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Joe Marconi

Publicity: Sometimes Better Than Advertising

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Publicity: Sometimes Better than Advertising

 

I am a believer in “guerrilla marketing”, which is a strategy that allows us to compete with the big guys, without going head to head with them. It helped the colonies win their independence from the British. The British Army was more organized, larger, trained and better armed. Initially, unconventional warfare gave us an edge.

 

Most of us cannot compete on the same level as a large dealership or national account, and we shouldn’t. It’s actually more important to find what the competition is doing and do the opposite. To think that I can compete with the Lexus dealer and have available 30 loaner cars is insane. But where I can compete is by branding my company in my local community, which will give me lots of publicity, which more times than not is actually more effective than advertising.

 

Let me give you an example. When I opened my new facility I started doing consumer clinics. Eventually people began asking me to do the seminars at the local libraries. This branched out to the local Rotary, Chamber of commerce and recently at different local functions. Each time I do one of these, I get a lot of free press, which helps to boost my image and promote my brand.

 

Remember, we may be in the auto repair business, but that’s not who we are and why we are in business. We all have a story to tell. Find WHY you are in business and tell that story to the world. It will become your brand identity.

 

If you focus on the tools and equipment of your trade, you will reduce yourself to a commodity and become a “Me-Too” brand. Differentiate yourself from the pack. This will narrow your target audience, but will actually increase your market share. Give it a try, think about it. It works!

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You know, I never looked at it that way. But, it's true, my customer trust me and my people, they don't really care about the tools and equipment. But what about parts? Do customers care?

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That's a good question. People that are loyal to most independent repair shops trust the purchasing decision of that shop. Unlike some people that go to the new car dealer becuase they percieve the OE part to be better. Of course we need to use quality parts and stand behind our work and products we sell, but when you can get your customers to trust you, it makes all the difference.

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Publicity: Sometimes Better than Advertising

 

<SNIP>

Remember, we may be in the auto repair business, but that’s not who we are and why we are in business. We all have a story to tell. Find WHY you are in business and tell that story to the world. It will become your brand identity.

 

If you focus on the tools and equipment of your trade, you will reduce yourself to a commodity and become a “Me-Too” brand. Differentiate yourself from the pack. This will narrow your target audience, but will actually increase your market share. Give it a try, think about it. It works!

 

So true. Too many shops want to focus on "what" they do and "tools/skills" they have (too much a technician and not enough businessman). Average vehicle owner doesn't know about, or care about, that stuff. Shop owners need to think like a customer:

  1. I have a problem, how are you going to help me (what benefit do you offer me);
  2. You are an auto repair shop so you should have tools and skills to fix them (duh!). I want to know about people who work there and how you treat people. Studies have shown that consumers are more concerned with accountability than friendliness of service provider... (trust factor). They will put up with a lot IF they get value and feeling of trust;
  3. I don't trust you no matter what YOU say. Are your claims supported by what OTHER people say about you (online, public reviews)? If your reviews are seen as biased (moderated or controlled by business owner) you loose credibility. This is why open Google reviews are more often seen as more trustworthy than Yelp, Demandforce, etc reviews.

Tell YOUR story, show your personal side, and then back it up with public verification (reviews). Competitors can't replicate YOU and how you act. This is your strongest way to differentiate your business from the other guys. Make sure it is focal point of your website and all marketing.

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We created posters for the customer area, along with a sign-up sheet on the front counter. We gave each customer a flyer about the clinic when they picked up their car. We talked it up a lot with all customers at the counter. We also did press releases in the local newspapers and radio. News media loves community content and will promote it for free. Just ask. A few weeks prior we send out email blasts to our customer base. We get 20 to 30 people on average at each clinic.

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What sort of areas did you cover at the clinics? I have had several female customers ask for us to do one of these. Something along the lines of, "I'd really like to know how to change my own oil." I'm guessing you keep them simple along those lines rather than, "Alright. Day One!! This is how you rebuild an automatic transmission!"

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We don't teach people how to change oil or any other repair of service. We might show people how to replace wipers blades, but that's about it. We make it informative: how to save money on fuel, how to extend the life of your car, why rotate tires, warning signs of trouble, what to do when you get into an accident, how to prepare for a road trip, getting your college kid back to school ok. The topics are endless.

 

The clinics are short too, about an hour. Leave room for questions. If people are asking question, that's a good sign.

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