To start, I would like to wish each of you a happy and prosperous New Year! But let's not waste any time to make sure it's the best year you've ever had.
Typically, this is the time of the year where most of us look back and create somewhat of a report card for our shops and try to determine what we can do or change to make improvements. It's also the time of year that I get asked to glance into my crystal ball (as murky as it can be) for predictions or recommendations of marketing strategies that are working.
To start, the first thing I always tell shop owners (and it's one of my favorite sayings) is that "nothing changes if nothing changes." Besides being easy to remember, it is the truth. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, right? So with the start of a new year, there's no better time than now to make a change.
From my own recent experiences with shop owners—and watching other retail type companies and markets—the good ones are much more focused on creating a better customer experience while building better relationships.
In the auto service market, one of the best and easiest ways to do this is to create and publish your own company newsletter. And when I say newsletter, I mean a real, printed, ink-on-paper newsletter that you mail to your customers.
First of all, understand that there's a huge difference between a printed newsletter and an e-newsletter. To drive my point home, ask yourself this question: What would you think if your mother sent you a birthday card by e-mail? I rest my case—there is a difference.
But before you run screaming, consider the following. Here's what a printed monthly customer newsletter can do for your repair shop:
- Though this isn't scientific data, from most shop owners I talk with, typically less than 30 percent of new customers stay as customers. You can check your numbers just by taking a look at new customers from a year ago. Are all of them still active customers? When you consider the cost of acquiring new customers, the cost of a newsletter is cheap!
- Here's one most shop owners forget about: It's not your customer's job to remember you. Really, think about it. There is no shortage of competition, right? To top it off, there's no shortage of advertising messages that pound away at your customers, right? A monthly customer newsletter keeps your shop in front of them month after month.
- There is no other "non-salesy" way to maintain contact with your customer and get your message delivered 100 percent of the time, period. That's right, it's a newsletter, not a bunch of coupons and offers. Your newsletter should be about communicating with your customer on a much more personal level. You should be including fun stuff and personal stories, not just business stuff. Look at it this way. If your dentist sent you a newsletter, how excited would you be to read about "root canal just for fun?" Not at all, I'm sure.
- A printed publication helps build authority and establish credibility in your market while separating you from your competitors.
With more and more of the "better-run companies" working hard to focus on the customer experience and building better customer relationships, a real, printed newsletter is an excellent strategy to give your repair shop a boost in 2014 and beyond. They're simple to organize, really effective and will become a valuable strategy to help you better focus on your customer. Better yet, you can get started right now from the computer you're reading this on.
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.