Hitting the car count bull's-eye

Jan. 1, 2020
Most shop owners have a pretty good idea of how many cars it takes each day to maximize profit for their staff. Too many or not enough car count can affect bottom line profit daily. If you would keep what we call at ATI your ?win number? of cars in y

Most shop owners have a pretty good idea of how many cars it takes each day to maximize profit for their staff. Too many or not enough car count can affect bottom line profit daily. If you would keep what we call at ATI your “win number” of cars in your bays, every day your profits would soar. But how do you do that consistently? I heard a great explanation from one of our Senior Coaches, George Zeeks to one of his clients.

Summer is here and the automotive business should be well into the annual busy season for most markets. Over the 20-plus years I have been in the automotive business, I have seen a multitude of changes, Zeeks said. One of the biggest changes has to be the tax refund season. There used to be a time when we knew that from the end of March through June would be the time when the majority of our customers would get their tax refunds back.

Those checks might get used for vacations or some home improvements, but we also counted on them for the cars they would drive into our shops. Repairs, some large and some small, that had been put off would show up at our door. Customers with tax cash in hand would return to catch up on past recommended items.

It was great for the customers, he continued, great for business and it set the tone that would continue through the summer. Those times are almost gone now. The rapid refund has extended this windfall season back into the first week of February. It may not seem like much but it has diluted the impact and we have to do a better job than ever before of marketing to these customers to make sure they bring the car back in to us.

Create a Marketing Plan
One of the biggest keys is to plan ahead. We all hear about setting goals and timelines, but few shop owners adequately prepare a marketing budget, much less a yearlong marketing campaign. I know you are busy, but so are all the other shop owners out there. There are shops that continue to do well and shops that continue to struggle. Here at ATI, we talk about working on the business not in it. Easy words to say, but it does take effort to get there.

One of those efforts is to build a consistent car count, and that takes a marketing plan. The plan would be how many times a year and with what strategy you want to touch your customers. It really depends on how stabilized you have your car count at the moment. Many stabilized shops touch their customers with some marketing strategy every month.

The tax refund season has spawned a multitude of different ideas. We have the rebate check program, the stimulus check program and the “spend your refund here and you will get value added” program. All have worked well ,but even while they are different, they all require some significant prior planning so that they hit the market at the right time. What did you do to take advantage of these programs this spring? How about the rest of the year? Do you haphazardly come up with an idea and put it into play only to be disappointed.



We have four seasons, eight major holidays and tons of lesser holidays that we can make use of. How about Groundhog Day? I know several shops that were able to make good use of that minor holiday. The point here is what have you done in the past and has it worked? What are you planning to do for the rest of the year? The key word, in case you missed it, is planning.

Retention or Acquisition?
OK, so now we want to plan some marketing. Who do we market to? We can market to our own customers and get them in more often. We can go after customer acquisition and add some new customers to our database. We should know that customer retention marketing will give a better return, but we still need to constantly add new customers to replace the ones we lose.

By the way, do you know how many customers you lost last year? Those are the customers that we just never heard from again. Do you know why you lost them? How many new customers came in one time and never came back? You need to have — you guessed it — a plan or process to measure what is happening to your current customers. This will help you determine where to spend your money. Some shops do a great job of attracting new customers only to have them come in one time and never come back. Is that you? How do you know?

Start by asking yourself, where am I now? Who do I need to market to and why? How much money do I spend on retention vs. acquisition? These are some tough questions, but they need to be answered to make the most of the time and money you spend on marketing your shop. The typical shop spends 4 to 10 percent of sales on marketing and advertising depending on how far below the “win number” they are at the moment.

Time and money: Some shops have one or the other, some shops have both and some have neither. Whatever you have to invest, time and/or money, make sure you are doing it with a plan in mind. Once we have decided the things we are going to do, we need to plan out the time it will take to do them. Not all things take a lot of money. Some of the best things you can do to grow a business take time not money. However, make no mistake: there is an investment to be made. The important thing is to make the most of whatever investment that you make. Things have changed in the last 20 years, like the tax refund season, and we need to keep up with that change.

Create a Marketing Calendar
The key to all of this is a marketing calendar. Having a marketing calendar allows you to keep on schedule, avoid procrastination and distractions. Writing down the things you plan to do each month, quarter and year gives you clarity. Scheduling out the time you need to invest in each item will give you priorities. Allotting out the money you need to invest in those marketing events will help give you a budget. Even if you are not sure you can afford all the strategies, plan them out on your calendar.


If you don’t plan them even if you have the money, you will probably forget to do it. If what we have talked about seems strange and foreign, then you need to do some research or talk to someone. If it all makes sense and you are not doing anything about it, then this quote may be for you.

Implement the Calendar
There are approximately 55 different customer retention and acquisition strategies to choose from to stabilize your car count every day. Once you decide what works best for you, it is time to implement them. This is the secret to stabilizing car count, implementing the calendar!

You know the trends in your area so plan your marketing calendar accordingly to take advantage of these trends, both good and bad trends. If you need a good marketing calendar to get started, just e-mail me at [email protected] and I will send one to you while you are thinking about it. Knowledge isn’t power unless you take action so take action and start stabilizing your car count to your “win number.”


Sponsored Recommendations

Best Body Shop and the 360-Degree-Concept

Spanesi ‘360-Degree-Concept’ Enables Kansas Body Shop to Complete High-Quality Repairs

Maximizing Throughput & Profit in Your Body Shop with a Side-Load System

Years of technological advancements and the development of efficiency boosting equipment have drastically changed the way body shops operate. In this free guide from GFS, learn...

ADAS Applications: What They Are & What They Do

Learn how ADAS utilizes sensors such as radar, sonar, lidar and cameras to perceive the world around the vehicle, and either provide critical information to the driver or take...

Banking on Bigger Profits with a Heavy-Duty Truck Paint Booth

The addition of a heavy-duty paint booth for oversized trucks & vehicles can open the door to new or expanded service opportunities.