Marketing Guru Seth Godin states “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”
Storytelling is one of society’s oldest art forms, and is the method of sharing our experiences, culture and what we’ve learned sometimes firsthand and, in many cases, secondhand. Every tribe, community and clan has used storytelling to pass traditions and recommendations down to generations that follow. Storytelling allows us to step into another person’s shoes without having to experience something firsthand.
Marketing can be a form of storytelling – a method of getting your shop’s story out into your community and passed down to succeeding generation of drivers. Many shops have second-, third- and fourth-generation customers visit them for services. I understand the reward of taking care of a customer’s car because his/her grandpa said our shop was the place he trusted to take care of his car! He shared his story of his experience at our shop, which, in turn, became a recommendation and created a new customer.
So, let’s explore five marketing techniques that will get your customers sharing great stories about your shop.
What You See is What You Get
Image, they say, is everything. The adage, “You never have a second chance to make a first impression” has never been more appropriate than in today’s automotive industry. How you are perceived sets the bar in many ways.
Will you be looked upon as an expert who provides top-notch service and commands a high rate the customer is glad to pay for? Consider Starbucks: coffee, ice and some flavoring in a cup equals a drink that customers will gladly pay $6 for.
At nearly every other location, that same drink is half the price. What’s different? Presentation, professionalism and the stories we share are key reasons.
It’s the Time of the Season…
Seasonal marketing is a fantastic way to drive your marketing calendar. Keep in mind that, while there are four traditional seasons, there are many more less traditional seasonal opportunities.
Consider promoting service for the New Year, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Spring Break, Back to School and many more.
Here in Houston, we have Rodeo Time every March! Identifying with non-traditional but well-recognized seasons will give you an edge because, in many cases, there is emotion tied to the upcoming season.
At the beginning of every year, most of us have a brighter outlook and a renewed desire to take care of the things that are important to us. At my shop, we had a program in place to capitalize on this emotion. Each year, we’d run a “Car Physical” promotion that hit our customers inboxes or regular mail right at the beginning of the year. The results were always outstanding and generated car count, sales dollars and future work.
We Stand For…
Adopting a cause that the employees of your shop can support brings the team together around a common element as they do something positive for the community.
Kim Walker, of Shop Marketing Pros, and her team assist shop clients each year in promoting the Brakes for Breasts campaign. Kim said, “In this campaign shop owners secure no-cost brake pads from their parts supplier and, in turn, pass those savings on to the customer. The shop is able to make a donation to Brakes for Breasts which raises money for a breast cancer vaccine. It’s a wonderful campaign that is easy for shops to get behind.
“Your marketing needs to tell a story that helps your audience get to know, like, and trust you. Participating in opportunities like Brakes for Breasts (BrakesForBreasts.com) is just one of many highly effective ways at sharing a message designed to increase how well customers know, like and trust your shop.”
Who we are…
Matt Mevert of Mevert Automotive and Tire Center in southwestern Illinois holds an Open House each May to promote engagement between his team and customers.
Matt says, “The primary purpose is to share our mission more intimately with our customers. We invite them into the shop to have lunch with us, ask us questions, meet the entire staff including the technicians, and take part in informative conversations. We generally just want to be transparent with how we care for their vehicle and look after them when we are servicing their cars and trucks. Our customers love the event and our team really enjoys the opportunity to spend time with our customers in a more relaxed atmosphere. This helps May to be one of our best months for sales.”
You don’t say…
Sometimes, the quiet approach is just as effective. Brian Rex of Fleet Service in Beverly, WA, says, “I am not much of a marketing guy. My approach has always been to let my reputation and word of mouth be heard.” Brian’s approach follows what a lot of shop owners feel, that their work should speak for itself and customers will continue to flow. In almost all cases we have found that approach limits the growth of a shop, but it’s hard to argue with Brian’s approach. From the time he purchased his shop, he’s grown sales from less than $1 million to a multi-store operation with multiple seven-figure annual sales.
The key here is to know your market and understand what works with your current and future customers, whether it is word of mouth or traditional marketing efforts.
Measure and manage…
Management expert Peter Drucker famously stated, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Setting goals to measure your return on investment for every marketing program gives you the ammunition you need to steer good money away from wasteful programs and ensure your maximum return on capital invested. When you apply effort and track your marketing, it sheds light on the non- or underperforming programs you need to eliminate and opens the door to investing more money into what is working.
Mailers and coupons are designed to bring a new customer through your door. They can be effective, but the greatest obstacle to this method’s success is customer retention – most coupons are redeemed at that visit only. When measuring first-time customer return rate, we have found that even the best shops will see a new customer for a second visit only 49% of the time! If you decide to use discounts and mailers to drive new customers, add a bounce-back offer to increase the likelihood of seeing them a second time.
Spend your marketing dollars wisely by allocating 25% toward new customer acquisition and 75% toward retention of existing customers. You can improve your chances of seeing a customer a second time by designing your marketing piece to include an incentive for a return visit.
Whether you are more relational in your approach or show care for your community by supporting a cause, tell a story that conveys the benefits a customer will receive by patronizing your shop. When you do, you will find customers who will identify with your culture and values. These customers are less interested in price and more interested in the value of working with a shop that is in business to make an impact.
What stories will your customers share about you and your shop?
Shop owners, have you considered working with a business coach? Drop me an email or call and mention this article to set up a free 30-minute, no-obligation coaching session.
Email me your contact information and I’ll send you a marketing tracking tool to use to measure the effectiveness of your marketing elements.