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Advertising is a part of marketing, and needs to be targeted to your best potential customer. That being said, who is your customer? I would say after seeing your website that you are obviously focused on the carburetor market. You should look thru your sales history and determine who your customers are, What vehicle or equipment they own, what forums they might frequent, where do they live? Once you identify your ideal customer, it will be easier to target them.

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Just some quick notes without getting into a long dissertation.


1) A huge number of my clients have never heard of carburetors, but I think you can perform your specialty (carburetors and/or carb equipped vehicles), and increase your car count with some very profitable and needed service and repairs on new customer's vehicles.


2) Maybe change the name of your shop to (Pick a name) Automotive and operate Coastal Carburetor as a niche business. That way you keep and enhance your carburetor business while attracting a whole group of new customers that you can turn into clients!!$$$$$


I was in the machine shop and engine building business for over 30 years, made lots of money, but that business model is very outdated now. I changed my direction in the 90's and it has really paid off.


In your area I believe you can increase your car count and get LOTS of gravy and high profit work by servicing the masses of cars within a ten mile radius of your shop.


Money Mailer has been very good for me, and I have a HUGE number of clients that were introduced to my shop by money mailer. I am on a 30,000 traffic count in-town street, and I had to do something to increase my car count. I had several coupons redeemed today, and had some gravy jobs included.


You can reach around 10,000 homeowners with money mailer for around $400.

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carbtech72, don't overlook your current customers. They are best, most cost effective way to increase your car count and profits. Everyone wants to do the 'sexy' things like send out postcards and all that... going after new customers.


The truth of the matter is that new customers (will) cost you between $125 and $150 each. (Ouch!)


You say 'word of mouth'... but I promise nothing good happens by accident. There's strategies to easily turn your customers into "referral machines"... and do it without being a pain in the butt. But the key is, you've got to have a system. Just telling people you'll give them 10% off their next service if they send you a customer... will not work.


Also, consider targeted direct mail. We started one campaign with a client (shop) where 76 letters generated just about $16,000 in sales. Not bad, huh?


Again, the key thing was 'targeted'. Most don't realize that over 70% of the success of ANY marketing or advertising campaign is all about the target. When you blindly send out offers to a bunch of people... you get all the freebie seekers and bottom feeders.


Look at your customer list. The money is in the list!


Hope this helps
Matthew Lee
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  • 2 weeks later...



Your thoughts are so generic that they don't really help.

Word of mouth.....what are these "strategies" that you suggest? I like strategies...! What strategy can I try?

Targeted mail....A "campaign" where 76 mailers generated $16k...? Yes! What is it?

"Look at your customer list, the money is in the list"....lol.... could that be any more UN-specific? I look at my list regularly but....must be missing something...


I, like most read this post hoping to garner some insight to improve car count if not blessed with expensive real estate, might mistake your post as a promo for a promotional seminar salesman. Is that the case or can you shine a little more specific light on what you've found that might help your fellow shop owners?

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Thanks Jeff, THAT is a helpful tip! And can easily be implemented by any shop!

And my comment was actually tongue in cheek, I'm not familiar with JustTheBest, and assumed he was just one of us on here looking for help and offering help where we can. I really didn't realize that he actually WAS in that business. That might be why he sounded like a pitch for a business seminar! I meant no offense, I just mistakenly assumed that we were all in the same trench here.

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Hi GENUINE! Thanks for your comments. First of all, to start, in the particular case that I noted, I would have to explain a lot to have it all make sense. Above that, I try to help here- not sell or force anything on anyone. I'm busy with clients.


Jeff had it right - use the best customers and market to them. But market something that nobody else is. Don't use 'Buy-me, Buy-me' postcards. We used letters. Not email - not postcards - actual letters. Well written letters get response.


Sorry if I sound vague - but like I said, I am not here to sell.


The frustrating thing is that when handed a system - so many shop owners don't even TRY IT! GO figure - and I mean 'handed'.


I install a text message system - totally private - and all the shop owner has to do is send a specific message out to a selected group. 10, 20, 30 text messages. Takes about 15 minutes.


What do you think happens??


Right! Nothing.


On the other hand, shop owners who have done it get "ALMOST 100% RESPONSE" Compare that to a 1/10 of 1% from a 5,000 piece postcard mailing.


Sorry if I sound a little 'jaded' - and don't take it personally. I am not here to sell - but I do get frustrated when I hand a shop owner a 'fool proof' system and they're too ^&*^%%$ lazy to do anything.


