Marketing Strategies — Part One
The way auto repair shops conduct business is changing because of a dramatically changing marketplace. You can’t take business for granted anymore; there are far too many competitors for the same dollar.
Marketing — defined as the process of buying and selling in a market — includes almost every aspect of your business, from how your facility looks, to the customer, to the appearance of your final invoice. Your survival and prosperity depend on your customers’ overall perception of their experience doing business with you. Unfortunately, being the best is not as important as being perceived to be the best.
Today, marketing should be at the top of a repair shop owner’s to-do list. A progressive shop owner must realize that customers expect technical competence, and that superior technical knowledge and skills won’t necessarily guarantee business success. In a nutshell, you have to provide customers with more than they expect.
A well-thought-out marketing plan can give you the ability to exploit your competitors’ weaknesses, adjust to any new competition, expand your service capabilities, strengthen customer relationships, and minimize sales volume fluctuations. It will also help eliminate unproductive promotions and enable you to create and control the specific image you want to project.
To start formulating a marketing plan, you and your staff must resolve to discard old ways of doing business. This can be accomplished through strong commitment, along with an investment in any necessary training. Beyond that, every aspect of the business will need complete scrutiny and perhaps total redevelopment.
A formal marketing plan will take time to formulate and involve a significant number of processes. Following are eight highly effective strategies to get you started:
1. Create a Company Vision
Customers come to your shop based on their perceptions of your facility, your staff, the products and services you offer, and a host of other considerations. Get together with your staff to try and answer the question, “How do I want my shop to be received by my customers?”
- Surely you want your technicians to be technically competent, but how would you price your services — bargain-priced, at the high end, or somewhere in between?
- Do you want your shop to be seen as a “nice” place to do business, with a caring, friendly, and honest staff?
- Do you want to be thought of as a general repair shop or a specialty shop?
- How do you let customers know that you’ve got state-of-the-art equipment and use only premium-quality parts?
- How would you promote the fact that your shop is conveniently located, and that your hours are convenient as well?
Organize these various elements into some sort of cohesive vision, or statement of purpose and put it into writing. Display it prominently so it can be constantly viewed by you and your staff.
2. Evaluate Your Business Name and Logo
Look at your business name. Is it distinctive? Does it describe what you do? How does it sound when you say it? Let’s look at an example — say, “Fred’s Automotive.” Is this name distinctive? The name Fred’s is distinctive. But what does Automotive mean? It could be perceived to mean auto sales, parts sales, auto repair, or something else auto-related.
Perhaps the name “Fred’s Auto Repair” would be an improvement. It would be distinctive and describe what Fred’s business is all about — repairing autos. Now, if Fred’s Auto Repair was located downtown, it could be named “Fred’s Downtown Auto Repair.” Not only is this name distinctive and descriptive, it also mentions the location.
When evaluating a business name, say it out loud to see how easy it is to say, and how it would sound over the phone. A good business name must be able to be spoken without difficulty. If it is hard to say, come up with something better.
When developing a logo, consider how the colors will complement the exterior of your building and your shop vehicle(s), and how it will look on business cards, lube stickers, statements and invoices, on your website, and any other place you may choose to use it. When you choose the style of lettering, go for readability. Also, select appropriate sizes for use on various printed materials and signs.
The most successful way to develop a logo is to engage a graphic artist. Sometimes, you can source a graphic design student to create a logo for you as a project for credit. If you go with an established graphics company to create your logo, ask to see a portfolio of samples of their work. Make sure to ask for references and check them out.
Check back next time, and we will take a look at a few more highly effective marketing strategies.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a more in-depth course on marketing, enroll in Guerilla Shop Management. Marketing is just one of the many topics covered in this course, which begins July 30th. Call 800-755-0988 today to enroll!