Recently I asked auto repair shop owners this question; “What are the most critical marketing strategies for auto repair shops, whether you’re starting out or have been in business for years?” Here are their answers in their own words with my suggestions added.
1. Be Referable - Have a Referral Marketing System
“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.”
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 fixed and out the door. 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. Treat Customers 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.”
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 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, and rewards and discounts for their loyal customers.
3. Done on Time - Underpromise, Overdeliver
“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 of Hudson Tire Center Inc., Hudson, FL
We know the 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 may even 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 it takes and then call up 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.
4. A Professional - Looking 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. 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 are some important elements your website must have which will help convert lookers to actual appointments. These include (but are not limited to): testimonials from happy customers, your address, phone number, a map/directions to your location on your home page, and way to schedule an appointment online through your website.
Something to note: approximately 30% of your website traffic comes from mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, so make sure that your website is mobile friendly.
5. Always Be Marketing
“One mistake that auto repair shop owners make is that they assume that if their shop is busy; it will always 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.“
My client, 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 almost 20 years ago when he was just 24 years old. And, in spite of having no previous business ownership experience, he 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. 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.”
Wendy Kenney owns 23 Kazoos, a marketing and PR firm that specializes in auto repair shop marketing. She is also the best-selling author of How to Build Buzz for Your Biz. To learn more about Wendy or 23 Kazoos, email her atwnkenney@23Kazoos.com or visit www.23Kazoos.com.
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