Inner Circle

Event Marketing  

A Great Story Starts With a Clean Car

by Jess Burke &
Marc Blumer

Organizers of The Car Wash Show set out to achieve three major objectives in 2019:

  1. To deliver more qualified attendees to the show floor
  2. To enhance an already great show experience
  3. To encourage earlier registrations while simultaneously increasing its verified rate

Here’s the story of how International Carwash Association (ICA) and mdg accomplished all three.

They put data in the driver’s seat.
Like many associations, ICA has data to spare. mdg took advantage of the robust records to create a holistic picture of the show’s attendee trends. There was plenty to review: years of past registrations, a complex attendee database with thousands of reachable targets and a dizzying number of ways to segment. Leveraging all of these insights, the show team built a model that quantified target performance indicators.

The modeling process aggregated data to generate specific KPIs to measure over the life of the campaign:
• Registration page conversion rates
• Registration page traffic needed to maintain attendance goals
• Click rates on emails, display ads and websites

Like a balance sheet, a digital model can reveal a campaign’s vitals at a glance. The Car Wash Show 2019 now had a road map for what a successful campaign would look like.

They put a new shine on their creative approach.
To turn that road map into a full-on road trip, mdg developed a creative concept that cast the car wash profession in a whole new light. The “Journey” concept features human-centered creative, instead of the car-centered approaches common to the industry. Car washers say they love their profession because it’s a people business. Having a clean car gives a customer a sense of pride, adventure and accomplishment—and the people who own, manage and operate car washes feel that same pride in their daily work. The imagery of the concept harnesses that impact and emotion and ties it to the show experience, with the event in Nashville as a “destination” at the end of the journey.

This consumer-style approach to B2B marketing can feel risky for event organizers, who want to make sure prospects understand the event will be professional, valuable and relevant. But ICA knew they wanted something unique, avoiding B2B tropes like handshake graphics and “must-attend” language. Instead, they homed in on the meaning and relevance of The Car Wash Show and the industry on an emotional level.

They were ready to turn on a dime.
The Car Wash Show applied the “agile” development philosophy to event marketing, starting with weekly scrums. These quick stand-up meetings brought together a cross-functional team, rarely lasted longer than 15 minutes and served as a checkpoint for project status and major roadblocks—as well as a regular chance to monitor performance against the digital model.

Sometimes scrums were just a quick seven minutes where the team established that everything was going fine. Other times, they tackled glitches in reporting or substantive strategic questions. Instead of letting best practices and rules of thumb become a rigid framework for planning marketing tactics, the team responded in real time to actual data.

A team like this might plan to run a promotional video on social media for just two weeks, because that’s typically when they begin getting stale. In agile, they were able to see when creative had staying power—for The Car Wash Show, one video ran for nearly the entire campaign because it never stopped performing efficiently and delivering clicks.

Scrums—or something like them—can be useful even for teams that aren’t operating under agile. Quick check-ins on performance and modifications to the plan—or not!—can be an extremely useful way to raise questions, tackle problems and develop cross-functional buy-in on tactics and strategy.


A version of this content originally appeared in PCMA Convene.