Over the past several years, stabilizing car count has been one of the biggest challenges, even for the shops typically loaded with cars. I overheard one of our long-term coaches, Eric Twiggs, tell a story in our marketing class. I thought you would enjoy the story and possibly learn from it.
“I would like to introduce you to my friend Ed. He is a shop owner who was having a difficult time in his business. His cash flow was low, and he struggled to maintain a consistent car count. He saw winning the lottery as the solution to his financial problems. Every night, he said the following prayer ‘Please let me win the lottery!’
“Several weeks later, the Powerball drawing was announced and Ed did not win. Out of frustration, he looked up to the skies and yelled ‘My prayers were not answered!’ Suddenly the clouds parted, and a voice was heard coming from above: ‘My son, work with me — at least go to the store and purchase a lottery ticket!’”
Ed’s story teaches us that if you don’t have the right plan, you don’t have a prayer when it comes to accomplishing your goals. In an effort to keep you from ending up like Ed, I have listed the five biggest marketing mistakes that you can make. Sometimes knowing what not to do is just as important as doing the right things.
Lacking Clarity of Purpose
When I go to your website, what is the next action that you want me to take? Do you want me to call, stop by, leave my email address, subscribe to your blog or like your Facebook page? The consumer isn’t sure what you want. The call to action “Call today to schedule an appointment” eliminates the confusion in the mind of the consumer. A confused mind does nothing, so having too many choices will result in you losing sales.
According to a recent national survey of the automotive industry, 68 percent of consumers call a repair facility before their visit, so having this as a call to action works well. You also can have this invitation included in your direct mail piece, email signature, business card or any other literature that you send.
I have never been to your shop, but I bet your customers all tune in to the same radio station. It can be found on W.I.I.F.M — What’s In It For Me. It’s great that you have ASE certified techs, a two-year, 24,000-mile warranty and free WiFi, but how do those factors make my life better? Simply making a list of all your features without linking them to a benefit will keep you from connecting to what’s most important to your prospects. Here is a list of the most common benefits that people care about:
· Save time
· Save money
· Make money
· Avoid effort
· Find success
· Be pain free
· Safety and security
· Live and love
Using the following two words in your copy will allow you to connect the feature to the benefit: “so that.” For example, “We offer a courtesy shuttle so that you can get to work while we work on your car.” In this case, we have attached having a courtesy shuttle to saving time and allowing the customer to make more money by being able to get back to work. Most shops offer similar features. Mentioning the benefits that matter to your clientele will give you a competitive edge.
Marketing to Everyone
Several years ago, I spent $1,200 on a direct mail piece that I sent to 1,000 prospects in a randomly selected zip code. My brilliant strategy resulted in one new customer that came in to get her free oil change and never returned. The lesson that I learned from this experience was that if you market to everyone, you market to no one.
Pastor Rick Warren, author of the book “The Purpose Driven Life,” used an interesting approach when developing a strategy to grow his church membership. He conducted demographic research on the reading, spending and shopping habits of his ideal member. He also found out their age and income information. He named this member “Sam.” Whenever he created an ad, he had Sam in mind to include a picture of someone in the same age group on the flyer. The ads were placed in publications that Sam read and the radio stations that he listened to.
Who is your Sam or “Sally?” There are several retention companies that provide resources to help you identify who your ideal customers are. You also can review your existing database and identify those that were the easiest to work with, gave you the best reviews and spent the most money with you over a period of time. What do they have in common? What publications can you advertise in to reach them? Knowing who you’re trying to reach allows you to link your features to the specific benefits that are important to your Sally or Sam. They will feel like you are talking directly to them.
Having a Silver Bullet Mentality
Clients often ask me to give them the one idea that will fix their business. The answer that I give them is to try the lottery. As mentioned earlier, it didn’t work for my shop owner friend and there is a 99.9 percent chance that it will not work for you. This is an example of what I call the silver bullet mentality. It’s the belief that there is one specific tactic that you can employ that will solve your car count and cash flow problems.
Successful marketing is a result of the application of the right methods over a sustained period of time. Having a consistent approach is the key. The American Marketing Association (AMA) has concluded that it takes anywhere from seven to nine “touches” to ensure that you are remembered. According to the AMA, you can contact someone up to 220 times in a 12-month period without irritating them.
Using a variety of contact methods will allow you to stay in the customer’s consciousness without pestering them. I would not recommend calling anyone 220 times, but making a thank-you call, sending a Facebook post and sending a maintenance reminder email would be a good way to use a mixture of the right methods to stay in touch.
Viewing Marketing as an Expense
When sales get tough, the first area that many shop owners look to cut is marketing. This is the equivalent of cutting off your oxygen supply because your health is failing. The one area that can revive and sustain you is often first to go. I believe that this happens so frequently because marketing is viewed as an expense instead of an investment. Investing a minimum of 4 to 7 percent of your gross sales will keep your business breathing and thriving.
Understanding the lifetime value of your ideal customer will help you to view your efforts in the right perspective. To calculate this, you simply take your average repair order (ARO) and multiply by the number of visits made in a one-year time frame. Next, you take that number and multiply by seven, which represents the average number of years that someone does business with a shop.
If you apply this formula with an ARO of $350, and three visits a year for seven years, a new customer is worth $7,350 to you ($350 x 3 x 7). In other words, every touch gives you an opportunity to add over $7,000 in sales to your business. The initial investment of time and money can pay off in the long run if you stay the course.
So there you have it. If you can avoid making the five biggest marketing mistakes, you will live like a lottery winner without purchasing a ticket!
Are you doing everything you can to increase your car count? For a limited time we are offering a free interactive checklist of the most successful marketing methods used by shop owners across the country. You can obtain a copy by going to www.ationlinetraining.com/2014-09 for a limited time.