By Bob Cooper
Elite Worldwide, Inc.
In the world of auto repair and service, one thing is certain: You are going to lose customers. They will move, no longer have a need for their vehicle, turn to one of your competitors, or buy a new vehicle and then take it to the dealer for service.
Accordingly, you need a consistent stream of new customers, and since you more than likely have competition in your community, you need to help those potential customers see that your shop is the right shop.
The way that you accomplish this goal is by identifying who your targeted customer is, and then investing in your marketing and advertising programs, along with your customer retention programs. The question is: how much money should you be investing in those programs? Well, here are the guidelines that we share with the top shops across the country.
If you have a general repair shop, a good place to start is at 4-5% of your annual sales. If you have a transmission shop, you may find that you need to increase your budget to 6-8%. Bear in mind that your budget needs to be a percentage of your “targeted” sales, not your current sales. For example, if you are currently generating $800,000 in annual sales, but your target is $1 million in sales, then your marketing budget would need to be 4-5% of $1 million, not $800,000.
The second thing you should do is something that very few shops do, which is invest at least 50% of your budget into what we at Elite Worldwide refer to as “non-traditional” advertising programs. Whereas traditional programs include media like direct mail, TV, radio and websites, non-traditional programs are comprised of media such as fund raisers, social media, car care events held at your shop, and any other advertising programs that are outside of the mainstream marketing channels typically used in your community.
Targeting ‘Gen Y’ Customers
Now here is one of our best kept secrets at Elite. We have long recognized the Y Generation (those born in 1980-1990) as the emerging market. These people are not only your customers of tomorrow, but since this generation was brought up using search and social media on their smartphones, they are often turned to by older generations who are looking for a good auto repair shop. Accordingly, we encourage all of our coaching clients to invest 50% of their non-traditional advertising budgets into programs that are specifically directed toward the Gen Y prospects in their communities. We have to remember that the first businesses to reach this emerging market will benefit the most, so why shouldn’t it be yours?
In order to get the best return on your advertising investments, there are a number of things you should do. First of all, we encourage you to explore every opportunity to use the strength of other respected brands. For example, using names such as Valvoline, Jasper Engines & Transmissions and AAA can enable you to build even more customer confidence in your brand. You will also need to monitor and measure the results of your advertising programs. Here’s how…
With all first-time customers, even if they are holding your coupon, you should ask, “By the way, may I ask who referred you to us?” When I was still operating my shops, I discovered that this question would send a strong message that we received a lot of referrals, which is a very good thing.
In addition, we discovered that many of those customers (even those with a coupon) would respond by saying something like, “I see your ads on TV all of the time.” Since brand awareness media like TV and radio is so hard to monitor, this question would often help us obtain the answers we were looking for.
We also discovered that more often than not, customers would tell us that they were referred by a friend, which indicated that the media (coupons, ads, etc.) served as the “calls to action” that prompted them to contact us. But, the customers were actually sold on us due to recommendations from their friends. We would then call our customers who gave us the referrals, and thank them for their trust in us.
In conclusion, if you want to build a base of satisfied customers, you need to know who your ideal customers are, make the right investments in the right media, monitor and measure the results, and then do an amazing job of turning those customers…into raving fans.
Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite Worldwide Inc. (www.EliteWorldwideStore.com), an ethics-based company that helps both struggling and successful shop owners take their businesses to new levels through one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top experts. The company also offers shop owners sales, marketing and management seminars, along with service advisor training. You can contact Bob at [email protected], or at 800-204-3548.