When it comes to the things shop owners want to spend money on, marketing and advertising aren’t typically at the top of the list. Most of us can think of a million other items we’d rather invest in – from new equipment to additional technicians. But the reality is, without marketing or advertising, you’ll never generate the revenue needed to fund new tool purchases or staff expansions.
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Still, I can understand why there’s a reluctance to allocate budget for marketing and advertising expenditures. More often than not, shop owners tell me that their marketing and advertising programs often fall short of expectations, and they fail to see a solid return on their investment. While it’s true that some advertising vehicles are bound to underperform because they’re too broad-based (i.e. radio advertisements), if a more strategically-targeted approach still isn’t delivering results, then the problem might lie in your evaluation methods.
In my experience, tracking the wrong metric can cause you to abandon a marketing vehicle too soon. These days, the industry trend is to measure your performance based on ticket averages. Under this approach, an uptick in ticket average following an ad campaign would be considered a success. But let’s say the month after your campaign hits, your ticket averages decline, but your car counts rise. If you follow industry norms, you’d probably consider the campaign a failure.
But I believe that way of thinking is too simplistic. An effective advertising effort can deliver a number of benefits. For some shops, a successful marketing campaign might increase car count, for others, it might stem a downward sales trend or generate repeat visits. The point is that judging success or failure simply on ticket average is fairly restrictive and encourages shop owners to try to obtain more sales from fewer cars – an increasingly difficult task given how well-built modern cars are.
Instead, I advocate tracking a number of factors and tying those factors to the goals you want to achieve. Before you start any kind of marketing effort take a look at your sales, not just month to month but the same month year after year, so you can get a clearer sense of the situation and whether you have problems that aren’t due simply to seasonal trends. Once you have the numbers, you’ll be in a better position to determine what you want your advertising campaigns to accomplish.
I am not going to talk a lot about what type of marketing works best, but I think whatever you decide to use should be tracked. If you can’t track it, that should be a sign that it might not be worth your money. Everything I do has a unique tracking number. So, if I post a coupon on my website, the number to call for that offer is going to be different than the number on my direct mail postcards or the number that comes up on my pay-per-click ads.