The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that small businesses spend anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of their gross sales on advertising. While I think that advertising is a worthwhile expense, I often encounter entrepreneurs who have launched ad campaigns without first taking the time to identify and establish their brands. To me, that’s like applying for a job and failing to explain why you’re more qualified than the other candidates.
The truth is, most shop owners don’t understand what branding is, so they tend to avoid it. It’s also easy to confuse branding with marketing and advertising. Branding, however is the process used to create a unique image or identifier to differentiate your product or service in the marketplace. It’s difficult to build a marketing or advertising strategy without first knowing what your brand is.
Branding doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop the image you want to portray to the public. You need a compelling logo that instantly communicates what you do. Think about how Nike’s Swoosh automatically inspires thoughts of speed and athletic pursuits or how seeing the Walt Disney castle evokes feelings of childhood fun. You also need to think about the experience you provide customers. Is your shop clean? Does it smell good? Do your employees greet customers and do they follow-up promptly about the status of repairs? How you answer those questions will help the determine the impression you make.
But perhaps, the first and most important step in building a brand is figuring out what distinguishes you from the competition. I like to refer to this as your irresistible offer. It’s what you are known for and hopefully, how consumers will remember you. Lots of shops like to differentiate themselves based simply on the type of cars they service. But with a fair share of specialty shops in the market, it helps to tout other features that will allow you to rise above the fray.
For example, my Eurofix shops used to be known primarily for servicing European cars, but we’ve expanded our reach and given customers a new reason to come to us by adding a three-year warranty and offering free rental cars. Those two features help us stand out by showing that we go out of our way to accommodate our customers and stand behind our work.
For general repair shops, developing an irresistible offer is even more essential. When I talk about making an offer, most people assume I’m referring to discounting. But for some shops, that may not make sense financially or allow them to build a brand that will appeal to their target market. If your shop is located in an upscale area, maybe your offer is based more on convenience than low cost. You could offer extended hours in the evening and on weekends to make it easy for busy customers who are short on time to visit your shop. Or maybe your target customers place a high value on expertise. In that case, you could highlight the experience and certifications of your technicians.
I’ve developed an easy-to-follow template that can help you develop the offer that might make the most sense for your shop and your market. You can find it here. Remember that whatever offer you choose, you must be have the budget to support it (so don’t promise free rental cars if you can’t afford it) and be committed to delivering what you promise every time a customer visits your shop.
In my next post, I’ll delve more into not only to how to reinforce your brand but how to create a culture that encourages employees to naturally serve as advocates for your brand.