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Boldly making your mark

Friday, September 26, 2014 - 07:00
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Like many of you, I am a small businessman. I pride myself in providing top quality marketing and public relations services for various automotive businesses. And because I think I have carved out a niche that makes my services desirable to prospects and indispensable for clients, I don’t like the idea of providing free advice or giving away services.

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Wow, am I naive! The reality is that there are many competitors out there, who are working in the same market and say that they provide similar, if not the very same, services as I do. Sound familiar?

You work hard to present yourself as a shop that is unique in customer service and quality repair but the guy down the street, the guy around the corner and the guy across town are saying the same thing. In the eyes of consumers, you are just another cookie cut out from the same cookie cutter. Sorry to say, and pardon the pun, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Getting consumers to notice you is a big enough problem, but to actually lure them to your shop is quite another. There’s a basic reality that we have to accept when it comes to marketing, according to Nathan Scripps, who I recently interviewed. Scripps is the general manager of MotoREV, the online marketing platform within MOTOSHOP Technology Tools, that is designed to attract new customers and retain current ones.

“We live in an incentive-based environment where everybody expects to have a discount or  coupon for a product or a service,” says Scripps.

But the type of customer you’re going to get with special offers will depend on the value of those offers. Scripps’ message is if you give away something of little value, it’s probably “one and done,”  meaning that you may get consumers in the door one time only to have them take the next best offer from your competitors. No doubt this has happened to you and no doubt you’ve done it to your competitors. The game you’re playing is Zero Sum.

“If you’re willing to win business, you should be willing to give away service because you’re not going to thrive in today’s market by having lots of first-time visitors,” Scripps emphasizes.

This means shops need to offer something of real value beyond a free car wash, such as a free oil change. Scripps says it is this kind of offer that sets the table to establish customer loyally and long-term retention. Of course, you can’t “buy” your customer with any offer; rather, an attractive offer opens up a meaningful dialogue that can lead to getting the customer into a service “cycle.” 

This is not  a strategy for the faint of heart but it is for those who have their minds on separating themselves from the pack. The bold goal of customer loyalty/retention usually takes bold moves in a retail climate of endless and minuscule value offers. If you’re not thinking boldly, your prospects will be like fish swimming in a school. Plop, another fisherman drops a line and the school changes direction as quickly as, well, a school of fish changing direction.

But before you make such a move to acquire new business, Scripps says there are some other things you need to do at the same time including “winning the battle online which takes a professional website and positive online reviews.”

In my next blog, which is just a few days away, I’ll be discussing Scripps’ specific online recommendations in detail. If you don’t have the patience to wait, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lgkGjsH0OI to watch my full interview with Scripps. Consider it a special offer from me. 

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