Virginia's Governor in his 2020 budget proposal has included elimination of the state's vehicle safety inspection program. In addition, a state legislator has introduced a bill doing the same. I serve on the board of the Virginia Automotive Association, a group of over 200 independent shops who have banded together to lobby in the interests of our industry. VAA has ponied up a a $25000 increase in the lobbying budget to fight the move. As a shop owner, I have mixed emotions on the subject, but if I were gambling I would bet that the program will go away. On one hand, it's kind of nice that the state's motorists are forced to bring their cars to a shop once a year, giving us an opportunity to make them life-long customers. Also, it has created a cadre of technicians in the state who have been vetted and background checked by the state police. On the other hand, there are a litany of negatives inluding customer resentment, anger when their vehicle fails, uneven management by the state police who oversee the program due to limited resources. Some shops are "by the book" while others are "sticker mills" who will pass anything. Unfortunately, VAA and others have been unable to produce hard statistics that show that the program .makes a difference in highway safety. The big studies I have found blame driver error for the majority of accidents. What is ironic is that just this year VAA won a long battle to get the inspection fee raised from 16 to 20 dollars. The legislature convenes in January to enact laws that will take effect in June.
I would like to hear how other Virginia shop owners feel and I would like to hear from other states that have witnessed termination of these programs.
By Mail Shark
In today’s hustle and bustle world, consumers want to work with companies that make doing business easy & convenient.
If your auto repair shop offers online appointment scheduling, you most certainly want to include content that conveys that message on your direct mail and other marketing. It can help position you as the local repair shop that makes doing business easy by giving customers another convenient way to schedule their repair or maintenance services.
As a standard, I suggest my clients add the following verbiage or a variation of, positioned above their phone number and website
“Call Today or Conveniently Schedule Online”
In addition, I recommend utilizing a QR code, that when scanned takes your customers directly to your online appointment scheduling web page. Customers that are apt to schedule their appointments online will no doubt appreciate the convenience, making it even easier for them to book their appointment from their smart phones or tablet by simply scanning your QR code as opposed to having to type out a long URL such as:
Attached is an example showing one side of a 5.5x10.5 Direct Mail Postcard:
Now, I know what many of you may be thinking, “Do people still use QR Codes?” I’m not using my psychic abilities; I’ve simply been asked countless times by auto repair shop owners. Many shop owners seem to think QR codes are a thing of the past, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The QR code market is on a steep rise. According to Juniper Research, by 2022, 5.3 billion QR code coupons will be redeemed by smartphones and 1 billion smartphones will access QR codes.
In my opinion there is no reason you should not be using this technology. Utilizing a QR code can’t have any negative affect on your business and there is only upside potential to add more convenience and make your shop easier to schedule an appointment with.
A few final thoughts:
It’s important to note, after creating countless QR codes for auto repair shops, I have noticed that when clicking on the online appointment scheduling link on many shop websites, it does not take you to a different URL when accessing the online appointment page. Instead, it keeps you on the same page you are on with an online appointment scheduling pop up. If this is the case on your shop’s website, you will not be able to link a QR code direct to your specific online appointment scheduling page. You can still utilize it to drive your prospects to your website and then from there they will have to navigate to this page as compared to them scanning the QR code and landing directly on your online scheduling page.
If your shop doesn’t offer online appointment scheduling, you can still utilize QR Codes for many different things. Below is a short list to give you some ideas of what QR codes can easily link your customers to.
· Any Website URL
· Google Maps Location
· YouTube Video
· Contact Details
· Image File
· Etc. etc.
Finally, we have some PRO Tips to help you get the most out of the use of your QR code.
PRO Tip #1: Basic QR codes should be FREE from your direct mail partner and many QR code services give you the ability to create a special QR codes that allow you to track the number of times your QR code is scanned. You can then test the use of your QR code and have transparency as to whether your QR code is being scanned by consumers.
PRO Tip #2: Never Use a QR Code without labeling it with what its purpose is. You will most likely get zero scans or far less using a QR code without a label.
PRO Tip #3: I don’t recommend using more than one QR code on your direct mail marketing piece. Use the link you feel customers will find the most convenience in and stick with a that one.
PRO Tip #4: You can also create custom QR code images to further enhance the appeal of your QR code. This is typically with paid QR code services. Attached is an example of how Mail Shark created a custom QR code to make it seamless for our prospective auto repair shop clients to get a quote and samples.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]
What is your preferred brand of automotive batteries and why?
Who is the supplier of that brand to you?
What are the battery series that are available in that brand, and what are the warranties?
Who manufactures your choice of battery?
