In all of its various forms and applications, marketing has proven to be the mechanism of not only sustaining a business but also growing it – no matter the circumstances.
We’ve seen this principle play out over the past few months, as shops have leveraged marketing strategies to remind customers that they’re open for business, and more. Shops have reached out to hundreds of customers each day, posted on all social media platforms, increased their Google Ads budgets and implemented other strategies to keep their businesses top-of-mind in their respective markets.
Each customer knew they could ask that shop anything. From contactless pick-up and delivery to filling up their gas tank or picking up some essential groceries – these customers knew that their repair shop was available to help. Successful shops knew brand positioning was invaluable during this unique time. Plus, at the end of the day, it was the right thing to do for their communities.
Donny Yeoman, owner of Yeoman Service Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, knew his leadership and management skills would be tested. But he was prepared and ready for the challenge.
Yeoman knew just staying calm was important – for himself and his team. Exuding a sense of calm and knowing his business could get through the crisis automatically brought calm and a sense of job security to his team.
And most importantly, Yeoman knew he had to keep his car count up. He knew that by focusing on that key element, he would be able to continue with his calm and in-control demeanor for his staff. Yeoman found that his most effective marketing actions were a combination of a few specific initiatives.
Yeoman immediately increased his weekly ad spend by another $100 for Google Ads. This practical and highly effective spend ensured that the calls would keep coming into his shop. The Yeoman Service Center phones have continued to ring during the crisis.
Yeoman also engaged his customers with one-on-one texts.
These weren’t meant as a sales message, but rather a check-in with customers to make sure they were OK, and to see if they needed anything. Yeoman responded to each customer’s response, which on some days took hours because of the volume of replies. But Yeoman was more than happy to spend his time that way.
PR is part of marketing, and Yeoman also wanted to do something to help his local business community. He partnered with a pizza shop that had posted an ad for help or the shop was going out of business. Yeoman bought 150 pizzas, with each pizza going to a child and their parent who was now home-schooling because of the pandemic. The word got out and the pizza shop was able to bring back all of its furloughed employees. Plus, they were very busy – so much so that they ran out of food on more than one occasion. So with this one action, Yeoman brought attention to a fellow local business that needed help as well the issue of parents now home-schooling their kids – and Yeoman’s name was included in the outreach. It was a true win-win for all involved.
Because of Yeoman’s laser focus on marketing and how that effected his car count and team, he was able to hire an additional service advisor in the middle of the crisis, and his sales in April increased 12% compared to April 2019. His business is strong and stable with reserves in the bank.
“Although this is a third-generation shop, I’m a young owner and on my own in many ways,” Yeoman says. “DRIVE proved to be the backbone I needed to get through the crisis. They gave me the coaching and confidence to get through this. I didn’t just sustain my business, but it actually grew – from my revenues and my car count to my standing in the community.”
Chris Probst of Bill’s Crestmoor Automotive in Denver believes the crisis brought out the best in people – her team, herself and her customers. But at the start of the crisis, Probst wasn’t sure she would be able to keep the doors open. The challenge she had in front of her was enormous. How do you stay open, keep the team intact and come out the other side – if not in the same condition, at least well enough to stay in business?
The crisis brought a new level of importance to all of her marketing actions. She needed to implement them quickly and it needed to work – not next month, but right now.
Google Ads had an immediate impact. Starting with just $100 per week as her budget, that quickly grew to $400 per week. Probst now has grown her car count by over 30% compared to just a few months ago. And she’s averaging 15 new customers each week.
Probst wanted all of her marketing outreach to be authentic, from her Facebook posts to emails, texts and calls. It was important that a person reading any of her messages would know that Probst wrote them, so each post and email was heartfelt and personal.
At the height of the crisis, her shop was making more than 100 calls per day to customers. The purpose of these “goodwill calls” was to check in, make sure customers were doing OK and see if they needed anything. This program had a wonderful effect on her team; they felt what they were doing really mattered. The calls made them feel essential in a time of upheaval. It made a tight team even tighter, and grateful they could make a difference. Through this action, Probst was able to activate past customers, some of whom she hadn’t seen in decades.
Probst also launched a nurse-appreciation program in Denver, inspired by another DRIVE client, Dave Bloom from PineAire Trucking, who started the program in New York. The program helped recognize a local nurse and it helped a local restaurant. Once a week after customers nominated their favorite nurse, the winner was picked out of a hat. The winner then received a $100 gift certificate to her favorite restaurant. In doing this, Probst helped a local business owner, plus she recognized a first responder.
This type of initiative helps the community as well as the individuals involved, and it gets the shop’s name out there. The end result is something that’s beneficial for all – including the Bill’s Crestmoor team, who felt involved and that they were doing something good for their community. It was a true morale booster.
“I’m so proud of my shop and my team,” Probst beams. “We got through the crisis and the end result is that the business is even stronger than before. The marketing we did and the level of excellent customer service shown through in everything we did. The success we have had over the past few months is unbelievable. I learned so much and I’m even more confident now in my leadership skills than before. I’m so grateful to be with DRIVE. Learning from my business advisor plus the awesome networking with other shop-owner clients has proven to be invaluable.”