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Do You Use Discounts or Brand Awareness Marketing?

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I do a lot of marketing and have broken it into 4 categories:

  • Presence Marketing
    • High Visibility Location
    • My Website (poor SEO - no spending on SEO)
    • Two other group websites with great SEO rankings
    • Business cards - Transmission shop and Tire Store referrals to each other (quite effective)
  • New Customer Acquisition
    • Monthly Mailers via RedPlum (two sides about 14"x12") Front Quick Lube, Rear Auto Repair
      • Vivid colors, consistent format
      • Marketers say that you must be seen 7 times to be remembered and most effective (Brand Awareness)
    • Targeted Plastic Post Cards mailed to people who have never visited my location. (Quick Lube)
  • Retention Marketing
    • Postcards to customers, reminding them to return for service (Quick Lube)
      • Send up to 5 postcards reminding them to return, before giving up
    • Monthly newsletter via email
    • Emailed survey after each visit
  • Targeted Online Advertising (this is also new customer acquisition)
    • Google Ads Focused all on Auto Repair

The Quick Lube business is all about the discounts.  Much as I hate it, you have to play the game.   What is interesting is that only about 30% of the customers use coupons.  I'm sure that many do like I did last night.  Grabbed a coupon to use at a new restaurant and then forgot that I had it.  It went unused.  I also take competitors coupons, but cap these at my discount level.   While we are running discounts, they are NOT loss leaders.  The discount is priced into the service.

Auto Repair is not really discount driven.  It's mostly a trust business.  But, there are some that are looking for the lowest prices and we have other local shops advertising to them.  There are always people hunting for a repair shop.   So, advertising is trying to attract them. 

I don't spend any money on Social Media advertising.  The managed services that do this work are very expensive.

All of the above is done thru various marketing companies.  My involvement is mostly limited to picking the strategy.  I do track spending and redemption stats.  As best I can tell, my advertising has positive ROI, but I don't feel that it can be truly proven.  I mix blind faith and some signs that it is working to keep doing it and I'm too scared to try not doing it.



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I agree we are mostly a trust business. Yet most of the articles for service advisors re calling to get approval for additional work is to be ready with a list of benefits, value and safety. I don’t. I tell them what their car needs and why. Sometimes an explanation of how that system works. Maybe a benefit or two. Then I pause. There’s an implied request to go ahead with the work. My mental outlook is: “of course they are going to say yes. The car needs it.” It’s a bit harder for them to say no since I haven’t asked them to do anything. So there’s nothing to say no to. And yes, they trust that I am looking out for their best interest, all while making a profit.

I’ve only worked at shops that specialized in German cars, especially Porsche. Only one offered a discount. And it was 10% off to new customers. Then I remember a regular customer asking: “Why are you giving discounts to new customers and not your good customers?”  Ouch!

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Trust from a long time, loyal customer is almost a given. The trick is to create that trust earlier. I believe it takes a few steps to get there.

First, become a friend of your customers. I don’t mean a beer- or coffee-drinking friend, but that is not out of the question. There’s a general belief that friends don’t take advantage of friends. Find out about their kids, their interests, their vacations. That is, find out about them. It helps if you share something about you.  Seek to learn something new at every phone call.

Second, don’t try to sell every repair recommendation now. If you’re worried about no work, there’s probably a customer coming in tomorrow with work you recommended several months ago. This builds huge trust. It shows you’re looking out for their pocketbook (and their family) and not just yours.

Next, transparency: explain everything. I like this loose template. Put in layman’s terms: here’s what’s wrong, here’s how it’s supposed to work, here’s how this will fix it. You aren’t hiding anything nor hiding behind technology or jargon.

There’s more, but let’s end with: demonstrate customer commitment, integrity, quality, respect for people, teamwork, personal accountability, and the like.

In addition to building the all-important trust, all this makes it much easier for them to refer new customers to you.

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On 2/28/2022 at 2:59 PM, newport5 said:

I agree we are mostly a trust business. Yet most of the articles for service advisors re calling to get approval for additional work is to be ready with a list of benefits, value and safety. I don’t. I tell them what their car needs and why. Sometimes an explanation of how that system works. Maybe a benefit or two. Then I pause. There’s an implied request to go ahead with the work. My mental outlook is: “of course they are going to say yes. The car needs it.” It’s a bit harder for them to say no since I haven’t asked them to do anything. So there’s nothing to say no to. And yes, they trust that I am looking out for their best interest, all while making a profit.

Great tip!   I shared this with my manger this morning.    We're similar in presentation, but using the power of silence / pause is the real magic that I see.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
      At a recent industry event, a shop owner from the Midwest boasted about his flat-rate techs and insisted that this pay plan should be adopted by all shops across the country. When I informed him that in states like New York, you cannot pay flat-rate, he was shocked. “Then how do you motivate your techs” he asked me.
      I remember the day in 1986 when I hired the best technician who ever worked for me in my 41 years as an automotive shop owner. We’ll call him Hal. When Hal reviewed my pay plan for him, and the incentive bonus document, he stared at it for a minute, looked up, and said, “Joe, this looks good, but here’s what I want.” He then wrote on top of the document the weekly salary he wanted. It was a BIG number. He went on to say, “Joe, I need to take home a certain amount of money. I have a home, a wife, two kids, and my Harly Davidson. I will work hard and produce for you. I don’t need an incentive bonus to do my work.” And he did, for the next 30 years, until the day he retired.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, here’s mine. Money is a motivator, but not the only motivator, and not the best motivator either. We have all heard this scenario, “She quit ABC Auto Center, to get a job at XYZ Auto Repair, and she’s making less money now at XYZ!” We all know that people don’t leave companies, they leave the people they work for or work with.
      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
      Rather than looking for that elusive perfect pay plan, sit down with your technician. Find out what motivates them. What their goals are. Why do they get out of bed in the morning? When you tie their goals with your goals, you will have one powerful pay plan.
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