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Emergency marketing strategies for car count lulls

Getting extra cars during tough times is about tenacity, ingenuity and the basics
Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 07:00
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Blast emails
Promote big time! Almost all of the Customer Retention Management (CRM) companies have now added email blast capabilities for their shops, so definitely get with them if you’re a customer to see how you can use this great tool. If you don’t have a CRM provider, you can sign up with a company that provides email blast capabilities at a very affordable price. I routinely see shops that use this type of tool generate an additional five plus cars a week. If you use radio, run an ad with a “limited time only” special. Whatever your method of successful advertising is in your market — hit it!

Understanding that the average vehicle is driven between 12K and 15K miles annually and the average oil service is performed at 3K to 5K miles, it would stand to reason you should see your average customer three to four times per year if you are doing all of their service work, right? When was the last time you looked at how many of your existing customers were in for service six to 18 months ago, but may not have been back in the last six? Almost all management systems allow you to run a report that will list customers by date range of their last visit. I can almost assure you that you would be shocked at the number of your customers that would fall into this group and how many have not been back to you in more than six months. In most cases if a customer has not been back to you in six months they have either missed a needed service, used another provider for maintenance OR they have moved on. This can be a very fruitful segment to attack. They know you and will recognize your name. A WOW Card campaign or other form of “Where Have You Been” can work very well. Be bold on your offer. This segment is very valuable and worth every penny to recover. I suggest a $50 gift card. There is a huge impact on ARO dependent on the size of the gift card. If you are going to make a statement, then make it big.

Exit scheduling
Make sure you’re setting the next appointment! No more waiting. Some of our clients use a mystery envelope, which is a great aid to make the exit scheduling process more like a game or contest. When the departing customer makes their next appointment, they receive an envelope with a surprise gift inside. And the gift is valid only if the envelope is opened by the service advisor at that next appointment! At the very least you should have a forward recommendation in your management/marketing system that could trigger the exit scheduling.

Reward programs
Do you have a business in your area that you could be partnering with? Do you have an ongoing referral program that is working? Do you have a rewards program that separates you from your competition? How about referral or business networking groups such as BNI? I have many clients enrolled in these groups with huge ROI.

Courtesy check audits
Make sure that the courtesy checks are being done perfectly; This is a very good time to double check a few. I can’t tell you how many courtesy checks I have audited that leave so much mileage-driven recommendations unrecommended, and therefore unestimated. Run an audit for yourself: pull 15 sequential ROs from last week with courtesy checks. How do they look? Be honest. Here’s a very good rule of thumb: National average is there should be about $100 in estimate value for every 10K of a vehicle’s mileage; i.e., a 100K vehicle should have about a $1,000 estimate, if there are no extenuating circumstances. In my experience, this is very accurate.

Social media
Are you posting to your Google+ page routinely? This may not be an instantaneous fix, but we have seen no other strategy work as well to consistently drive additional new call volume to your phone and if your counter has a consistent phone process, bring cars to your door. I have consistently seen average weekly car counts increase three to 10 cars a week depending.

How about Facebook? I know we teach that Facebook is a social branding tool that is best suited for keeping your customers involved with you between visits with fun and interesting info. But, a very occasional post with a great LIMITED TIME OFFER — TODAY ONLY TO OUR FACEBOOK FRIENDS special could net you a couple of the additional cars you need. Shop owner Dave Toole recently used a Facebook post and email blast to promote his Shocktober event, with which they netted six appointments in less than 48 hours! You can’t go to the well too often with this tool, but it can be very effective in a pinch.

The secret is to be proactive and creative. Don’t just rely on what you’ve always done to be good enough anymore. In most cases, I can assure you that what you have normally done doesn’t always work as it once did. Successful shops figure out how to creatively reach out to their customers and then have exceptional sales counters that back up a great message. Customers aren’t afraid to buy. I believe this in my heart and I’ve seen it in my own shop. What I can assure you of is that customers are becoming more discerning shoppers, deciding with whom and when they spend their money. Successful shops have great sales counter staff who provide exceptional service, communicate tremendous value by educating their customers to a buying decision and create relationships. If car count is truly dropping and/or ARO is shrinking, I would suggest that this is another great place for you to start taking a critical look.

With a review of our Car Count Stabilization Checklist, what basic/staple opportunities are you missing? Where Have You Been calls, exit scheduling, taxi certificates? It is called the MUST DO, SHOULD DO list for a reason. If you’re not doing something then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. We know these strategies work!

If you would like your own copy of our Car Count Stabilization Checklist, simply go to for a limited time.

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