Does your shop make a sound with its marketing?

Jan. 1, 2020
The problem with most shops isn’t that they’re not marketing, it’s that they’re not marketing efficiently.

With apologies to the person who, centuries ago, posed the question about trees, forests and sounds, I ask this question: “If a repair shop opens in a neighborhood, but nobody knows it’s there, does it do any business?” Unlike the question involving trees, which is more of a philosophical exercise, the answer to my question is an obvious and simple, no.

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When a business opens its doors for the first time, one of the most important aspects to generating sales is marketing. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to shop owners, new or experienced. The problem with most shops isn’t that they’re not marketing, it’s that they’re not marketing efficiently. 

Too often, I see shop owners throwing good money away on marketing tools that either simply don’t work or won’t reach the audience that will actually bring customers through the door. 

There are a myriad of marketing tools available for shops whether they’re brand new or long-standing businesses. Billboards, radio, television, print ads, even online marketing all can have a place in getting your name in front of potential customers. But in many cases, shops end up spending too much money on these options when cheaper, more effective forms of marketing are available.

I also have encountered shop owners who consider their sponsorship of the local Little League team or donations they make to charity as marketing. (For some shop owners, those philanthropic efforts might be the only “advertising” they do.) While I absolutely support community involvement, I don’t believe it necessarily translates into more traffic. Make sure you’re allocating your advertising dollars to pay for vehicles designed to drive customer count and sales.

For example, every shop I open, regardless of location, uses three distinct and proven marketing methods to attract and keep customers: direct mail, email outreach and search engine optimization (SEO). 

Breaking it Down

Each of these tools performs a different task and each one cannot be totally effective without the presence and support of the other two. Here’s the breakdown:

Direct Mail – This is a tried-and-true form of marketing that immediately generates business no matter where your shop is located. This is how we reach out to new customers in a particular area. Direct mail marketing allows you to target specific demographics or households in a certain mileage area near your shop. Our direct mail campaigns always have a call to action, usually for an oil change or a dollar amount off of a repair. This is designed to get the customer in the door. Our customer service and quality of work will bring them back for bigger ticket items at a later date.

Email blasts – While direct mail is designed to attract new customers, our email blasts are designed to communicate with existing customers. We use email marketing to make customers aware of new offers and let them know that we appreciate their business. It’s also a great way for your customers to build a more personal relationship with your shop, thus building brand loyalty.

SEO marketing – Search Engine Optimization is one of those buzzwords that can seem mysterious, even intimidating. But in short, SEO marketing is the process of ensuring that your shop comes up on the first page of any internet search. Statistics show that most people turn to the Internet when looking for a service or product, and that the businesses at or near the top of the first page of any search is more likely to snag the business of the person doing the search. By making sure that your shop is at the top of the first page, you automatically increase your phone calls, foot traffic and sales.

One Example

With my shops, I start with direct mail to generate instant business. Once the store’s customer base has been built, I add email and wait for the SEO marketing to take effect, usually within six months of opening the shop. 

You might be saying to yourself right about now, “But Greg, I’ve tried these tactics and they haven’t really worked for me.” There are probably a couple of reasons for that.

A successful marketing strategy requires two essential elements: consistency and tracking.

Many shop owners will launch a direct mail campaign in January and won’t send out another mailing until June. Repair shops that use that approach miss a lot of customers. If a potential customer needs services in March but doesn’t receive your postcard until May, they’ve already gone somewhere else for repairs. As a shop owner, there’s no way of knowing when a customer needs services. That’s why you need to mail consistently every month, so you can remain top of mind for the households in your market.

Being consistent will also help with your name recognition, branding and ultimately will improve your other marketing efforts. 

The other truly important aspect of marketing is tracking. The mistake that most shop owners make with tracking, particularly with direct mail, is that they will put a coupon on the mailing and then only look at what was returned. This is a deadly mistake. The way to track properly is to track the coupons, but also track the ones who used the postcard, but didn’t use the coupon. Even then, it’s not about the immediate returns.

You’ll get most of your responses within the first six weeks. But take a longer look and review your responses after six months. Take a look to see who of those initial responses came back to use your services again. 

We use tracking numbers on our mailings so we know how effective the direct mailings or email blasts have been. Remember, your average return on mailings is about one-half of 1 percent. If you send out 10,000 direct mail pieces, you may only get 50 responses.  But if 30 of those customers return to use your services later, your campaign was a success. If you do this every month, you’re going to be doing more business than you can handle. 

Ultimately, all of these three marketing efforts have to work together. Your direct mail will help build your customer base quickly, which will improve your email blast responses. Direct mail will also improve your branding and name recognition, which will help you with your SEO and online marketing. If you aren’t consistent with any one of these efforts, the others will suffer.