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Hello all,

 

I am looking for some feedback for what most shops use to advertise and get the word out about their business. We are currently looking into running promotions online (facebook, twitter, etc) and possibly Yelp ( but have not heard many good things about using their services and that it is somewhat costly). Perhaps craigslist?

 

We have introduced new signage in our waiting area, put a marquise sign outside, and have started calling past customers for return work.

 

Any thoughts? We have had a lot of downtime lately... more than usual to be honest.

 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions.

 

Nick.

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Great Tire Deal

I'm having referral cards made up this week. I figure customer referrals are probably the best bang for my buck. Since I haven't actually got to try them out yet, postcards have been my best form of advertising so far (and I will NEVER do another $24.95 oil change special!)

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So a lot of industry Guru's will tell you to instantly fix car count issues put out a cheap oil change or discounted package. This will fill your bays quickly. They then tell you inspect every car, estimate everything and present it (you should be doing this part all the time BTW). Problem is the type of customers who respond to these already know you will be doing this and just aren't interested in anything else or if they are, you need to be the cheapest they can find. They will leave you for the next coupon as well.

 

Proper marketing is like planting seeds. You must prepare the ground, plant, water and wait. There are no silver bullets and it all takes time. There are sever things to consider as you market.

 

First, image. Every impression you make both in printed, digital and live must tell the same story. If you print up a bunch of post cards and use stock photography of tall Scandinavian people all with blond hair and blue eyes and the people show up to the shop and there are a bunch of brown haired, brown eyed short Italians there well....you have probably not met expectations you created. Take a minute and think about the concept and not about the Italians and Scandinavians.

 

Now, if you want to sell Chinese tires to the bottom of the market don't put out a flyer with high end Euro cars.

 

PROSPECTING; Getting new customers who are not part of your current database.

 

The first thing to do with the best immediate results are get out of the shop and meet people. Go to Chamber of commerce events, networking events, get out to the local diner if thats where people congregate but get out there and meet people. Brush up your elevator speech and tell anyone who will listen what you do and why you're so passionate about it. The more you love what you do the more it will show and draw people who want their cars fixed right to you.

 

 

Web presence, you MUST have a website if you want to be relevant. Once people hear about you they will do their homework. They will look you up on the web. The better your image thru your website, google, yahoo, and all the other sites the better. Claim you business and put in the right info. Hours, address, phone etc. Make sure it's all the same so the spiders (electronic web crawlers) don't get confused. I would suggest not spending any money with review sites (yelp, angies list)until you get a chance to see what if any draws to your business. Get some reviews out there. Ask people to legitimately review you on Google and anywhere else they can/will. There are programs where you can send out emails after service to gain reviews and get feedback on how you did.

 

Google campaigns both pay per click and SEO are valuable but you need to get your image and website in order first.

 

I would invest most if not all of my prospecting dollars above. Electronic and networking. Anything left over would be spent in community involvement and the smaller the community the more I would spend there.

 

I would not incentivize people to refer you. Your best customers refer you because the like/love you. They do it for the reward of knowing they are putting two good people together. When you incentivize them they are doing it for a reward.

 

Next post: Internal marketing, getting your customers back. (got to do some work first)

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Business is like fishing, One must always have a baited hook in the water. I have found that investing in my customer sales force pays the best dividends. Always give them them something good to talk about. All my good customers got a hand washed,vacuumed car, no squeaky door hinges, no empty fuel tanks or low fuel lights on, a $2.oo bill with a discount business card under the fuel filler lid. I "deliver" free hot wheels cars to the kids that come in with the parents while telling them how i serviced them. I send reminder post cards to the customer and their immediate neighbors.

Edited by FROGFINDER
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If you did your job and fixed the car right, treated them well then they should return. But they don’t sometimes. RETENTION; This is the cheapest form of marketing there is so get this right and do it consistently. For me, I want to be everything automotive for my customers. I invite them in for any reason, tires low on air, stop by. Questions about warranties, recalls etc., stop by and ask. We will find the answers. The more I can get them to subconsciously think about me as the solution to car issues the more of their car dollar expenditures I can expect them to spend with me. But it takes a while and a lot of effort to get there.

