Last time we met here, I spoke about the most recent holiday selling season and some of the dismal results retailers experienced.
In contrast to that, I spoke about how that 108-year-old automobile manufacturer, Rolls Royce, was able to attain record-breaking sales numbers during this same turbulent "new economy" that we find ourselves in.
Heck, Rolls Royce even took sales records a step further by promoting their unique "bespoke" personalization options—that transferred into an overwhelming number of their vehicles being sold with additional (not to mention costly) personalization options.
My question to you is, which side of the sales forecast does your shop fall on? If you're feeling the bumps of the market, it's time to put your repair shop marketing into "4 Wheel Drive."
I borrowed the term 4 Wheel Drive because the plan focuses on four unique areas that every shop owner should utilize to build car count and profits in order to succeed and grow in today's new economy.
1. Attracting prospects: Notice I said prospects, not customers. Too many times shops try to sell directly from a postcard, flyer or other ad—and in most cases, they tell me the results (if any) don't even pay for the ad, nevermind make money.
The fact is your best source of new customers comes from your list of prospects. Those are people who have raised their hand and expressed an interest in what you're doing. One of the best ways to build your list of prospects is with free information offers. Use either downloadable eBooks or printed reports with titles like "7 questions you should ask any repair shop before booking an appointment" or "The 5 misconceptions about auto service."
When you provide that type of information, you establish your authority and credibility in the market. You let prospects get to know and trust you before you ask them to purchase or make a commitment.
The truth is that if you want to sell more, stop selling! Start helping and educating.
2. Better sales strategies: I dislike using the term "up-sell" because in so many cases it implies selling things customers don't need. I don't support or condone that. But consider bundle offers or "up-sells" to premium service packages or even extended warranties. If you're thinking your customers won't go for it, then stop thinking for your customer. You'll never sell the bigger packages unless you offer them.
Another strategy is to offer the "down-sell." Face it: every customer has different requirements. I would rather sell the cheaper job that solves the problem than not sell anything.
Also, consider the revenues available just by bringing all the manufacturer's recommended services to your customer's attention. I know they're listed in the owner's manual, but can you tell me how many customers actually read those fancy books? They're really just stuff for the glove box, right? Make it your job to present all the recommended services every time.
3. After sales support: Most shops miss this one big time. Consider that in most of the data and stats that I see working with shops, less than 30 percent of new customers remain customers for a year. If you really looked at how much it cost you to acquire those new customers you would treat them a whole lot differently. Remember, it's always less costly to keep a customer than try to get a new one.
After sales support should include things like follow-up phone calls, personal (and hand-written) thank you cards—not computer printed postcards generated by a marketing company, "customer only" offers, seasonal specials and rewards to help keep customers.
When done properly, after sales efforts should also target all those customers who were in last month but didn't purchase your then current promotion. Send them a letter and offer it to them again at the same price. It's only a postage stamp, and you'll be surprised at how few you need to respond and make your campaign deliver a positive ROI.
4. Leveraging customer referrals: There are several components to create a customer referral program that's effective. It's a lot more than just telling your existing customer that you'll give them a discount if they send you a customer.
Just doing some simple math should convince you that there really is gold in that list of customers. Consider that, generally speaking, it's claimed that the average person knows 52 others. I refer to it as "Factor 52." Now just take a list of 300-400 customers and multiply that by 52. The numbers get staggering. So you've been running around town looking for new customers and they're right under your nose—if you've got the right program and structure.
To be more effective, take your customer referral rewards outside of your business. Offering your existing customers $10, $15 or $20 cards for coffee houses or restaurants will attract a lot more attention than your discount. Regardless of what reward you offer, make the reward instant! Don't make me wait for the pay-off. You'll be surprised at the results.
In summary, there isn't any one thing that will grow your car count and profits. That's because magic bullets don't exist. But following the outline above will put your marketing into "4 Wheel Drive" and let you prosper no matter how bumpy the road ahead gets.
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.