The Hungry Home Inspector by P Nathan Thornberry :: Why Some Inspectors are Always Hungry for More While Others Just Go Hungry

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The Hungry Home Inspector

Why Some Inspectors Are Always Hungry For More
While Others Just Go Hungry

Chapter 7

A True Marketing Message

When the guy selling brooms our of a van at a gas station has a better marketing message than you, there's a problem.

From Baltimore to L.A., Chicago to Dallas, everywhere I go there are car washes within a few miles. Some of them are automatic machines, others are spray hoses you need a pocketful of  quarters to operate. Then there are some that have people who dry your car off by hand, or even use mops and pre-rinse your car before you go into the machine. Like anything else, prices vary, but basic washes cost from $3 to $10 and usually end up somewhere in the middle, with one glaring exception.

Mike’s Express Carwash is a company in Indiana that sells automated car washes for $18, the going rate for the “Works” wash with “Tire Shine.”

You read right. There’s no hand drying, nothing done to the interior at all. They just roll your car through what might feel like any other automatic carwash. You stay in your car while it happens.

It’s a good carwash, but is it the best? I don’t know. Is it worth the money? No clue. Are they the busiest, fastest-growing carwash in the country? You bet.

Between radio, TV, billboards, and locations in every part of town, they’re ubiquitous. I’ve seen $2 coupons print out on the back of a grocery receipt towards a Mike’s Express Carwash at my local Kroger.

I’m almost certain that the owners of this company make millions of dollars and it’s a good thing they took the advice of business consultants and learned the lessons other big businesses had instead of asking another carwash owner.

If they had listened to another carwash owner, they might have received some advice that is good, but not great. They might have heard about which carwash machines deliver the best carwash, or which ones do it the quickest, or maybe which ones have the lowest maintenance cost and are the easiest for staff to operate.

They might have been lucky enough to get some good advice about location and signage two of the biggest drivers of business for most carwashes.

You don’t perform thousands or even tens of thousands of carwashes per day at dozens of locations, each costing I would estimate around $2 million to build, by following advice from single-location owner-operators who serve only hundreds of customers monthly. If you listen to them, you’d probably get some really bad advice like, “If you just do the best wash you can, people will come back and tell their friends and you’ll have a great carwash business.”

By Mike’s Express standards, following this line of thinking would result in a colossal failure.

That doesn’t mean they don’t offer a great carwash.  They certainly don’t strive to offer a mediocre one. Their customer service is amazing, but they have a lot of customers to serve and that’s the key.

For most carwash owners, spending money on marketing is tough to do. They don’t get a huge return, so they trickle their marketing efforts out slowly attempting to gain a customer whom  they can turn into a repeat client and see a return...then they trickle out some more. Most of their marketing says two things:

1. Their location.

2. That they offer a great carwash.

Hopefully, in their marketing they focused on the hyper-local area so that location of the recipients of the message mattered a lot. The second part of the message is meaningless. It would be the same as a home inspector saying, “I do a good inspection.” Of course they’re going to say they have a good carwash.

Mike’s does things differently. It’s almost like there are people running the company who not only know how to wash a car, but also know how to run a business!

The message is simple: Mike’s is the best carwash because:

- 1,000,0000 BTU water heaters. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the first car or the last car of the day or anywhere in between, you’re going to get hot water.

- More blowers than any other carwash- and at higher power too! Your car will be dry!

- Buy “The Book”- Get six washes for the price of five and you can use them at any of their locations.

Then you show up and find a consistently sized, brick building, complete with all the vacuums and ancillary services you’re looking for. Oh, and every associate is wearing a uniform with a tie. A tie at a carwash!

The guy down the street may offer a better carwash, but I will never know.

If you think home inspection is different than literally every other business in the world, then you need to just accept your place as a low-volume provider of service at market rates.

Home inspection is no different than other businesses--it’s just incredibly fragmented and full of technicians, many of whom would be happy to work for someone else if they could actually be guaranteed a salary and benefits.

By following the standard SOP and not offering anything substantially different from your competition, you become inexpensive Vodka- served from the well of the bar to people that don’t realize or don’t have the means to understand that life is too short for bottom shelf liquor.