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This topic has probably been addressed, but I dont see a search feature here so please direct me if it has.


The eventual question regards increasing car count. here's a short back story and how I found myself in this quandry....


After 14 years working with a partner in a mixed business facility, in an economically "challenged" area (we sold used cars...cash or buy here pay here (his half) and operated a repair shop (my half)


Despite our initial business plans, the two bussinesses ended up working against one another as opposed to enhancing one another.

The general public perceived us as a used car lot thinking we only sold cars and the shop basically serviced the cars we sold. And It was very hard earning the repair business of those car buyers...even offering a discount on service to those buyers. Maybe it was the type of customer shopping at a buy here pay here for the type of car we offered that made it hard to make a customer of them at a legitimate shop....maybe it was a trust thing having the lot that sold it work on it...I still don't know but the two didn't work well. Over this time, in addition to the customers I brought with me to the partnership I was able to establish a pretty good base of solid customers, but after the split and the taking away of all the prep work for the car lot and the time it absorbed (time that usually pushed away paying customers, put a strain on both, and finally forced us to part ways.) we are struggling to book full days now

since we are essentially starting over.


Other than my wife who handles the front and books, and a shop "helper" to clean up, stock, do some simple unskilled things, myself handing all "work", we chose to let all other personnel go and start over with a new mindset focused on service customers and customer service! Running the shop like a shop, with the intention of hiring another tech but car count is hindering that..


Now the question. We are struggling with effective ways to bump car count. Wife RELIGIOUSLY sends repair recommendations for work not sold during inspections, makes follow up calls, sends thank yous, pushes our referral program, sends seasonal e-mail blasts to our limited e-mail base, etc. All the internal stuff.


I have also spent thousands on a direct mail program that I thought (and was told) was a sure fire way to get the phone ringing opening the door for me to get them in the shop and make a customer of them (not working quite as expected)

I have effecient and specific proceedures in place for handling cars and customers, essentially doing all things right internally (i think) we just cannot seem to get them accross the curb to set the hook!!


Is anyone else faced with similar challenges. Not the business split, but being a professional facility in a "poorer" area boardering more affluent areas that you cannot get into your shop becaues of it's location? We are right on a major commuter route with HUGE car counts, 1/2 mile from an interstate, nice, clean, well manicued, well equipped facility, I'm a 23 year certified tech...just cant break the stigma of our location and build our customer base.


Any help you might have to offer as far as marketing a situation like mine? What's worked for you? Etc. Management Success! told me years ago that we just need to know what buttons to push to get them in the door..and for 10K$ MORE they'd tell me what they were. (Other than moving...loooking at that option but can't do it immediately)

Hoping someone has some personal insight/experience.


Sorry to ramble, thanks for reading and thanks in advance for your replies.

Edited by GENUINE
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That is a hard question to answer because what may work in my area may not work in your area.


You mentioned referrals. Have you thought about some form of a contest with your current customers for who can refer the most in a period of time wins a prize? Make it something worth while so people will take the time.


Not sure where you are but in your area what is something that the local people are involved in? Our area is HUGE for youth soccer and highschool football. I have two highschools within 3 miles of my shop and talk about rivalry. If you have any of this you can always (and the schools are always looking for the money) sponsor games (football, baseball, soccer) I even have a customer with a daughter that plays bowling and the local team is really good so I helped by sponsoring that this year.


Getting your name out though local charities is also a great way to raise awareness. Not sure if you are involved in anything like that personally but for me I have used my shop and my knowledge numerous times with my church knowing and experiencing that there is ALWAYS a return not just financially but in the satisfaction part for me.


If you get your name and your business name in places that people care about and are involved with they will remember you.

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This really is a tough topic. But I will bet that many shops around the country are having the same problem. You have a few issues to overcome. First, you bring up a classic example of how co-branding two different business models, confuses the customers and ends up more destructive than helpful. Once the community brands you, it is hard to overcome this.


I would study your best current customers. Speak to them and find out why they come to you and ask them how you can reach out to more like them. I too think that you need to get more involved with the community. Let them find out who you really are.


Lastly, you need to do something that is so different to your place that people will turn their heads and say, "Is that a new business". Let me tell you a quick success story. In the next town over from me on a main road is this restaurant. For years, owner after owner failed. Why, the first owner of the restaurant went bankrupt and the new owners after him never changed the look. Changing the name was not enough. Until someone with a brilliant marketing idea came along. This guy repainted the outside and created a totally new look. He also featured a southwestern theme. Something totally different and it made him stand out. The place is packed now, and on weekends you need a reservation.


Just a few thoughts, good luck and keep the dialogue going. Let see if we can brainstorm too.

