Marketing - Service Repair

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Track results, not activity

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 06:00
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Early in my career, I went to a marketing meet-up hosted by a “guru” in the industry. He had asked each of us to bring in two examples of our best advertising pieces to share with the group. So I searched through the piles and records until I found a couple that I wanted to share.

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At the end of the event the host collected the samples we each brought, scanned then, bound them, and offered to sell our own advertisements back to us at $300 a pop. No analysis, no advice. Just the opportunity to buy ads we'd already spent the time and money to create!

Now I may have been young, but I wasn’t naïve. I wasn’t about to go spend my hard earned dollars for that book, but not for the reason you might think.

This guy just didn’t get it. The point of advertising and marketing is to set yourself apart from competitors, not to copy them. You wouldn’t end up with better messages using that book, you’d end up with a Frankenstein's monster that managed to look and sound like every other repair shop ad that your customers already receive.

In a nutshell, that's the difference between what the average ad vendor wants and what you want. They want to sell marketing, and it almost never matters whether you look the same or different from your competition. They want to drive as many customers into your shop as possible and as quickly as possible, regardless of quality. In a word, they want activity.

You, on the other hand, want results. David speaks with Motor Age about tracking results in the video below.


Focusing on activity

Ad vendors have their own goals to balance with yours, but the goals don’t always line up. They want to prove that what they’re selling works, so they share the numbers that tell the story they want. But most vendors are focused on the wrong thing.

Let’s look at response rate, for example. An ad vendor might say your mailer worked great because it had so many people using the coupon on it. But that’s not the full story.

Think about your costs and Return on Investment—how much did you really spend on the ad, to print it, and send it?  How much did each new customer really spend after all discounts are applied, and how much did it cost you to perform the service? But even that's not the full story.

Take it a step further – think about the type of customer that brought in that coupon. Did they listen to the other advice you offered or did they brush it off and just take the discount? Did they whine and complain and argue to save an extra penny? How much stress did they cause your employees? What are the chances that they’ll come back to you the next time they need car repair instead of hunting around for the best deals and cheapest coupons?

These are just some of the costs that run a lot deeper than your bank account.

Really understanding the effectiveness of your marketing isn't a one-time measurement. Truly valuable marketing produces results that last months, even years beyond the initial drop. So how can one number or a single report give you the whole picture?

Some ad vendors will claim that they are doing their job – they are getting customers through your door, and if they aren’t converting to high quality, valuable customers then it’s your fault.

Of course, the fate of your shop isn’t entirely in the hands of good advertising. Marketing includes superior customer service, quality repairs, friendly advisors, etc. All of these are necessary for success in your shop. But even if you’ve perfected your in-house service, sending the wrong message can do more harm than good.

Focusing on results
A well-crafted marketing message resonates with the right customers. It shows that you understand their needs. It sets you apart. It is memorable, sincere, and effective. It lays the foundation for a solid relationship for years to come. It is focused on results.

My business partner, Terry Keller, owner of Keller Bros Auto Repair, and co-founder of Auto Profit Masters, said it best: “Our goal in marketing should be to attract people who trust our recommendations, who want a relationship, and who refer friends and family. That’s thinking in terms of results instead of just activity.”

Results aren’t about immediate action, fast-switch response, or getting just any customer through the door. Results are about long term goals, developing relationships, and attracting the RIGHT customers.

Activity is easier to tally, but you can measure real results too – look at the quality and value of your customer base. What is your customer retention rate telling you? The Return-on-Investment (ROI) for real results is more than the first transaction.

Let’s look at customer loyalty, for example. If your marketing is sending the wrong message, you could be losing the trust of your customer base. They’ll start dropping off slowly, coming into your shop less often. Take the real shop below, whose customer visits per year dropped just a fraction, from 1.76 to 1.58 – yet that 0.18 customer visits means they lost 220 cars and $81,620 in sales in that year.


Coupon redemptions might have been high, but is it worth losing over $80,000 in sales? Are you looking at the whole picture?

The full value of results-based marketing does include the profitability of the first transaction, but also loyalty and long term value to the shop, how many referrals they send, the value they add to your business. It’s about attracting the RIGHT customer, repeat customers, and referring customers—valuable customers.

That’s when you’ll start to see true results.

Driving REAL results
The hardest part about shifting from an activity-focused marketing plan to a results-driven marketing plan is a virtue: patience.

Results don’t just happen. In our shop, it took tens of thousands of tries to perfect the message, finding the best things to say and the best ways to say them.

But we did.

And every day, I’m grateful that we held onto that patience—that we stuck it out, that we didn’t fall for advertising tricks and schemes to bump up car count for one week, only to irreparably destroy the trust of our customer base for months to follow.

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