By Joe Marconi
There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, “The footsteps of the farmer are his best fertilizer.” In translation, this means that the closer you are to your crops and animals, the easier it is to observe and respond to their needs. Business owners, just as farmers, have a sixth sense about what’s happening within their company. And, for the most part, business owners are the driving force behind the success of their companies. And it’s not always because of any particular training. Many times, the mere fact that the buck stops with you gives you the mental fortitude to push forward and find solutions to daily problems. Your gut evolves into a very valuable management and survival tool.
The majority of business owners created their business with a dream and the passion to make a difference in their lives and in the automotive industry. They clearly understand the sacrifices that are needed to get a new business off the ground, and also the years of dedication it takes to reach a point where the business becomes financially stable. But, running a business takes its toll on even the toughest person, and time away from business becomes equally important. So, the question becomes, can you build your business to the point where your presence still remains when you’re away?
Before I go on, I want you to consider something—and that’s your future. I know that many of you have a young company and plan on working for decades to come. But life goes by quickly and it can also throw you a curveball. Please take my advice with this; if you’re a business owner and you are not planning for your future, you are making a big mistake. I know too many shop owners that were forced to walk away from their businesses after decades of work with nothing more than memories. Their dreams turned into nightmares due to lack of planning. Sit down and write out what your future looks like. You will probably need help with this, but you need to think about a continuity plan and an exit strategy.
OK, I got that out of the way; now back to the article. Here’s the bottom line. Taking time off and having your business run smoothly without you there should be one of your key goals. But the truth is, many shop owners can’t let go. They find it hard to take any time off, let alone leaving their baby in the hands of a manager or another key person. They even feel guilty when they’re away. And there are others who realize that in order to have a fulfilling life, the only way to continue the business is to step aside and stay away.
I don’t know what type of person you are. But what I do know with certainty after nearly 40 years in business is that, for the sake of your health and for the well-being of your family, you need to create a business that allows you the freedom to take time off. And that starts with hiring and keeping the right people; people that share your culture and work ethic. Free time away from the business also requires that you understand your numbers, can generate a consistent profit and establish strategies to continually grow the business.
Achieving your goal of taking more time off is more dependent on what you create than the actual work you do. Create a culture where people come to work because they want to. Create a management style that allows you to reach out to your employees and help them achieve the things they want out of life. Create a work environment where the people you employ feel they are part of a unified vision where everyone will enjoy the fruits of their labor. Lastly, create strong relationships with all your employees from the very first day they are hired. Building this culture will help to ensure that your employees will perform the same each day, whether you are there or not.
I know for many it will be hard to let go. After all, your business is your baby, right? You founded it; you worked hard for years and dedicated your life to it. But, every baby grows up and becomes an adult. And adults should become self-sufficient. If you build the right team with the right culture, you will gain the confidence that the people you employ can do an amazing job in your absence.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 5th, 2019
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By Mail Shark
It’s critical that you understand the pain points of your targeted prospects in relation to the products and services you offer in order to be able to strategically choose the marketing content that will be most compelling for them. This will enable your client to react and consider you for their next repair or maintenance service.
For example, in a 2017 Survey from AAA, the findings show that one-third of drivers in the US could not afford a repair bill that was unexpected. 33.33% is a pretty significant number of vehicle owners that have tight budgets.
With that in mind, if you offer any type of financing options for repairs, it’s important that your marketing message contains content that informs your prospects that you have options. These options will help them get financing for their repairs or maintenance and get them back on the road fast.
Depending upon how much content and space you have available on your marketing, there are a few different ways to promote your financing.
Below are a few ideas to promote financing options on your direct mail marketing.
1. Create a burst or some other type of call out that promotes your financing option.
2. If you are listing other benefits your shop offers, you can include financing info here.
· Financing Options Available
· Quick & Easy Financing Available
· NO Credit Check Financing
3. Utilize your financing company’s info, logo, etc. to create a larger impact.
Below is an example of a new project that just came by my desk demonstrating one of the many ways to promote your shop's financing. This example shows one side of a Jumbo 8.5x10.5 postcard.
Included is a bullet point calling out “Quick & Easy Financing Options” under the: Why Choose Auto Clinic? section. Since this is a critical message, we placed it first in our bulleted list based on the Primacy/Recency Effect, in order to drive home to the consumer . In other words, people tend to recall information provided at the beginning of a list (Primacy), and end of a list(Recency) better than information presented in the middle of the list.
We then reinforced this with another message addressing their customers' potential problem: “Unexpected Repair”, & our Solution “Fix it Today! $0 Down”. In addition, we incorporated the EASYPAY FINANCE branding.
Finally, knowing that 33% of drivers may be struggling financially is also a compelling reason to have a strategic coupon offering. Giving prospects the ability to save on repairs, in conjunction with providing them financing options, can help position you as the best option for their repairs.
Executive Vice President of Sales
Email: [email protected]