Spending your time, money and effort to fill your bays is probably one of the last things you’d want to be doing with your time right now, right? If you’re like many of the thousands of shop owners who I’ve worked with over the past 21 years, marketing probably seems like a necessary evil — something that you have to do, much like paying taxes.
After all, with both, it seems like all you’re doing is writing a big fat check to someone and getting absolutely nothing in return.
But you probably don’t need me to tell you that your customers are the lifeblood of your business, and without a constant and continuous flow of them coming through your shop every day, your business would whither and die a slow, painful death. So, how do we turn this “chore” into a lucrative, and even exciting, way to spend a few hours every month? Read on my friend!
Let’s begin by taking a look at the battle we have to fight every day in order to bring customers into the shop. If you take a look at the accompanying illustration, the arch represents the journey we must take in order to convert a prospect into a paying customer.
On the left side of the arch, the uphill side, is where we need to do a lot of the heavy lifting. In order to start the journey, we need to be able to somehow attract a prospect’s attention, build trust, give them a compelling reason to choose us over any and all competitors, and then get them to take action by coming to the shop.
Build trust? Yup! You see, most folks prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust. Think about it, if you had to hire a contractor to take care of some renovations, chances are you’d check them out online, read their reviews, look at how many “stars” they are rated, maybe watch a video they produced, or even take a peek at their website — all in an effort to get to know them a little better so that you could make an informed decision before giving them a call. If they failed at any one of these check points, you’d move on to the next until you found the right contractor that you’re most comfortable with. The same exact process goes on countless times each and every day for folks in your area who are looking for an auto repair shop.
Looking at the accompanying illustration again, the top of the arch represents the moment where the prospect has chosen you above all others, and crosses over to being a paying customer by coming into the shop and having you service their vehicle.
Finally, the right side of the arch, the downhill side, is where the relationship building happens. By the time a paying customer has gotten here, you’ve had a chance to dazzle them with your expertise and prove to them that they made an excellent choice by coming to your shop. Now all that’s left to do is wait for them to come back again, right? (Don’t answer that yet!)
NEW VS. EXISTING CUSTOMERS
I want you to keep this “journey arch” in mind when assembling your marketing plan, in the hope that you won’t underestimate the enormous task at hand when trying to fill your shop. For most shop owners, thoughts of “getting more car count” means attracting “new” customers. But that’s just the type of thinking that I hope to change right now with this article. New customer acquisition is an expensive, uphill battle, which is probably why so many shop owners have such a dislike for marketing. As promised, I’m going to show you a better, more fun and certainly more lucrative way to fill your shop.
To say we live in a distracted society today is probably an understatement. Mobile phones within arms reach, text messaging, social media, satellite radio, YouTube, Netflix and more are only partly to blame. According to several studies, the average person is exposed to more than 4,000 advertising messages every single day, so if you’re spending your money, time and effort trying to attract the attention of the general public … good luck! That postcard you just spent your hard-earned money on is only one of thousands of advertisements they’ll see today.
Because of the difficulties that I just explained, rather than investing your money to attract new customers (the uphill side of the arch), I would suggest investing a different kind of currency — time and effort — so that you can be easily found when anyone in your area is looking for service.
Just like the search for a contractor mentioned earlier in this article, your prospective customers are searching online and they’re paying close attention to the reputation that you have earned in the marketplace. Ask your customers for reviews, completely fill out your Google My Business profile to help boost your local Google ranking, upload videos and images, and maybe spend a few bucks updating your website and on local search engine optimization (SEO). Do these few very important things and you’ll have a great start in being found by prospective customers in your area, who are already looking for a shop to do business with today!
HERE’S WHERE MARKETING GETS FUN!
As you’ve probably already guessed, I want you to start focusing the majority of your efforts on the often-ignored folks who are already ready, willing and able to do business with you. This is a much smaller group that doesn’t require a large budget to market to and will respond five to 10 times as often to your advertising because they already know, like and trust you … your current customers!
“C’mon Ron! I did a great job for them when they were at my shop! Why should I waste my time and money marketing to them when they’re going to come back to me anyway?”
Well, in a perfect world, I wouldn’t be able to argue with you. You did the work right, treated them well and charged a fair price. Of course, they should come back to you … but, unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world. The reality is, quite a few are not coming back at all, and, those who are, aren’t coming back nearly as often as they should. But please don’t take my word for it! All the proof you need is right there in your own database. Check it out for yourself.
The general consensus amongst the thousands of shop owners I’ve worked with that the average vehicle on the road (which is 11.6 years years old, according to IHS Markit) should be in the shop around three visits per year. However, according to Frank Dragoni of Bolt-On Technology, who has access to real-time data for thousands of shops all over the country, the real (and shockingly low) number is actually closer to only 1.3 visits per year per vehicle.
So, you can see there is plenty more car count to be gained just by focusing on your own customers and getting them to come back more often. (Oh, and let’s not forget that most of your customers have more cars sitting in their driveways that aren’t being serviced by you either.)
When marketing to your own customers, you’re talking to a much friendlier and receptive crowd because you’re a familiar face to them. Much like you’re more likely to answer a phone call from someone whose number looks familiar (unlike all of those darn phone solicitors!), when your own customers see your name on a newsletter, postcard, email or text, they are more likely to pay attention — and that’ll help you cut through the clutter of those other ads from total strangers!
Also, unlike “new” customer attraction that requires a sizable investment in order to market to thousands of strangers in your marketplace (with lackluster results), you’ll now be able to slash your budget considerably because you’ll need to market to only hundreds of your “friends” instead, and get much better results to boot!
You already know your customers will be more receptive to your marketing and are only visiting half as many times as they should. So, there is a heck of a lot more car count to be had by continually sending direct mail, emails, texts, and even making those old-fashioned phone calls to your very own customer list to remind and incentivize them to come back.
Just imagine what your business would look like if you were able to boost your car count simply by having each and every one of your own customers come back to your shop just one more time this year? Wouldn’t that turn this marketing “chore” into something exciting that you look forward to every month? Give it a try and let me know!