Some time ago I interviewed shop owners about the most critical marketing strategies for their shop. Here are their answers. I think you’ll find this info valuable. Let me know if I missed any. (FYI: Part of this was posted as an article on Repairpal.com).
1. Be Referable
“Show up on time, do what you say you’re going to do. Say please and thank you and finish what you start. Those are what I call the four rules for being referable.” -Dave Riccio, Owner Tri-City Transmission, Tempe, AZ
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and had such a great experience that you immediately came back and told your friends? That’s the experience you want to give to your customers.
There are many things that make your shop referable in the eyes of the customer. But the main thing is the quality of customer service you provide. From their first call to set an appointment to after their vehicle is out the door, you need to make sure that every step of the customer experience wows them so much that they will want to tell their friends.
Once you have this in place, I recommend you set up a “Referral Marketing” system where your goal is to leverage your happy customers’ networks of influence.
There are many ingredients that can be in your referral marketing system including creating a “How to Refer” us page on your website, asking for referrals by follow up email and more. By implementing a referral marketing system in your shop you will help create a referral culture where giving referrals becomes the norm, not the exception.
2. Done on Time; Under promise- Over deliver
“Nothing is worse than coming to pick up a car on the completion date only to find that it is disassembled or unpainted. It’s better to explain to the customer that a thorough repair job will take an extra couple of days than to give an overly optimistic completion time and to miss the deadline.” -Jeff Woodruff, President, Hudson Tire Center Inc., Hudson, FL
We know that customers want the job done fast, but they also want the job done right! Too many times we are swayed by the customers’ request to have the job done quickly that we underestimate the time it takes to complete a job just to appease them. Then we disappoint them because it takes longer than we said.
It’s better to overestimate the time that it takes and then call the customer with good news. “Hey, it didn’t take as long as we thought it would; your vehicle is ready for pickup.” This simple mindset shift can pay big dividends in creating happy, loyal customers for life.
3. Treat them Like Royalty- Implement a Customer Care System
“Customer referrals and web searches are the two biggest ways that customers have found us and the adage is true, “you only get one chance to leave a first impression.” When they come in for the first time (and every time) make sure you treat them like royalty. You want to do everything in your power to make sure their experience with your shop is a better experience than they can get somewhere else.” –Steve Yacovone, Owner, Sun Valley Imports, Tempe, AZ
Once you have a new customer, you want to make sure that they never want to go anywhere else. But the fact is, your customers are being marketed to by your competition every day! One way to gifts, and rewards and discounts for their loyal customers. The best way to keep your customers is to nurture them and show them that you sincerely care about them and value them as customers.
So how do you show your customers you care? One shop owner I know makes personal follow up phone calls to customers who have had a significant service such as a transmission repair. This practice is so unheard of in the automotive industry most customers are floored. This shop also follows up with thank you cards, unexpected gifts, rewards and discounts for their loyal customers.
4. A Professional-Looking Mobile- Friendly Website is a Must!
“It’s still shocking the number of shops today who still don’t have a professional-looking website. If you want to be found, you need to be online. Most people find a new repair shop via search engines, such as Bing or Google. If you don’t have a website, you are invisible.” –Jason Krapf, Nigros Auto Body, Philadelphia, PA
Your website is your 24/7 sales machine and you want it sell, sell, sell! In order to do that there’s some important elements that your website must have that will help convert lookers to appointment schedulers. Here is the most important info to have on your website:
- Reviews from happy customers
- How to contact you –include your address, phone number, & email on every page
- Map/directions to your location on your home page
- Online appointment scheduling
- Phone number at the top of your website so it’s easy to find
- If you have multiple locations, each location should have its own page on your site.