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My 2 cents. A few ideas.... Some may work for you and some may not. Whatever you do it takes persistence. You need immediate results to stay alive. You're in survival mode and must employ every angle you can while you build up your base. You're at war and must go on the offensive! Here's what I've done. It gave us immediate results! Enough to stay alive while we build up our business. Though I'm already located in a high income area I continue to target even more high income earners in other nearby communities. Get on craigslist ASAP and start there for free today. CL sounds like a poor mans portal but let me tell you it has made me hundreds of thousands of dollars in this business. Get your wife on there ASAP and have her post ads continuously on a daily basis, if anything it gives her good practice and keeps her focused on selling and tweaking your message to use in other channels.


Message we promote:


People drive up to an hour for our honesty, integrity and expertise.

Drive an extra 10-15-20-30 minutes and save $100's more.

10% additional discount for residents living in xxxx cities...

Why are customers from St. Louis driving all the way out to Alorton, IL? Then describe the benefits of your shop. This works as a good way to attract locals as well because if people are coming out from St. Louis than it must be good enough for me too. I can't tell you how many new customers we earned because of this...

etc., etc..


In this economy people recognize the benefits of driving to a lower income area to fix their cars. Believe me I fight those shops off everyday because people are willing to drive 20 minutes to save $100. Yes the 3 or 5 mile radius rule still exist but for now you need to run a concurrent marketing strategy seeking local but also a few extra long distance customers. Take advanatge of the economy and people's fixation with saving money no matter how far you are.


The whole idea is that you need to go beyond your made up borders and you will be surprised at the fact that you will generate an additional 10-15K per month just by doing this.


Get on Google Adwords and increase your online presence on google search and your own website. 50% of our new business comes from these sources. While you're sitting at your shop dead, others are reaping the rewards when potential customers use their phone to search for a local mechanic and their listing pops up. Hire someone to set this up. IT'S WELL WORTH THE INVESTMENT!



You and your wife need to go business to business introducing yourselves and passing out flyers in your immediate area. Introduce yourself to business owners and employees. These are people who are employed and making money and need their cars to run everyday. Offer a free pick up and drop off service. You can't win the war if you can't conquer ground zero.

Your shop helper could be out putting flyers on cars or hire yourself a flyer guy. First day we went out we got ourselves 3 new customers and more calls follwed up.



This one has worked like a charm and has helped us close more deals. As we all know giving quotes over the phone is not good business but when you have people whom you know will not bring their car in or who live a good distance away you must give a quote. After giving a quote and customer does not buy and says I will think about it etc and you end the call. Call them back 10 minutes later and say I continued to make more calls trying to find you a better deal on the parts that are needed to fix your car and found it for $20 less, so now your total will be $x. People appreciate it and feel comfortable in knowing that your fighting for every dollar. Next thing you know they say ok let's do it.


Service writing training for your wife or just hiring one with experience is key to your success. If you don't hear me on this one you are missing out on big money. Our service writer has closed a ton of deals my wife and I would have never been able to close and for more money.


When we first employed the above ideas our closing ratio was 6/10 it has now dropped a bit due to the fact that we're busy and not enough space!


You need to make sure you have positve reviews on Google and Yelp. If you don't have this your shop will not survive. This is what people do nowadays. It's become a habit. If they look you up and you have no positive reviews prepare to close your shop or suffer lower revenues.


Talk to local towing companies and pay them their fees to drop off cars at your shop.


This option is starting to bear fruit for us. Facebook recently changed their advertiser strategy and you can now promote yourself locally to people in your immediate zip codes with a lot more ease and expanded features. I just ran a two week campaign and gained 120 new local followers. I now have 120 new local followers who I will start to promote our services to. My goal is to be at 1,000 by end of this month. I will do this by increasing my FB advertising budget. This is where your wife needs to be. We haven't even began to try to sell them and we already sold 2 brake jobs and an oil change. So we know these people are receptive and reading our posts on Facebook.


Send your email list over to your facebook page. When you send out your email make sure it's at the right time. Don't send it at 8 am. People are just getting in and checking a ton of emails. Instead send it between 9-11am or 2-3pm.


Just my 2 cents. Post went kinda long so make that 5 cents. :)

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Wow! Open365, so many good ideas there. I have some homework! Thanks so much for taking time to share that. Definately worth more than .05! :)


And to everyone, thanks! Just what I was looking for, real life ideas from the perspective of shop owners who have maybe been in my position, as opposed to the marketer who has the greatest promotional idea ever....


Keep them coming, I'm sure others can benefit from fresh ideas that they haven't tried.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple?
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