I've been working with auto repair shop owners for several years, helping them increase their car count and get more customers—especially those "good" ones. In my experience, some chase "unicorns," looking for that one single strategy that will solve all the problems and produce lineups of customers and fountains of cash.
Unfortunately, like those "unicorns," that single strategy doesn't exist. But the problem is that while chasing the latest social media platform or some other "must have" latest and greatest strategy, shop owners overlook and ignore an old media that's proven to work. In fact, statistics show that it's been working so well that those using it don't talk about it too much. That's because they fear killing the goose that's laying the golden egg.
So what is that powerful, dirt-cheap marketing strategy? It's e-mail. Yes! And by today's standards, it's almost considered as "old fashioned." But e-mail marketing continues to deliver results time and time again. Yet shop owners still seem to be ignoring it.
Almost every auto repair shop website I've visited boasts a newsletter registration. Yet, for the hundreds of them that I've signed up for—they never seem to follow through. I can't remember the last time I got a message from any of them.
Before we fix that, it's important to understand why e-mail works so well today. I agree that years ago, e-mail was somewhat overused and usually without any specific purpose. It became, for the lack of a better word, "spammy."
But today, with the influx of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, people don't have to be strapped to their desk to get your message. They get their e-mail wherever they are. In fact, some statistics indicate that as many as 45 percent of e-mail messages are being opened on mobile devices. Better yet, when the message is personalized, the recipient is even more likely to open it and click through to a website.
So how can you as a shop owner benefit from e-mail marketing? First of all, it's another great channel to stay in touch with your customers and prospects. When it comes to business and marketing, the worst number you can have is one. Relying on only one channel for marketing is leaving yourself exposed—if not setting yourself up for failure.
In addition, e-mail lets you easily direct the recipient to specific pages of your website. Point them to specific and timely offers. Share simple service tips. Help them understand the simple things they should know to avoid unexpected roadside breakdown. Share your latest customer testimonials. When you take the time to look, the typical repair shop has a lot of information they should be sharing to stay in front of their customers and keep them engaged.
How do you do it? It's really pretty simple. All you need to get started are the services of an "auto responder." That's an online system that collects names and e-mail addresses and then sends out your messages. Those messages can be a pre-programmed series (for service tips, pointers and money saving help) or broadcasts of offers, which you can send to subscribers whenever you want. It's the perfect solution for instant delivery of specials or customer-only offers.
The typical auto responder service is available from several prominent suppliers online. Basic service starts as low as $15 to $20 a month, and that will usually cover you for several hundred subscribers and unlimited e-mail messages.
What's best about this strategy? It's what I like to call "Rinse and Repeat" marketing. You set it up once and it keeps delivering. Best of all, you can learn from the mistakes that some of the major retailers have made.
Both the National Retail Foundation and IBM Digital Analytics have reported on e-mail marketing. They've shown that for every dollar spent, e-mail marketing outperformed Web search, Internet ads and social media—and it did so by impressive margins too.
If I haven't been able to convince you in this short article, do a quick Internet search for "the Agora Model." It's become the new paradigm for e-mail marketing that's actually built a $290 Million business. How did they do that? They got permission to contact people through the opt-in registration. They established relationships with those people, providing them something of value. Doing that establishes familiarity with the recipients—they didn't feel like they were being sold.
When you follow that simple model, your messages build your credibility, the trust people have in you and they're not perceived as advertising. Subscribers do respond—often with their wallets wide open.
Matthew Lee, is an automotive service marketing specialist and author of the book, "The Official Guide to Auto Service Marketing," which offers "no-cost" and "low-cost" marketing strategies for auto service businesses. For a free copy of the book, visit www.JustTheBestMarketing.com.