Making mistakes when marketing your small business can cost you big money, and this is perhaps even more true for businesses in the automotive industry. To help you avoid expensive mistakes that could cost you customers—or fail to bring new ones in—what follows are some practical marketing tips for auto repair shops.
When you read over this list, think about your business and how these mistakes might apply to your shop. Are you making some of them? Be open to the idea that maybe you don’t have it as figured out as you thought you did. There’s always room for improvement—and even if you find you’re not making any of these mistakes, think about ways you can improve on what you are doing right in light of what a lot of auto repair shops are doing wrong.
Mistake #1: Treating Marketing like an Expense, Not an Investment
A lot of auto repair shop owners treat advertising and marketing like an unpleasant, expensive chore—sort of like a trip to the dentist. You know you have to do it, but you don’t enjoy it and you wish it didn’t cost so much … so you probably don’t spend much time thinking about it until it’s something you realize you have to do again, because it’s been a while. This is one of the costliest and wrong-headed mistakes you can make if you’re a shop owner. Money spent on marketing and advertising aren’t expenses—they’re investments in the future of your business, and you should think of them that way. If someone told you they’d give you $100 tomorrow if you gave them $10 today, what would you do? Think of marketing like that, and approach it enthusiastically and with an eye toward growing your business.
Many auto repair shops, especially when they’re starting out, make the mistake of thinking that marketing isn’t really something auto repair shops do. People come to auto repair shops when they need their cars repaired, right? Ok, but how do they choose which one to go to? Is it the one they’ve seen advertising for, and have heard people talking about, or maybe even seen on social media? Or the one they’ve never even heard of down some side street they never go down? Do the math. If your competitors spend a dollar on advertising and you spend nothing, chances are they’re going to do better than you are.
Mistake #2: Not Marketing the Right Things, the Right Way
A lot of repair shops don’t have clear goals or objectives when it comes to marketing. They’re stuck in that “it’s just another expense” mindset. Instead, you have to think about what would bring someone into your shop—what features and benefits your business has that will make their lives better and easier. That, in a nutshell, is all marketing is: “here’s why you want to spend your money on this, instead of that.”
It’s not enough to tell a prospective customer how you’ve got skilled mechanics, years of experience, and that you’ve invested in new, high tech equipment. So? There’s not a lot there to spark a customer’s imagination—or that sets you apart from your competition, who are all probably saying similar things. Your average customer does, of course, care about those things, but what they really want to know is how your skilled mechanics and fancy equipment are going to make their lives easier. What, in other words, is in it for them?
For instance, tell them that new high-end diagnostic equipment can find their car’s problem faster and more accurately (resulting in fixing the problem right the first time), or that the new wheel alignment equipment you have will save them from having to wait around for an older, slower machine to do the job—and will also improve their mileage and tread wear. All of the above saves them time and money, and makes your shop more attractive to them.
Mistake #3: Not Using the Internet to Market
A lot of shop owners are old school—when they think of advertising, they think newspaper ads or radio spots, maybe a display ad in the phone book or some coupons in a mailer. Those things might work for some customers, but not getting online is a big mistake.
Marketing without making use of the internet—whether it’s email, social media, or some other avenue geared towards getting your business name in front of your customers (who are all online)—is a costly error. If you don’t have the time or resources to learn how to do it yourself, you really need to consider hiring someone who knows enough about it to at least get you started. You have to meet the customer where they are, and more and more, that’s on the internet.
Always Room for Improvement
There are plenty of other missteps a shop can make when marketing, but these are really the big three. Even if you’re doing most of this stuff right, think about how you might be able to do it 5% better, and see what kind of results you get.
And if you recognize your shop in the above list of mistakes? Now is a great time to start making corrections.
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