body shops do their own cutting and install swirls/trails. Those that contract out work can get a bad reputation if bad work comes out so any work you do make sure it is top notch. Let the shop owner know you're looking for a good body shop to refer your customers to. Exchange cards and as you refer customers to them it will most likely come full circle.
This is by far the most fun of all the marketing experiences since you get to have a legitimate reason to go to as many car shows as possible. But remember in all the drooling that you are there on a mission. Look and act professional. Wear your uniform, introduce yourself to car owners and give them your cards. Some enthusiasts do their own work but many are afraid to take a buffer to it to really achieve the best look. COMPLIMENT their car, chat them up, they are here because they want to show off. These are also some of the greatest word of mouth customer you can get as they tend to talk and recommend you to their friends if you do great work for them. Plus what car guy (girl) doesn't like going to car shows?
Every walk up is a potential client. You will always attract work as you are working. Especially if you are in a busy area or have decent signage displayed to gets the attention of those passing by. Be ready for them, look and act professional and always have cards ready to hand out. This is a great way to not only small talk your way into becoming someone's detailer but a great opportunity to review the car ahead of time so there are no surprises when the detail day comes up. If they have water spots or dull paint and spider webs, let them know you have a fix, not just a Band-Aid for these problems and give them an accurate price of how much it will cost. I would venture to say that 3/4 of my business comes from walk ups, getting a good 2-3 potential clients walking up per detail I do.
Things to do ONLINE
This is often times the first impression most people see of all the detailers in their area. Compare yourself to how others in your specific area are putting themselves out to the public and DOUBLE your exposure. The more times a potential client sees your name the better your chances when the customer goes to contact a detailer for work. Good news most online marketing is CHEAP or FREE! As the old ways of marketing come to pass you don't have to invest so much money in things like flyers, phone book ads, or radio spots though those can still be beneficial. Most tend to run out of time and money before the business actually takes off.
A great starter way of getting your name out there for a few reasons:
You don't have to have a website
Tons of traffic
Check your local Craigslist ad to just see how many cars are being sold, your competition in detailing, tinting, repair shops etc. Buyers need detailers, Sellers need detailers and these shops are all IRL Marketing opportunities. I know I have already begun to refer some of the customers I get over to Buff-N-Glo who is a member here on AF (addicted2bling) since they were outside my drive area.
Google is king in the realm of search engines and have a multitude of tools you can use. Google Places is a great way of getting yourself on your local map. Many SEO marketers try to sell their services to get you to the front page of Google; however Google offers this... for free.
Do a search in your city:
"[City] Auto Detailing"
The companies that appear in the map get a lot of business and a spot on that map is worth its weight in gold. So how do you get on this map?
If you’re mobile (like I am) do not list your home as your business address. Your neighbors will likely be upset and code enforcement will likely make an unpleasant visit. You can use a zip to locate your business in the center of your service area. Follow this link for a Google help article: Google Places Help Article
Choose your keywords and category carefully. Make sure all fields are completed as Google only likes to display business that takes the time to fill this out completely. Upload a photo to boost your professional look. Selecting more than one category can help increase number of searches you display on. Car Wash, Auto Detailing, Mobile detailing etc. These critical keywords will ensure people can find you. It is also beneficial to put your city name in the keyword as well. Auto Detailing, Pensacola Auto Detailing,
Often times Google will send a post card with a confirmation code to verify you are who you say you are. Once this is complete and you start showing up on the map the EASIEST and most efficient way of getting your info to display is by reviews. Reviews coming from your customers can be a double edge sword, can dramatically improve your overall appearance to potential customers or it can steer them away if you get bad reviews. Do NOT fake your reviews, Google can tell if it is coming from the same computer, it will cancel your account. Most customers are willing to leave reviews if you ask them. The only downfall is they will also need a Google account and not everyone does. However, if you offer a discount in exchange for a review I'm sure they might be persuaded to create one.
Local Business Directories
I would rate Google Places as the most important directory to be on; it is not the only kid on the block. There are a ton of other directories that you can fill out your information on that will help bring both your ratings within search engine results. (Inward links are KEY) Here are just a few to get you started.
Add Local Yahoo Listing
YP.com - Yellow Pages
Yellow Pages: Superpages Yellow Pages, Maps, Driving Directions, Weather...
Also check out
HowTo Get Your Business Listed on Local Search Engines, Online Yellow Pages & Local Social Sites
Create a website
This is probably one of the best ways to make your presence known. There are a number of companies that offer web hosting for relatively inexpensive. I use a company called 1and1.com and have invested hours upon hours trying to develop my website (still needs LOTS of work) however they do offer web building tools for the beginner and you can make a relatively attractive website. GoDaddy.com is another major registrar. The nice thing about getting with a leading registrar/hosting provider is they typically offer vouchers to try out Adwords (we will talk about his in a minute) however the best thing to do when creating a website is META tags. These are in the header of you main page and is what search engines look for. Visit Meta Tag W3 and you will see an example similar to:
<meta name="description" content="Pensacola Auto Detailing" />
<meta name="keywords" content="Auto detailing, Car Detailing, Detailing the gulf coast" />
<meta name="author" content="Vital Car Care" />
<meta http-equiv"content-type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
One important thing to remember when building a website is to constantly update it. Put new content up. Blog are great ways to get fresh content and give search engines more to work with as they "crawl" through your pages. Sites like Google’s blogger or Wordpress are great ways to generate links from it to your website. The longer your site is up the higher the rank becomes. The more INWARD links (that is links from other sites to yours) also increases your trustworthiness. SEO optimizers main focus is to simple create inward links through directories and other sites. If you do this yourself you can save lots of money.
Adwords aka advertisement is a feature Google and many other places offer to business to help create traffic. These are the little ads you see of the sidebars when doing a search. You end up paying typically per click based upon the keyword you select for your ad to display. Now some people have great results with these ads, some people see a waste of money. I think it has more to do with your competition and how people search for you. Be specific to your area vs. being too broad. You want to reach YOUR potential client base.
Go to: Adwords and start a campaign
[City] auto detailing
[City] car detailing
[City] mobile detailing
[City] mobile auto detailing
Take into consideration all the cities you want to service and advertise to all of those cities. You’ll find you might get a lot of keywords, don’t worry it will be worth it.
Now set a budget of around 5-10/day and supply a credit/bank account to fund. They offer a couple different ways they can be billed. After x amount or on x day. These are bids so make sure your paying enough per click to show up on the first page. Make sure your ad makes sense and explains what you do
Vital Car Care
VIP Mobile Detailing
850-366-3227 Vital Car Care - Detailing the Gulf Coast
People want a professional image and you want to emphasize this in everything you do in the name of your detailing business. Notice I put a link to my website and phone number, this gives the viewer something to do. Notice also that I’m stating VIP treatment; people like to know they are getting the best treatment.
Now this is something we are seeing more and more of. This is a paid service that you must be a member of to leave a review and typically people who have money to use this service to find a detailer are the ones with the nice cars. If you get these customers make sure you put your best on the line as they are more apt to leaving a review and the quality of workmanship can be really good or really bad for business. Once you build a report on here you can see an increase in high quality customers who are more willing to pay for your services
Angies List Registration
This is something I have not tried out yet but from the information I have gathered could yield a lot customers. This might be great if you are looking for volume, but can be a major headache if not. Basically this service is an advertisement sent to all its local subscribers so your local penetration is excellent. If you offer a deal on a wash for 50 dollars you get 25 and groupon gets the other 25. So it might be great to get your name out to start but be prepared for the nickel and dimers only looking for discounted services. This is completely your call on the clientele you’re trying to get
What Ideas have you had good experience with?