Auto shop owners got into the auto repair industry for two reasons: they want to work on cars and they want to make a living doing it. You started your own business to do the thing you are skilled at on your terms as your own boss.
In order to work on cars, of course, you need customers, and the way you draw customers is through marketing. Most auto shop owners don’t have a degree in marketing and don’t want to do it themselves, so they hire a marketing firm.
However, simply hiring a marketing team isn’t going to automatically bring in more business and, in fact, can lose you money if you don’t take the proper steps before hiring an outside firm to market your auto shop. Here are a few things you need to do before hiring a marketing firm.
Know your business and how to talk about it
Many business owners have a concept in their heads of what makes them and their businesses unique. Automotive professionals are no exception. You know the work you specialize in and what types of cars you are most passionate about working on. Strangely, many shop owners struggle to explain that skill set to their marketing team.
You cannot hire a marketing team and expect that team to perfectly understand and curate a marketing strategy for your shop without your help. No marketing team can do that and, when they fail, that failure will be on you, not the marketing team.
No one knows your business better than you do so you have to establish enough confidence in yourself to tell that marketing team what you do best. Your team will be experts in marketing, but you are the expert on your business. I recommend that every shop owner sit down, brainstorm and write down the things that make them and their company unique. Knowing these qualities will help you and your marketing team turn your internal knowledge into a coherent marketing message.
When compiling these qualities I recommend putting them in two categories: “I hope so” and “Tell me more.”
The “I hope so” category is for qualities that you think are unique or something a customer wants to hear, but the customer actually considers it to be a minimum standard. For example, you might advertise that your shop uses quality parts or hires certified mechanics. These are good standards to have, of course, but customers will say, “Well, I would HOPE you use quality parts and hire certified mechanics!” Hyping up the bare minimum is not how you want to promote your business.
The “Tell me more” category includes qualities of your business that are actually unique or helpful to the customer. This could be a unique service or promoting a qualification that is uncommon in your marketplace. For example, maybe you are a Porsche technician who worked for or was certified by Porsche in Germany. This is a legitimate quality that entices the client and makes them want to know more about you and your business.
Know why you are hiring a marketing team
This may seem obvious, but many shop owners don’t actually know why they are hiring a marketing team. Don’t get me wrong – many think they know, but they have the wrong idea about what the goal of marketing is. Not understanding the reason for hiring a marketing team will lead you to hire a bad marketing team, and hiring a bad marketing team will lose you a lot of money.
Why are you doing marketing? In short, it’s to get more leads. The goal is not to increase brand awareness so everyone knows your company name but, frankly, to get more people in your shop paying for your services. It is important to keep this goal in mind because there are a plethora of ways to raise awareness that will not make you money. Giving people coupons for free oil changes might get more people in your shop for a day, but it isn’t giving you a real lead that will actually make you money.
You pay for marketing to get more leads, so don’t let your future marketing team forget this. Before you hire them, ask what it means to be successful in a marketing campaign. If they start talking about impressions instead of leads, don’t hire them.
A marketing team That knows your industry
Different marketers are good at different things and successful campaigns in one industry does not mean they will be successful in the auto service industry. Shop around and talk to a few marketing firms before hiring one.
The firm you hire should ideally have some experience working in the auto repair industry. Have the marketing firm describe what they did for a campaign in your industry, and don’t forget to ask them what metrics they are using to claim that campaign was successful. Remember, if they aren’t using leads as a barometer for success they aren’t the marketing firm for you. Talk to a few marketing firms that have worked in the auto repair industry – one of them should fit your criteria.
It’s also important to remember that marketing cannot be the only path to growing your auto shop. The best way to grow any company is to continue to foster great relationships with your current customer base. Find ways to make the customers you have happy and improve your current services. A referral from a happy customer holds a lot more weight than an online lead. Marketing should only be a supplement to growth. Quality service should be the main driver.
Hiring a marketing firm is a great way to get leads and grow your auto shop; however, it is not something you want to jump into. Before you hire a marketing team, make sure you know how to talk about your business, why you want to hire a marketing team and know your marketing team’s background and values. Considering these steps before hiring a marketing team will help put your company in a better position to grow.
Adam Spooner is a co-founder of Pareto Impact Consulting, a business consulting firm helping small to medium business owners grow by delivering customized solutions that drive growth, increase profitability and create a lasting impact.