Auto Service World
Feature   June 18, 2020   by Peter Bulmer

Connecting with your customers

By Peter Bulmer

Getting new customers into your shop is always a challenge.

Even after spending the time to make sure that your prices are right, your service offering is balanced, your curb appeal is great, and your waiting area is comfortable, you still have so many competitors out there. How do you make your shop stand out?


When you first opened your auto repair shop, marketing was likely the last thing on your mind. You knew cars and had mechanical skills. You might have thought that was enough. It wasn’t.

Even after you’d hired a staff, purchased some equipment, and learned a thing or two about business management, you still needed to find a way to connect with consumers. That is what marketing is all about.

If you want to grow
your shop, you have
to learn how to
market yourself effectively.

If you want to grow your shop, you have to learn how to market yourself effectively.

Many shop owners say they rely on word-of-mouth advertising. That’s great if it’s true. Nothing beats personal recommendations from satisfied customers. When people start telling their neighbors, friends, and relatives what a great job you do, success is almost guaranteed.

But the truth is that what a lot of shop owners mean when they say they rely on word-of-mouth advertising is that they don’t actually have a marketing plan at all. They just hope their customers are speaking highly of them.

If you don’t have an organized marketing plan, it’s time to get started on one.

The foundation of marketing should be great work and friendly service. As they say, you can’t hide bad service with good marketing. People will see right through even the slickest ad campaign if you can’t meet the minimum threshold of service.

It is possible, however, to hide good service with bad marketing.

So when you’re marketing your auto repair shop, there are two goals you should have in mind: connecting with your customers, and standing out from the competition.

Connecting with your customers

Good marketing tells potential customers everything they need to know about you at a glance.

In order to learn how to communicate that clearly, think about the most compelling reasons people have to do business with you. Now practice distilling those reasons in as few words as possible. Keep whittling it down until it can fit on business card. This will be your primary message to consumers.

Now think of the transportation challenges that you can solve for people. Can you offer them competent service? Safety? Reliability? Affordability? Convenience? Figure out what they’re looking for and build your campaign around that.

Finally, figure out how to deliver this campaign where they’re most likely to see it. This certainly doesn’t have to be the most expensive option. Everyone would love to advertise on major networks during prime time and sporting events, but that’s going to cost a lot and it would be overkill.

These days there are plenty of cheap and free alternatives, especially if you’ve got some young people and creative types on staff.

Digital marketing starts with a good, clean web site that communicates your core values, and gives people a chance to book their appointments online. If you’ve been putting off upgrading your web site, consider doing it sooner rather than later. This is a must-have in the social media age.

Get creative in introducing your team, your specialties, and your promotions. With a minimal budget, you can truly impress online shoppers, and start booking jobs on day one.

Creating a community with targeted social media is the next step. Find a way to share content, tell your stories, show your pictures, and offer your observations in a friendly way. Celebrate successes (yours and others), and be a sounding board for your customers. It’s all free and it is incredibly powerful, especially if people start sharing your content.

Without violating the spirit of the community you’re creating, you’re ready to parlay social engagement into basic email and text-based marketing. You’ve been collecting email addresses and phone numbers, right? It’s time to use them. But be careful! Not only are there laws about what you can and can’t do, there are social conventions too. What you offer has to have true value to your community.

Standing out from the competition

If what you’ve been doing up to now is building a community, this next part is where you truly reap the benefits of a well-placed marketing campaign.

It starts with reinforcing all the right perceptions that you’ve been generating with the use of clear and attractive branding materials. Your colours, fonts, images, and uniforms should all set you apart in the consumer’s mind.

It should feel like there’s no one else in the city quite like you!

Your image is your calling card. Be consistent and careful with it.

If you’ve been offering the service and competence that people crave, they’ll reward you with positive online reviews. That’s an incredibly powerful marketing advantage that will be a game-changer for you. Once your online reputation starts to grow, demand will follow suit.

Register your shop on the most relevant review sites, and keep on track of the comments. Respond when necessary, but never with hubris or anger. Humility will prove to be a very useful tool in building your online credibility.

Build out your reviews by giving happy customers a chance to leave positive comments in the right places. Encourage surveys, either in-person or through email that will bolster your reputation.

All of this takes effort, yes, but it is incredibly valuable. And you can start small. Build as you see success.

if you want more people to find you and enjoy your great service, you need a consistent branding message and a well-designed marketing plan to deliver it to potential customers.

And as long as customers can find and remember your shop, your work will do the talking for you.



Peter Bulmer is a partner at Turnkey Media Solutions, publishers of Jobber News and CARS magazine.