I haven't met or talked to a shop owner that wouldn't like more business, and whether they express that in getting more car count or making more money, it all boils down to the same.
The problem most face is that the bulk of information out there today avoids three simple things that will make a huge difference.
Here's what I mean. For the most part, marketing help always seems to concentrate only on getting new customers, always neglects follow-up strategies and never gives enough credit to customer referrals.
In reality, these are three simple things you can deploy right now—and I mean right now (like before 5 p.m. today). Here's help on how to do it:
Concentrating only on getting new customers
The fact of the matter is that in today's market, it actually costs almost 20 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Just look at all the different ways to advertise. (Read that as “different ways to spend your money,” okay?)
On the other hand, do yourself a favor and check how many new customers from 12 months ago are still active with you. You may be surprised. In a lot of the shops I work with it's typically under 30 percent. So all the money you spent to attract that customer is gone. If you're not interested in keeping that customer you're basically saying “their money doesn't spend the same.”
The simple fact today is that more and more companies are beginning to realize that they've got to put a fence around their customers and do everything they can to keep them. In other words, they're learning that “old” is the new “new.” After all, those customers already know and trust you, don't they? That's half the battle!
Always neglecting follow-up strategies
“No” today is just that—“no” today. That can change and often does. Most shop owners forget that people lead busy lives. The repair or recommendation you make today just may not be that important to your customer right now. It doesn't matter why it's not important to them—and you may never know—but you can't stop without a follow up.
One shop I recently started to work with had run a holiday promotion at the end of 2013 to a list of about 1,100 people. We organized a follow-up to all those who did not respond. Technically, they would be called unconverted leads.
Just 21 days after, the follow-up returned an ROI of just over 380 percent. That means every marketing dollar that went out the door come home with a few of its friends.
Am I telling you that a 380-percent ROI is phenomenal? No, but on the other hand, why don't you call your banker and ask him what he'll give you in 21 days on your money? Go ahead—I'll wait.
Never talk about customer referrals
This is a real sticky point with me. Why? Because almost every shop owner I hear from moans about the same thing. “If I could just get more ‘good' customers!” seems to be a common complaint. Most feel that's the solution to improving business.
Funny thing is, I agree. More good customers are always welcome. But it seems to be some kind of huge mystery about how to actually get more of those good customers.
Let me simplify it for you. Who do you think is the best to lead a duck to water? Answer: another duck!
That's the crux of a properly organized customer referral system. (The operative word there is “system”) Yes, for the most part, customer referrals don't just happen by themselves. But being proactive and working on getting your good customers to send you their friends, family, associates and coworkers should be a vital part of your auto shop marketing.
Why? There's really three big reasons. First of all, the costs to set up a proactive customer referral system are nominal. Secondly, it can be a highly targeted effort. If you've got those customers that you really don't want more of, leave them out of your effort. Third—and most important—there really isn't any big expense to getting referrals until the job is actually in your shop. That's like telling the ad salesman that you'll cut him a check for every customer his ad sends.
If you're not going to focus on keeping your existing customers, building follow up systems and becoming proactive on customer referrals, you're overlooking opportunities to grow your business, get more good customers and earn serious profits.
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