When speaking with shop owners, I often ask them how many "doors" they have to their business.
Of course, speaking to them in person, I typically get one of those long stares back with a question mark lingering in the air. Over the phone, there is usually a long pause of silence. Either way, the hesitation is typically followed by a question that goes something like, "How many doors do I need?"
First of all, I am speaking metaphorically. I use the term "doors" because it's really easy to relate to. When talking with shop owners, the point is that I'm trying to find out how many different ways you have to attract new customers to come into your business.
Having just one way to do that will certainly limit your growth and frankly, in today's new economy, it could lead to disaster. Though we're discussing marketing your shop, if you think about it, having just one of any source of supply for your business is limiting. But that's a conversation for another time.
When I look at the typical repair shop, most shops just follow what the others in their market are doing. That means you, as a shop owner, can't stand out in your market. You're just like the other guy.
However, what's worse is that following the other shop means you are limiting the number of doors you open to let new customers come through.
As an example, the typical repair shop will do some type of advertising—be it postcards, flyers or coupons. The actual medium doesn't matter. But what's important to understand is that one tactic really only represents one door.
Above that, when you follow the other guy, your actual advertising probably looks and feels a lot like his too. So you're not only limiting the number of doors, but you're not standing out in your market.
How can you fix this? For starters, you've got to consider different mediums for marketing. Look around you. How many of your customers carry, use and rely on smartphones? Now take a smartphone and look at your shop website. If you don't have a mobile-friendly website, ask yourself if you would bother to pinch and squeeze your screen to read your site. I doubt it.
If you do have a mobile friendly site, how quick and easy is it for me, as a customer to connect with you? One tap to call or text? Or do I have to fumble with a pen and paper to write down your phone number on the back of my take-out-sandwich-wrapper so that I can call you?
But don't stop with your website. There's a host of other strategies that are proven profitable ways of generating new and repeat customers.
Consider strategies like:
- Customer referral programs – This is key to getting more good customers. After all, who is best to lead a duck to water? Another duck. So target your best customers with a customer referral program that offers immediate rewards that don't include discounts from your services. Take your rewards outside of your business. Coffee cards, movie tickets, coupons for pizza—those are just a few to consider.
- Local community groups – Any social groups, including church groups, where members have a common bond are excellent places to market your shop. You can easily create members-only offers just for them. Understand that those members will typically go further to participate in those members-only benefits because it leverages their membership. It's a benefit that's not offered to others.
- Contests and draws – Create customer-only prizes where every repair order gets a ticket into a draw. Make sure the draw is run over several months to encourage current customers to return and promote that draw in every marketing piece you run.
- Continuity programs – This is one of the best strategies to keep customers coming back to you. Remember, it's not your customer's job to remember you. You've got to work at that. In addition, the continuity card programs help your customer to create a habit of coming to you for service.
- Free trial offers – Okay, I know nobody likes the freebie offer. But it's one strategy you can use to entice new customers to try your service. Create offers for free services that are tied to a purchase of another service at a regular price. Be sure to create a value for that free service too. There is a huge difference between telling people you'll include a free tire rotation with whatever service, as opposed to getting $19 free service when they visit for that other service. Adding the value makes a difference.
If you've read this far, thinking that you're already doing these types of promotions, consider tweaking them to make each one more responsive. After all, even the marketing masters will tell you that nothing replaces testing. You will never know how good your marketing is until you test it against the changes.
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.