Having been a shop owner, I understand that any day can erupt into a flurry of activity without any particular rhyme or reason.
Between the phone calls, customer inquiries, parts ordering, managing work flow and dealing with wrong parts, I know—it's not easy. With that said, you know you still need to spend some time to focus on the long-term health of your repair shop business. They just don't run themselves.
In today's market, if you rely on what I call “hope marketing”—doing nothing and just hoping—you're leaving yourself and the family you support in a precarious situation. Success today relies on you being able to have a constant stream of new customers, knowing what they cost you to acquire and then taking the time and effort to keep them.
To help, here's three questions I often ask shop owners when they're looking to improve their business.
1. How many ways do I have to attract new customers?
Like it or not, customers leave your business. They move away, they sell that second car or from time-to-time, they just go out and buy a new car. Heck, as much as I don't want to say it, they may even try the competition and like it.
Regardless of the reasons they leave, the fact is that they do. So the big question is, how many different ways do you have to attract new customers?
Notice I said “different” ways. In today's market, the worse number you can have is one. For openers, you should be able to attract customers and leads from your website with downloadable information. YouTube videos can be even more powerful (not to mention free). You can't ignore mobile users either, so if your site isn't mobile compatible, it's time to fix it.
Offline strategies should include postcards and direct response mail with trial offers, cross promotions with other local businesses and even promotional premiums and gifts to get the car in the door. After all, no matter how good you are, you still can't fix ‘em when they're rolling by the door, right?
2. What does it cost me to acquire a new customer?
There is no free lunch, right? So there's going to be a cost to acquire a new customer. The problem is that most shop owners don't know what that cost really is.
I'll try to shed a little light on it. Depending on your exposure and the media you use, the cost to get that customer to come in your door can range anywhere from $60 to $100 each.
In some cases, clients using Google AdWords (pay per click advertising) find that the cost to generate a phone call can be as high as $20—and that's just the call!
On the other extreme, look at a typical postcard mailing that costs $500 and only brings in 2 customers. That means you just paid $250 to acquire each of them.
Regardless of what the actual cost, it's really important that you know what it is. The only way to find out is to track and record the response and ROI from every campaign or promotion. Otherwise, your marketing could spin out of control real quickly.
3. What is my most important and valuable asset?
When asked, shop owners typically come up with a long laundry list of things like tools, equipment, scanners, vehicles—the list goes on and on. Yes, those are assets and yes, they are valuable. But are they your most valuable?
Consider this five-second acid test. If push comes to shove, could you replace any of those assets quickly or even do business for some short period of time without some of them? I'm sure you could.
Now, let me ask you this. How long would you stay in business if you didn't have customers? Better yet, how long would it take you to replace them? Without customers, there isn't a business.
That's why when talking to shop owners, I constantly stress that your customers are the most valuable asset you have—and you better start looking after them before the competition does that for you. Besides, it's far less costly to build your relationship and support your existing customers than it is to get new ones. I promise.
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.