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I challenge you to think about all the subscriptions that you buy on a monthly basis. Americans spend on average $235 per month on subscription-based services and products. Recurring service and product plans have taken the consumer world by storm. I see everything from Wine and Whiskey to Diapers and Razors. There are obvious reasons why our carwash clients have jumped on board.
Some may argue that the unlimited membership is the single most important aspect of the express model that has changed our industry. I was reminded by the 20 year of the Express Car Wash Model documentary release (found here) that the automated pay station and free vac concept is what defined the express model, but the unlimited membership and idea of recurring revenue is what made our industry launch.
Sometimes I can’t believe that we are still in debate on its value. So what’s the big deal?
Financial Bottom Line
At Sonny’s CarWash Marketing by SLAM our customers are chasing the magic milestone of 1500 members. Why? Because on average, 1500 members typically covers their baseline monthly expense. When we launch a new wash, the race is on to hit that first milestone as quickly as possible.
Better Quality Crew
Because many members come to wash their vehicles even when the weather is not great, there is more consistent traffic on the property. You could get frustrated with this idea of usage and get upset those customers come wash their car even in the rain, but I see some upsides. It allows you to run a more consistent operation. You can recruit and retain a more quality employee because you are open and have a consistent schedule rain or shine. When you no longer have to send your crew home on a Wednesday because of rain, they have more trust in their employment.
Nothing drives more loyalty than a Membership. Frankly speaking, if a consumer is a member of your wash, then they are more committed to you and are less likely to cheat on you and “try out” the wash down the street. If you have competition coming to your area, you can hold your ground and maintain your customer base with a loyal membership base.
Frequency Drives Traffic
Have you ever driven past a restaurant, seen an empty parking lot, and then decided to drive a little further to discover a restaurant with a full parking lot? You’re not alone. You instantly feel like the second one must have better food. When you have a healthy membership base, the traffic on the lot is much more consistent. This drives confidence in drive-by’s, which ultimately drives more retail traffic. One feeds the other.
It is truly incredible how much our industry has developed and matured in the past few years. Metaphorically and literally, we have moved into major main street retail. We are running a highly profitable retail business that is sitting alongside Chipotle and Starbucks and oftentimes, driving traffic into those locations. That shift in retail stature is something we all should be proud of. We have captured the attention of major mainstream investment and I attribute much of it to the express model and recurring income opportunity.
Strive to meet all customer needs
Memberships are a long-term relationship, so you want to invest in it. Members are more likely to share feedback with you because it’s in their interest to keep your wash (their membership) of high value. And since we are customer-service based industry, the feedback helps all customer categories.
From Amazon Prime to Costco to the local carwash, membership models have proven to be powerful forces for growth, and it is important to reassure members they are getting good value. Every now and again, throw in an extra service at no cost. Upgrade mid-tier members to a top wash. Courtesy efforts make members realize they get more value at your wash and that you appreciate them. It keeps them coming back for more. After all, retention is the goal.