Hope this helps!

Matthew Lee

"The Car Count Fixer"

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Look at the list...you need to glean your top customers and market to them. 20% of your customers provide 80% of your revenue.

Word of mouth..do you ask for referalls and make it easy for your client to refer you? Give 2 free oil change cards to your next "premium" client. Ask them to give one to a person who they would think could use your service. Birds of a feather flock together. If they are a GREAT customer odds are their close friend could be also.

These are some of the things I seen Matthew mention and are included in some of his promo material.

We are all in biz to make money. Just The Best is in the marketing/crm biz.

Jeff is spot on, I call them center of influence customers, identify them, then ask them to send you one of their friends. You will increase your count. Be consistant and smile.

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What have you found to be the more successfully ways of advertising. I've been using just word of mouth and craigslist and it's been working so far but I really need to increase my car count. Any thoughts?


If you only knew all the mistakes I have made trying to find this answer you would think I was nuts. Just for example March 1st I spent 20K on a Every Door Direct Mail campaign that not a single call or lead came through.


To be honest, I suspect the post office trashed it and didn't delivered. Not a single test house or business received my piece, I complained with the local post master but all I got was that their record showed it was sent out and delivered.


I am still steaming about that.


Anyhow, I won't go into details but this I can tell you, profile your customer. What does that mean? It means know what his/her average income is, how old and how many miles on average does he/she put on her car per wk,mo,yr. There are other parameters you need to figure out what works best for you.


Here is another thing, study the statistics and know and compare your customer profile to the national average. See, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the department of transportation make their data available for your to know where to find your best customers.


Another thing, you can figure your customer profile down to a T, but if that customer does not have the income or inclination to spend it on car care, he is not your prospect or possible customer.


I have figured this out, it costs me about $280 dollars to acquire a customer in advertising and marketing, and that typical customer has returned on average $3,600 in three years revenue.

Edited by HarrytheCarGeek
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You seem to have a niche service. We are somewhat the same, we are a performance shop in addition to an auto repair shop. The best advertising for the performance side of our business is "be where your target customers are". Interact with them, don't sell but have some business cards in pocket and word of mouth will spread.

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I have worked Matthew, "Just the Best Marketing" and have implemented a "Lost Customer" letter campaign where I mail a letter offering a free oil change.

My actual numbers from marketing to my "lost Customers" are

$9395 spent in paper, ink, stamps, oil, filter, and other parts

$23042 in gross revenue from work bought by those customers

$12811 in PROFIT

And I only mail 8-20 pieces at a time.


Now these numbers are only for people who brought in my shameless "bribe" letters. I know some customers return for paid work because of the contact but don't bring the letter so they are not in this calculation. I have even had a couple come back and refuse, REFUSE to let me do the oil change for free. But the bottom line is, as Matthew says, they already know you, they already like you and they already trust you. Sometimes they just forget. Auto repair and your business are not at the top of their list. Also that petty concern isn't a pressing one so they put it off. But, if they have some reason to come see you anyway (the free oil change) then they have that little push that may be just what they need to ask for the work to be done. Auto repair is inconvenient so if they can put it off, your customers often will. But if they are coming to you for an oil change, they've already agreed to be inconvenienced so that belt that's squealing every morning, well, "How about looking at that while I'm here?"

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@Thetrustedmechanic That is a great assessment of how things SHOULD go. I have also tried the lost customer letter but soon realized that losing many of those customers was actually a positive. There were a few that did simply forget, but most of those whom I hadn't seen for quite some time were those "bottom feeders" who DO shop simply on price alone - even if it they DON'T trust the person, or those who want you to install their parts, etc. Those who weren't ashamed to accept my "bribe" proved that a leopard doesn't change it's spots and wouldn't allow me to so much as replace wiper blades or add an air filter! I wish I could claim the profitable results that you indicated.


Location has so much to do with results, I would go so far to say EVERYTHING, and some of us will forever kick ourselves for not looking much deeper into that fact when an "opportunity" presented itself....I'm certain that a GREAT shop/technician in a bad location will work 10x harder to just survive, than a crappy shop and a hack mechanic will to thrive in a great location!

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I agree with you totally about the bottom feeders. I suffered that initially and had choice words for Matthew about it. But then I realized, I don't have to mail those offers to anyone I don't want to.