5. Always Be Marketing
“One mistake that auto repair shop owners make is that they assume that if their shop is busy; it always will be busy. But the market changes; customers move, the economy falls. The best thing a shop owner can do is to consistently market their business through the busy times as well as the slow times.” -Matt Allen, Owner, Virginia Auto Service, Phoenix, AZ
Matt Allen, owner of Virginia Auto Service, in Phoenix, Arizona, was a master of marketing long before he met me! He started his business from scratch 20 years ago when he was just 24 years old. In spite of having no previous business ownership experience, Matt intuitively knew that if he wanted to grow his business he had to invest in marketing on a consistent basis.
Matt creates a simple annual marketing plan and budget so that he has a roadmap of where he’s going. The key is consistency.
Too many times business owners go through spurts in marketing. They invest in marketing, then the marketing generates customers, so they stop marketing. Then they notice the customers stop coming through the door, so they start up marketing again. If you want a consistent flow of customers, you need to “always be marketing.”
6. Send Mail to Your Database
“If you’re only using email to keep in touch with your customers, you’re missing out on getting more business from 70% of them!” –Wendy Kenney, 23 Kazoos
Your customer database is a veritable goldmine and yet too many auto repair shops fail to mine it! This database can be the starting point for hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars in sales because the people in your database already know you! When was the last time you mailed an offer to your whole database?
So you tell me that you send out an email newsletter or email reminders to your database. That’s great. But did you know you’re missing out on marketing to 70% of your customers?
It’s simple math. Let’s say that your shop has a database of 3,000 customers. Of those, you have the email addresses of 2,000 of them and you email them on a regular basis.
However, of the 2,000 customers that you are emailing, only 33% (or 600) customers open your emails. That means that you are missing out on marketing to 2400 (or approximately 70%) of your 3000 customers! That’s where direct mail marketing can be the most effective!
The shops that we work with use direct mail marketing on their database and find it very affordable and effective. Some of the most successful mailing campaigns have included an end of year rebate check offer (10%-30% response rate), seasonal postcard campaigns, and VIP savings offers.
7. Invest in Online Marketing
Do you remember the Yellow Pages? If you do, you’re one of the few who does. It won’t be long until the Yellow Pages will fade off into history just like the rotary phone.
When people are looking for auto repair services the first place they go is online. But just because you have a website doesn’t mean that you will get found. Sometimes you need to advertise where people are searching!
That’s why we recommend online marketing. There are many online marketing opportunities that will help deliver customers to your door. Here are just some of the online marketing platforms that we have had success with for the shops we do marketing for:
- Yelp.com: Love it or hate it, Yelp looks like it’s here to stay and it’s one of the first places people go to find auto repair when they need it.
- Repair Pal. com: Customers go to RepairPal.com to find quality auto repair at fair prices. Become RepairPal Certified to get calls and tows to your shop.
- AngiesList.com: In my experience, works best for high-end or specialty shops, but depending on your area can deliver great results for general auto repair shops too.
- Google AdWords: Not getting first page Google results for some of your preferred search terms? No problem. Use AdWords and pay for first page results. This is a great supplement to traditional search engine optimization of your website.
I hope that you’ve found these marketing tips helpful. I’ve been doing small business marketing for over 25 years, and auto repair shop marketing for 5 years. These strategies are the best around and the ones that we use for our auto repair shop clients every day.
If you agree with these strategies but need help implementing them in your shop, maybe we can help. When you hire 23 Kazoos, we become your shop’s director of marketing and we manage these strategies for you. (And we do it for a lot less than some of those big companies!)
Here are some of the auto repair shop marketing services we offer:
- Demandforce, Mechanicnet Management, etc.
- Online Advertising
- Direct Mail Marketing (Copywriting and Design)
- Coordinate Printing
- Email Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Website Design
- Search Engine Optimization
- Google Adwords….. And more!
Furthermore, I personally guarantee results, otherwise I will fire myself! When you hire 23Kazoos, you will work with me personally.
Give me a call and let’s talk about how we can get more customers in your shop!
BONUS! Get a free copy of the “check mailer.” It’s the most popular mailer we do for our auto repair shops and it usually gets a 10%-20% response rate! No joke! Just email me and I’ll send it to you.