The only bad question is the one that doesn't get asked, but here's the one question that I get asked most often:
"What is the best strategy you have to help me increase my car count?" Frequently people who ask this add "right away" to the end.
The bad news is, I don't have a single, silver-bullet strategy that will fix or improve your car count. The good news is neither does anyone else.
I will often explain to shop owners that I just don't have that one strategy to get them 30 or 40 new customers a month. But I do have 30 or 40 strategies that will get you one. Are you interested?
The point I am trying to make is that there really is no simple answer. Besides, every shop, every owner and every market is a little different. So there just can't be a one-size-fits-all solution.
But here's the top seven tips I can give you that will help get you on the right path to successful marketing of your repair shop.
Create a system. The fact of the matter is that money is never made by accident. I'm not talking about that one-in-a-million lottery win or the luck of finding money on the street. When it comes to your business, you've got to think in terms of systems. That includes testing different formats and mediums. That also means you must consider various marketing vehicles—postcards, direct mail, online strategies and email marketing, just to name a few of the more common ones.
Be consistent. Mailing a few thousand postcards four times a year is not consistent. I consider that drive-by advertising. Above that, it's not your customer's job to remember you. That's your job.
Don't imitate. When you imitate all the other repair shop marketing, you'll never stand out. When you emulate all the other advertising, you can't give your prospective customer a reason to pick you.
You've got to concentrate on making your shop unique. When it comes to the dictionary, unique is defined as "unlike any other." But so much of the auto shop advertising I see looks like all the rest of the shops. So how could that make you stand out? What makes you different? In fact, the most important question that your advertising should answer is, "What's the reason I (as your prospect) should pick you over all other options?"
Don't ignore all those car owners that may be interested, but don't need your services today. You've got to think in terms of "hard" and "soft" offers. The hard offer is your "come in and buy this for that price." That's fine, but if I don't need that service you're trying to sell me, your advertising dollar goes wasted. Now, if you add a soft offer, like a downloadable eBook, white paper or special report, you generate a lead. That's somebody who's interested, but not ready to buy right now.
Don't be concerned with response rates. Focus on ROI (Return on Investment). Face it. You don't bank response rates. You bank ROI. The only thing that matters is creating campaigns that bring in more work than they cost.
You must have a strong call to action and a mechanism to track it. To put it bluntly, if you can't track and measure it, don't do it. This component must be included in every piece of marketing you produce. Otherwise, you'll never know what's working (and worth keeping) and what's not.
Continue to repeat everything that works and eliminate everything that doesn't. Now that may sound a little basic, but so many times shop owners get tired of that same old postcard and want to spruce it up. If it continues to produce results, why stop? Besides, there's only one group of people that get a vote on that—it's your customers.
Following these seven tips will help you develop a marketing system that's both reliable and profitable.
Just remember, when it comes to marketing, focus on making every dollar that goes out the door come back to you with a few of its friends.
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.