 

First off, with every customer who comes in for an oil change you must ask them what interval they follow. If it does not align with your values figure out why/who/what’s acceptable. Get away from 3mos/3k, its long gone and you’re working against the tide if you continue to insist it. Once you find out what interval they follow set up the reminder sticker to account for it. Some management programs measure average daily miles driven. There is software you can buy/rent that will use this data and calculate the next service date and sticker. Once you (and they) know service expectations figure out how to communicate with them when their next service is due. Call when service is due, text, e mail. Once this is done consistently and accurately you will see a large increase in repeat customers. A lot of shops say I don’t want to be bothered with an oil change only bring me the repair work. Well most every service visit begins or includes an oil change.

 

Another big thing in retention marketing starts with, inspect every vehicle, estimate and present the findings. Over the years I have seen customer roll in with a new set of tires and when asked I hear “We had no idea you sell tires”, Ouch! Guess I didn’t tell them huh? Even if you don’t sell the entire ticket you’ve told them what they need and hopefully let them know you can do it. If they don’t buy it note it on the invoice and them send them a reminder after 6 weeks.

We also have a program where we mail a postcard every 6 months when someone has not been in. We mail a different postcard at 6 mos, 12 mos, 18 mos, 24 mos and 30 mos. They say if someone bought a new car they are usually ready to get back in the independent shop after 30 months. This system will keep your name in their head even if they are not ready to return. For us, after 36 months we delete them from the database.

 

Sorry if this sounds preachy, not intended. These programs have done very well for us and are just a few ideas that might work for you.

Edited by Wheelingauto
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Hello all,

 

I am looking for some feedback for what most shops use to advertise and get the word out about their business. We are currently looking into running promotions online (facebook, twitter, etc) and possibly Yelp ( but have not heard many good things about using their services and that it is somewhat costly). Perhaps craigslist?

 

We have introduced new signage in our waiting area, put a marquise sign outside, and have started calling past customers for return work.

 

...

 

Very spot on and thorough suggestions above. I'm a BIG fan of the 'Retention Through Awesome Customers Service' marketing methods outlined above but you still need to keep adding since attrition will happen.

 

I would like to add one tid-bit to enhance many of the suggestions given... Most marketing and advertising being done includes your shop telephone number and very well should. It's a big part of your brand and image and has significant value if you've done everything else right. One of the challenges these days though is that so many people would rather text than talk. They don't necessarily not want to talk, but often it is not allowed, inconvenient or impractical during the hours that most shops operate. So, I'd advise that you also incorporate text messaging as a way for prospective customers to reach out to you via the advertising methods you're contemplating (Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, etc) and make it as easy and convenient as possible for potential customers to initiate that first engagement. With nurturing, that first contact might become a phone call or better yet an appointment where you can blow them away with great service. Of course, one of those customer service high points can be respecting their preference and time (and not wasting yours) by providing them with the option to communicate by call or text while service is being performed.

 

There are a number of ways to become text-friendly from letting employees use their personal cell phones (definitely not recommended for many reasons) to buying a cell phone for the shop, to getting a GoogleVoice number, to shop management systems that have texting capabilities, and a myriad of on-line solutions. I'm clearly biased but of course I recommend a service like BusinessTextBox.com that leverages the value (mentioned above) of your existing shop telephone number.

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Google adwords work best for me. When I first started, it was soley Craigslist. It's good if you are the cheapest shop in town but you're actually competing against mobile mechanics so craigslist is out.

 

I've tried magazine ads (Clipper Magazine) - $700 for half of a page and then another month for a third. I only got like 3 customers.... but one of them ended up doing front and rear pads and rotors. Came back 3 months later for a oil change and oil cooler seal replacement. It was a BMW 5 series so I guess it was ok.

 

Yelp, omg, these people would not stop calling and would not leave me alone. So finally I relented because they said they can make a video and I wanted a video for my business. Yea the video sucked so I redid the voiceover and just used the footage and made my own. I p[y $425 a month on Yelp. Not really tracking ROI

 

Best is Google Adwords. I spend anywhere between $500-$1000 month. Constantly get calls from google customers and they are also the best customers

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      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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