I invest a lot of time researching what's working in today's marketing. I just spent over 16 months looking at more than 637 repair shops exploring what's working. In doing that, I uncovered these five dangerous trends that every shop owner faces.
When you understand them, it becomes easy to see how you should be spending your marketing dollars and (more importantly) how your marketing may actually be driving customers to your competitor.
Clutter and confusion: If nobody has told you it's pretty much common knowledge that we're bombarded with messages (of all kinds) every day. So how do you stand out in the clutter and confusion? How do you get new prospects to choose you? What's critical is to be able to stand out and be found where car owners are actually looking. (More on that a little later.)
Increased competition: I probably didn't have to tell you this, but think about it for a minute. Competition comes from all different angles. From the new guy who just opened up to the price cutter down the street. Then there's the big box stores and national chains. Add to that the new car dealers who are becoming more aggressive at targeting your customer.
Interestingly, we uncovered a Forbes article detailing a Sageworks study. (Sageworks is a financial information company.) The study looked at how independent repair shops compare to the new car dealers when it comes to service and repair work.
Their findings were disturbing if you're an independent. The independent auto service sector is, as of 2013, experiencing a growth rate of 1.7 percent compared to the dealers' 11.8. Add to that the fact that independents, on average, only take home about 2 cents for every dollar brought in. Ouch.
Peter Brown, a Sageworks analyst said “these numbers make the independent auto service sector one of the slowest growing of all industries.”
Increased costs of marketing and the diminishing returns: Shop owners constantly complain about poor results from various campaigns and the fact that they struggle to make them break even, let alone profitable.
Part of that is due to the ever increasing number of platforms and media. How many different places do you have to advertise?
If you want to be cost effective, you need to be serious about being in front of the car owners where they're actually looking—not necessarily where you think they should be looking.
‘Eat what you kill' and neglecting ‘lead generation': I see it all the time. Flyers, postcards and all sorts of marketing that screams, “Buy me, buy me.” The fact of the matter is that less than 2 percent of your market is actively looking for service or repairs at any given time—so your screaming is falling on deaf ears.
On the other hand, generating leads and then converting them to customers once you've had an opportunity to demonstrate your authority is, by far, the easiest way to bring in new customers.
How do you do that? With simple information. In fact, statistics show that requests for free information is the highest converting free offer, either on or off line. So what about “The 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Repair Shop Before You Book an Appointment” or other helpful information that instantly puts you in the authority position?
You can make these downloadable items from your website or small brochure type reports that get mailed out.
Either way, they separate you from the competitor and help establish you as the authority in your market while they get prospects to know, trust and like you before they need your service. As you develop your list of prospects (leads) you focus your marketing to those as they already have an interest in what you're doing. It's a lot less expensive—and far more fruitful.
Ignoring where car owners are actually looking: I say this tongue in cheek, but ONLY 96 percent of computer owners do searches for local business on-line. On top of that, surveys reflect that 79 percent of smartphone users and 81% of tablet owners do the exact same!
Google reports that there are more than 30 billion mobile searches annually, and about 12 billion (or about 40 percent of them) are local searches.
Even better, it's claimed that almost 80 percent of those mobile searches end up in a sale. In fact, eMarketer reports that local mobile searches are expected to exceed desktop searches for the first time in 2015.
If that's not enough, Google claims they conduct over 30 million click-to-calls each month. (Click to calls are from a mobile friendly site where the user doesn't have to copy your number down—they just click or tap to connect!)
So what does your repair shop look like on a smartphone? Just because your site can be accessed doesn't mean it's doing anything. Actually, it could be driving business to your competition!
When surveyed, smartphone users claim they will not pinch and squeeze to view a website that is impossible to read. An Icebreaker Consulting study revealed when a site is impossible to read, 40 percent of mobile users click to another site; 46 percent of them are unlikely to return; and if that's not bad enough, 34 percent said they would visit a competitor's website.
What's the one fix?: Get serious about your online presence. It used to be that having a mobile responsive website was a nice feature—today it's a must.
But just having a mobile responsive site may not be enough. When going mobile, it's important to consider what information your website makes visible first. I say that because my rule of thumb is that, the smaller the screen, the more important SOME information becomes.
Although smartphone users do watch video and read articles on their phone—if you're in the service business, contact info, maps and coupons are most critical and must display first.
But with literally thousands of local auto service related searches being done in every market across North America, it's time you seriously look at what those users are seeing – and make it easy for them to find you, call you and visit you.
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.