Times Have Changed For Repair Shop Advertising
As with a number of things, repair shop advertising was once a lot easier than it is today. A while back, repair shop advertising was really as simple as buying a large advertisement in the local Yellow Pages. Those directories were the best way for customers to locate an automobile repair shop when they needed their car repaired but about ten years ago, the advertising environment began to change; customers started to turn to the Internet more frequently to research information about services they required. Yellow Pages listings were replaced by stand-alone Web sites that allowed auto repair shop owners to provide a full spectrum of information about their shops and services.
Coupled with the fact that automakers began to build better cars, the steady flow of customers who would inevitably walk in the door with broken cars, slowed to a drip. As a result, many shop owners I know, now spend the majority of their time performing maintenance (such as oil changes) instead of addressing major repairs. When my business stopped growing because of this shift, I realized I needed to employ new auto repair shop marketing strategies to attract high-caliber customers interested in maintaining their cars. I could not afford to just wait for customers with broken cars to walk in the door.
The trick was finding the right marketing vehicle to reach the audience I wanted to target. Over the years, I tried nearly every form of advertising available and what I found is that most didn’t provide the return on investment I expected.
Newspaper, radio and television advertising fails to deliver a return in the modern media landscape. Because consumers can easily ignore those vehicles, they also do not give shop owners the ability to target by income, geography or any other demographic. Their market reach is simply too broad. Mr. Lucas also discussed how mass mailings fall short because too many repair shop owner coupons get lost in the shuffle of other offers and get trashed. But there are other less traditional advertising methods that, in my experience, don’t produce results. Those include:
Nowadays, nearly anyone can buy user-friendly graphics software and create their own personalized “newspaper.” I sent my customers a newsletter filled with articles about auto repair and other information about my services for two years. Though it was carefully crafted, my newsletter didn’t get me noticed. It took me too long to produce and I failed to understand that my target customer didn’t have time to read the information I was sending out.
It’s easy to get lured into the hype about social media and email marketing. The idea of sending targeted email campaigns seemed like a dream come true, but the reality was that my emails ended up in junk mail or deleted upon arrival. Facebook and Twitter are nice tools to connect with friends but they don’t drive customers into an auto repair business. And while I think a good, search-optimized Web site is essential, I’ve learned that it can’t be the only marketing tool in your arsenal.
The Magic Bullet
After all that trial and error, I had to ask myself what I wanted to achieve through advertising. I came to the conclusion that I needed to find a compelling and cost-effective way to reach the middle and higher-income customers located closest to my shops. Direct mail allowed me to achieve that goal. Through direct mail, I was able to target higher-income households within two miles of my shop. Direct mail also enabled me to separate myself from the pack with a stand-alone offer that was interesting enough to draw customers.
Of course, like everything, employing direct mail effectively proved to be a learning process. I cringe when I think about the first postcards I sent out and how unsophisticated they were. It also took awhile to determine which type of offers resonated most with customers.
Yet despite some of the hiccups along the way, I wouldn’t trade direct mail for any other advertising vehicle available.
Making it Work
If you decide to do repair shop direct mail advertising, you have to commit to making it part of your long-term marketing plan and devote the budget it. Too many shop owners view advertising as an expense, but I view it as a return on investment. If you pick the right advertising vehicle, the more you invest, the higher the return.
Greg Sands - About the Author:
Article Source: Mudlick Mail blog