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Where to Spend Your Marketing Dollars

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Correctly spending your marketing dollars is an important part of planning your advertising. You want to be prudent with your marketing dollars to be sure you’re getting a return on your investment, says Steve Rigsby, owner of Total Marketing Solutions and marketing manager for a group of 11 Colorado CARSTAR shops. 

Rigsby has become an expert in assessing marketing efforts and determining where shops should be investing in marketing. He outlines how to correctly allocate marketing funds.


It’s really important to assess your marketing efforts and existing efforts. You don’t want to throw money out the window and hope that it’s going to attract somebody. I’ve been doing this for quite a while in Colorado, and we have narrowed it down to areas that we think are the best for our dollars.


Your marketing budget should be based on the goals of your shop. If you have a revenue goal, identify growth targets and find out what level of sales you need to get there. This will help you figure out how much marketing is necessary and where to focus your marketing dollars. I usually suggest spending 5–6 percent of your annual revenue on marketing. 

We conduct quarterly reviews of our marketing programs and analyze those returns. That way, we can assess whether certain initiatives are worth the investment and switch up our budget allocation. 


The most important step to hitting those goals is finding the correct audience and business generators. How can you know your target audience? It’s not as difficult as you think, but it does require diligence. 

The biggest piece of advice I have is to track your referrals. Shops should always track their referrals and drill down to see where customers are coming from. Who are you spending the most time with at the front desk? Who is actually bringing in the vehicle? If you use a check-in sheet, be sure to include a line that asks how the customer heard about your shop. It doesn’t take much effort, you just have to be consistent.

I enter that information into a spreadsheet and I can clearly see where most of our referrals are coming from. We analyze that spreadsheet and, from there, we decided the best places to invest our money.


It is generally best to focus your efforts on your current customers. The majority of your marketing dollars should be spent on existing customers, which are easier to retain and are more likely to spread the word about your business. 


However, it is also important to keep an eye on new customers. This can be tricky for shop owners because it can seem like a big gamble. You don’t want to waste money with something that doesn’t reach your intended customers. I would first suggest analyzing your current customer base and identifying any patterns or trends. For example, are most of your customers women? Do you tend to have a lot of families come in? Are you seeing more customer-pay work?

Once you have a clear idea in mind, you can find the marketing avenue that will best work for this type of audience. I have found that SEO and a strong Internet or social media presence work well for attracting younger customers, while TV and radio advertising have helped increase our customer pay. TV advertising can also help you reach a very specific audience because you are able to choose when your ad is played. For example, you could choose to advertise during a football game or a cable show geared mainly toward women. Both will give you a different set of eyes. 


A common complaint from shop owners is that they spent their budget on a marketing campaign that didn’t work and have now maxed out their budget. It is important to leave padding room. I typically set aside 5 percent of the annual marketing budget for unexpected situations. This could be a seasonal promotion, a way to recover from a campaign that didn’t work out or a better idea that has come along. Some things have to be done spontaneously based on current events in your market. Budgeting some padding room allows you to have enough finances set aside to act on things.


I usually give a new advertising campaign three to six months. At that point, you’ll have a pretty good idea if it’s working out or not. Including padding room leaves the opportunity to move around a little and see what’s best. 

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