I've created literally hundreds of auto shop marketing campaigns and strategies, and I've discovered 38 critical details as a result of tracking, testing, measuring and verification. Below I've listed the first 11.
1. It's the most important decision. I've learned that the effect of your marketing on your sales depends more on this decision than on any other. How should you position your shop? How do you want customers to perceive you?
As an example, Coca-Cola could be positioned as refreshing soft drink or as a good mixer. You could position Dove hand soap as a product for dry skin or as the best way to get your hands clean.
The results of your marketing depends less on what you actually say than how your shop is positioned or perceived. Positioning your shop should be decided before the marketing is started.
2. Make a large promise. Most auto repair shop marketing promises nothing, and for that reason it's doomed to fail. Your promise isn't a claim, it's not a theme and it's not your slogan or USP. Your big promise must be a benefit for the customer.
You'll be more successful if your promise is a unique benefit—one that your customer wants. It's important that your service delivers the benefit that you promise. As Samuel Johnson said, “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”
3. Congruency. Don't confuse congruency with building a brand. Unlike direct response strategies that can be measured for its effectiveness and return on investment, brand-building advertising cannot.
Furthermore, building your brand doesn't put cars in your service bays.
About 95 percent of all auto shop marketing is created ad hoc—with some “half baked” immediate purpose in mind. It's never consistent and it's not congruent. It changes from one campaign to another—from one year to another. When you dedicate your marketing to being congruent you'll get the biggest share of the market.
4. Big ideas. Unless your marketing is built on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. It takes a big idea to jolt the customer out of his indifference, to make him or her notice you, remember your message and take action.
Big ideas usually are simple. Charles Kettering, the great General Motors inventor once said, “This problem, when solved, will be simple.” Big, simple ideas are not easy to come by. They require genius. A truly big idea can be continued for a long time.
5. Make it like a first-class ticket. It pays to give your auto shop and service an image of quality—like a first class ticket. I've been successful using this strategy, but it has to be part of every piece of marketing you do. If your advertising looks ugly or confusing, consumers will conclude that your service is shoddy. They will be less likely to become customers.
6. Don't be boring. Nobody was ever bored into buying anything. Yet I find most auto shop marketing is impersonal, detached, cold and even dull.
It pays to involve the customer. Talk to him or her like a human being. Use conversational terms. Charm them. Make them hungry.
7. Innovate. Start trends instead of following them. Nearly all auto repair shop marketing I see follows what I call the “look across the street” strategy.
Most auto repair advertising that I've seen looks identical to every other shop. For the most part, shop owners copy, follow, imitate, model or replicate what everyone else is doing. That's never effective—rarely, if ever successful—and it never makes any one particular shop stand out. It pays well to innovate and blaze new trails.
8. Be suspicious of those selling cute, creative work. Creative people want you to believe it's their creativity—that new thing, the latest advertising fad, that shiny jewel—that will be the key to your success. I have been unable to establish any correlation whatsoever between cute, creative work, high-priced logos and sales.
I'm of the belief that the only good marketing campaign is one that creates the most sales. Successful marketing sells your service without drawing attention to itself. Make your service the hero of your marketing.
9. Psychological attraction to pull your customers to you. I often ask show owners if they want to “court or clobber” their prospects.
Good marketing should position your shop for the demographic segment that you're pursuing. For example, which segment are you trying to attract? Female car owners? Import car owners? Truck and off-road market? I've learned that it often pays to position your shop for psychological segments of the market you want to attract.
10. Don't bury news. It's far easier to interest your customers and prospect in a service when it's new than at any other point in its life. In my experience, most shop owners fatally bury the news.
Most auto shop marketing fails to exploit the opportunity that genuine news provides. It's only new once. That's why I've found that it pays to launch your news with a big bang!
11. Go the whole nine yards. Most auto shop marketing, in reality, is way too complicated. Owners typically start with a long list of objectives and try to accomplish all of them in one piece of advertising. If you attempt to make your marketing do too many things you typically achieve nothing.
It pays to boil down your strategy to one simple promise and go the whole nine yards in delivering that promise.
Next time I'll list the strategies I've found work best online.
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.