Of course I have something of an advantage, I am the owner, the service writer and the technician. So I know who I want to work for and who I don't. But after 6 months sometimes its hard to remember so I will cull my list and then spend 20 minutes culling it further based on service history. Such as if the last appointment was only an oil change or a vehicle inspection/diagnostic testing with no repair, then they are deemed to be not worth the time to try and bring back in. In other words if I checked it out and found stuff wrong but they didn't have it fixed it's simply not worth my time to give away stuff and not get any work except the freebie. So I remove them from the list. That's why I only mail 8-10 pieces each time.


If you have someone do the mailing for you, or you're not the service writer this could be a little harder. My shop management program will export to Excel a report that has several columns but I have started reducing the list (also used as the MailMerge source file) to include the invoice total. If the last invoice total was an easily recognizable amount or zero then I pay close attention to them for removal. But if the last invoice was for say $483.76 then for sure I'm trying to get them back.


Curiously I have one customer that the last three times he's been in was with a Long Lost Customer free oil change letter. But his work order totals were, $1068, $479 and $698. He's a city dweller and only drives about 10,000 miles a year so he was just about to the oil change, but past the 6 month window I use when I sent the letter.


But I know exactly what you're talking about. Been there, done that. And no amount of car count can make up for the losses from bottom feeders who only want the cheap and nothing more if that's what's driving you car count. I also agree with your comment about location, I'm in a bad location and struggle at times. But I've been here 11 years, have a stellar reputation (I'm the ONLY shop two of the three professional parts stores and a major nationwide warranty administrator recommend) and people who want quality find me. With that said, if I was in a better location I could almost certainly afford to hire a couple techs and winter in Florida (snerk).

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Thanks for that. Interestingly, I too am the owner, tech and service writer (although my wife does work the front about 30 hrs a week) so I do, as you said, know who I do and do not want to work for in most cases. We also have a grading system for customers that we note discreetly with their information to help "remind" us how good or bad of a customer they are, even when they call in. An "A" customer gets priority over whatever and an "F" customer gets moved to the end of the line - even if there is no line! This does help me make the most of my time and focus on profitable work that I know I'll get as opposed to telling some guy what's wrong so that his neighbor can fix if "for a lot less". My "B" or "C" customer is likely the one that I would send an offer like that to.

I have tried the lost customer letter in the past, but like some on here have mentioned, I too probably fall short on the hard sell when they do come in.

As far as location, I have great visibility on a busy highway, beautiful, clean shop and lot, but it is on the outskirts of a very "sketchy" part of a very poor community. My challenge since day one has been, my local customer is for the most part that "D" or "F" customer that I referred to...and the "A" customers that I NEED pass by me commuting every day and can't overcome the stigma of my area, turn off of the highway and patronize ME when there are shops closer to their home where they aren't afraid to try. It's been a real challenge.

Some good ideas here as always though that keep me thinking....Thanks all.

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  • 11 months later...
13 minutes ago, Stevens Automotive Service said:

You need to be effective in marketing. Pinpoint your marketing to get the best results.  

Know the difference between CTA (Call to Action) and Branding and do both effectively. One is short term and one is long term. Blend the two types and you will become very successful.    

Okay, and like so many others with those fancy buzzwords, the one thing that no one seems to be able to do, except maybe Matthew, is tell us "How."  You tell us what you think we need to do, but you provide no specifics of how or even better yet, why. 

Long on vague concepts, SHORT on specific ideas or even explanations.

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BNI was cheap compared to everything else and has been great. I can pull up my revenue numbers from it, but I know without a doubt it has paid for itself. Downside is you have to attend weekly meetings for about 1.5 hours. So unless you can step away from your shop for that long, don't waste your money.

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For some reason I can't edit my last post, but anyway, I should have mentioned that you will meet some great people through BNI. We have an AMAZING CPA in our group. A great financial guy that is gonna set us up with something similar to a 401k (pretty much IRA accounts or something like that), a lawyer, etc, etc. 

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1 hour ago, mmotley said:

For some reason I can't edit my last post, but anyway, I should have mentioned that you will meet some great people through BNI. We have an AMAZING CPA in our group. A great financial guy that is gonna set us up with something similar to a 401k (pretty much IRA accounts or something like that), a lawyer, etc, etc. 

+1 on BNI for Auto Shops. I've been involved in a BNI chapter and subbed at a few others. The Auto Repair guys always seem to do well as do plumbers, electricians, and HVAC folks.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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